Instead it turned into one of the worst afternoons under Bob Stoops. Thoroughly outplayed and manhandled, Texas cruised to a 36-20 victory.
“We still have a bad taste in our mouth from last year,” OU cornerback Julian Wilson said Monday afternoon.
“It hurts, but we definitely learned from that loss,” OU offensive tackle Daryl Williams said.
Fast forward from that day 52 weeks later, and it’s the same scenario. OU has opened as a 14-point favorite against Texas, who is 2-3 under first-year coach Charlie Strong.
Texas’ defense has been stout, while the offense is still struggling to figure things out. But what can OU do to make sure it’s not another Red River Failure for OU on Saturday?
Get Shepard the ball
It seems crazy to think junior wide receiver Sterling Shepard touched the ball one time for OU in last year’s game. Once. First play, he ran for 24 yards. Never saw the ball again. Through five games, Shepard has 30 catches for 651 yards and three touchdowns. He is on a streak of four consecutive games with at least 100 yards receiving. He has to be a factor.
Improved quarterback play
The most obvious one. As much as Trevor Knight is being questioned for his performance against TCU, it absolutely pales in comparison to what Blake Bell did in this one last year. He was an atrocious 12-of-26 for 133 yards with two interceptions and was sacked four times. There doesn’t feel like a way that Knight could possibly have a worse performance.
Utilize the quarterback in the run game
One thing OU fans remember so well from last year was OU not using Bell and/or Knight in the running game. Texas was victimized by running quarterbacks throughout the season, but OU never chose to exploit that. Knight has to be a factor. As much as TCU? Not necessarily, but he needs to keep the defense honest.
Have to play tough
The biggest disappointment in last year’s game was OU’s lack of an answer to Texas’ physicality. Lonhgorn running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown each rushed for more than 120 yards as Texas accumulated 255 yards on 60 attempts. OU had 33 rushes for 130 yards. And with OU trying to make a charge, Texas took off the final 5:14 of the game on the ground.
Third down efficiency
Not really sure which one is worse. OU was 2-of-13 on third downs last year, while allowing Texas to convert 13 of 20 attempts. This problem has been a thorn in OU’s side all this season, too, including in OU’s loss Saturday. The Sooners are playing well on first and second down but having a heck of a time getting off the field on third down.
Take advantage of opportunities
It’s absolutely not fair to say the game would have been different had Brennan Clay caught the touchdown on the wheel route on the first drive, but who knows? Clay was wide open and Bell dropped it in there. He simply couldn’t corral it. OU settled for a FG to make it 3-3, and Texas took over from that point forward. Have to convert, especially in the red zone.