This is your fourth Red River Showdown, but did you have butterflies before your first?
Yeah, absolutely. My freshman year, it was a big win for us. We won pretty handily, and I got to get in the game. There really weren’t meaningful minutes, but I still remember being so excited to go in. I dreamed of playing in that for so long. Just running out of the tunnel into the half crimson, half orange, and all the stuff, the Hook-em horns, the horns down, all that stuff is pretty incredible.
What would you say to young guys in that position now?
Just telling those guys, just understand what you’re getting into. When you’re in a game like this, a rivalry game, records and stuff sort of go out the window. The team we’re gonna get on Saturday in the Cotton Bowl is not gonna be the same team that played TCU on this past Saturday. It’s gonna be completely different. This game makes or breaks a season for both teams. Regardless of record and all that stuff and maybe national implications, it’s gonna be a dog fight and that’s what we have to prepare for.
Are you concerned about guys letting up because of Texas’ struggles?
I mean, I think there’s definitely, as a senior, as a captain, I think we have to be cognizant of that, of the tendency to let up, the tendency to start looking at the rankings, to start looking at the stats. We’ve got so much room for improvement, and I can assure you that’s already been addressed by the leadership and will be addressed with the entire group. There won’t be any sort of letting up or starting to feel ourselves a little bit. We’re hungry.
Will you take in any of the festivities, like the fair?
If we lose, we don’t go to the fair. You lose, you get back on the bus and go back to Norman and think about it the whole way back. If we are able to pull out a victory, hopefully we’ll go out to the fair. That’s obviously the last thing on anyone’s mind but it is a perk of winning.
Did you try the food?
I try to try something different every year. I had some fried cheesecake my freshman year. I enjoyed that. I like cheesecake. I had a friend, bacon-wrapped cinnamon roll last year. Just because it sounds so absurd. I’ve gotta try it, right?
How was it?
It was alright. It didn’t blow me away. I think I might just go really fat and get fried butter this year. If we can make it happen.
The offensive line is getting better, but do you feel good about the progress thus far?
We’ve got to improve faster. We can’t be satisfied with gradual improvement. Yeah we have some young guys and we’re inexperienced, beat up, you can make whatever excuse you want to make for it, but the fact of the matter is, we’ve gotta do a better job keeping him clean. So he can sit back there all day because he needs to be confident in us and what we’re doing up front. We’ve gotta have a sense of urgency and not say that it’s OK to slowly get better. We need to be the best now. That’s a lot on me; it’s a lot on Nila as leaders of that group to push the pace of improvement.
Why are penalties becoming such an issue?
We’ve just gotta be more disciplined. Especially coming out of that West Virginia game. We addressed it before the game, obviously we knew coming into it, before pregame, everything, we know how they are and we knew they were gonna come in looking for a fight. I love that and it was a lot of fun. I think we all enjoy a little trash talk, a little chippiness before the game. And that sort of carried over a little too much. A lot of just senseless penalties down the stretch that don’t need to happen.
What have you noticed about the Texas defensive line?
Just getting into the preparation yesterday and today, they returned some guys that played last year. I don’t know names as much as I do numbers. They have some experience. They’re a physical group. I know they have a freshman linebacker that’s a pretty dang good player and some other guys, some odd front stuff, maybe more than last year, odd front versus even front. They definitely do some good stuff on defense and it’ll be a challenge for us. They are definitely not long, lanky guys, they’re shorter guys we’re gonna have to move on the inside.
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