The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 105th Red River Rivalry game is on tap this weekend in Dallas, as the 21st-ranked Texas Longhorns and eighth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners square off in the Cotton Bowl.
This longstanding rivalry began in 1900, has been played in Dallas since 1912 and at the Cotton Bowl since 1929. Texas holds a 59-40-5 advantage in the series, but since the formation of the Big 12 in 1996, these two teams have split 14 meetings. Texas got the win last season, as the Longhorns posted a 16-13 victory, the closest outcome in the series since 1997.
Bob Stoops' Sooners come into the matchup with a perfect 4-0 ledger, as OU finished up its non-conference slate with a hard-fought 31-29 victory over Cincinnati on the road last weekend. A couple of fortunate breaks swayed the game in favor of Oklahoma according to Stoops.
"We had some definite good fortune, especially at the end. We didn't have any lead that you felt was comfortable. We just got outplayed at times."
The Longhorns opened the 2010 campaign with three straight wins, including a Big 12-opening victory at Texas Tech two weeks ago (24-14). However, Mack Brown's squad suffered its first defeat of the season last weekend, getting routed by UCLA in Austin (34-12).
Brown made no excuses for the poor performance.
"We were obviously very disappointed and embarrassed as a whole on Saturday. We thought we played poorly from top to bottom. We got out-hit. We got out- hustled. We got out-coached in all three phases. That's totally unacceptable at Texas."
The Longhorns struggled with their ground game against the Bruins, netting just 85 yards on 3.7 yards per carry. The passing game was much better (264 yards), but an interception and two fumbles by quarterback Garrett Gilbert were costly.
Gilbert has played well for the most part this season, completing 62.6 percent of his passes, for 885 yards, although his four TDs match his four INTs. Freshman WR Mike Davis leads the team with 16 catches, going for 183 yards and two TDs. Senior WR James Kirkendoll is next in line with 15 receptions, for 201 yards and one score. Davis however, is questionable for this matchup due to a knee injury.
The ground game is usually a strength for Texas, but this year the team is putting up a modest 135.5 yards per game. If Texas is to turn things around against Oklahoma, the team must find better balance on the offensive side of the ball.
The Longhorns allowed UCLA to gain just 291 yards of total offense, but almost all of that came on the ground, as the Bruins gashed OU to the tune of 264 yards rushing on 4.5 yards per carry.
Despite the large amount of yards allowed, Texas is still limiting the opposition to 99.0 yards per game rushing on the year, so the hope is that the Longhorns can shore things up in that area the rest of the way.
Getting after the quarterback hasn't been a problem for this unit, with Texas recording 14 sacks in the first four games. Senior DE Eddie Jones paces the team in both TFLs (7) and sacks (4), followed closely by fellow senior Sam Acho (six TFLs, three sacks).
Brown knows the Longhorns need get past last week's loss with the Sooners on the docket.
"We don't get into what's next. It's just what's scheduled. You always get excited about the OU game. It probably comes at a good time for us. We don't have time to sit around and feel sorry about ourselves. We've got to fix things and move forward and get ready to play."
The Sooners went on the road for the first time this season and although the team held a double-digit lead for most of the game, OU had to hold on at the end to clip the two-time defending Big East champion Bearcats.
Sophomore QB Landry Jones was solid in the win, completing 36-of-51 passes, for 370 yards and two TDs. All-American candidate Ryan Broyles caught 10 passes, for 100 yards and a score, marking his seventh straight game over the century mark.
The Sooners are averaging an impressive 429.5 yards of total offense per game, with a good portion of that (308.8) coming from the arm of Jones. The youngster has completed 64.5 percent of his attempts thus far, going for 1,221 yards, with nine TDs. Broyles is off to a fast start, with 41 receptions, for 482 yards and four TDs through four games. Stoops knows what he has in Broyles.
"That guy's amazing. He's an amazing player and a special player."
While the pass is the preferred mode of travel in Norman, DeMarco Murray remains one of the Big 12's best tailbacks. Murray is averaging 4.2 yards per carry and 109.0 yards per game and is responsible for seven of the team's eight rushing scores to date.
The Oklahoma offense is clicking on all cylinders and its a good thing, considering the fact that the defense has struggled quite a bit. The team is giving up 23.5 ppg and doing so while allowing a generous 421.2 yards of total offense. Opponents have found it quite easy to move the ball on the ground (177.5 ypg) and through the air (243.8 ypg), while converting on 10- of-11 red zone opportunities.
Still, there is star power on this defense, headlined by All-American candidates Travis Lewis and Jeremy Beal. Lewis is a monster in the middle, as the talented LB leads the team in tackles with 35. One of the nation's top pass rushers, Beal has 20 stops, with seven coming behind the line of scrimmage, including 4.5 sacks.
The Sooners bring the more potent offense into this game. Jones and Broyles are one of the top pitch-and-catch combos in the country. That along with a steady diet of Murray on the ground, should tip the scales in Oklahoma's favor in Dallas.