On the Rivalry
"Obviously it has great tradition and just being split down the middle, once you go past the 50-yard line it's either crimson or orange," said Texas receiver Jaxon Shipley. "It's just one of those games that we all kind of grew up watching from a young age, and all of us are really excited to play in it. It's been something that is one of the biggest rivalry games in the nation. Just when you step on that field it has a different feeling from a lot of the other games. The crowd is always really crazy and the fans get really into it. It's a really exciting game and a fun one to play."
The game hasn't been as fun for Longhorns of late, with Oklahoma boasting a three-game winning streak, including blowout wins in the last two.
"The last couple years, I don't think that matters at all," Shipley said. "That's last year and the year before that and this is a new year. Both are new teams, so we're just looking forward to this matchup."
For seniors like guard Trey Hopkins, this is the last shot to beat the Sooners. Seniors who didn't redshirt haven't seen the Longhorns beat the Sooners since they hit campus. And even those who redshirted weren't on the field in 2009, the last time Texas claimed a win.
"It runs through my mind often actually," Hopkins said. "It's been three tough years. This is a big rivalry game for Texas and just this being my last shot puts that much more emphasis on it for me.
"It is definitely a big game that we always look to win, and it's disappointing and that is why we have — or I have — this last chance to make sure we do everything we can to get that changed," Hopkins said.
Those two losses — really the last three games up until Texas rallied late in 2010 to make it a game — were marked by poor offensive play. That's something the 'Horns will attempt to remedy despite missing starting quarterback David Ash. Case McCoy will get the start, for the second consecutive game, in Ash's absence.
"We're confident with any quarterback that we have out there," Shipley said. "All of our quarterbacks are great. We're confident in Case [McCoy] this week. I think he's going to do a great job leading us into the game."
Of course, the best thing would be for Texas to establish a running game to help McCoy out.
"I think we're fairly balanced," Shipley said. "That's one thing we do a good job of is running and passing the ball pretty equally. Obviously we've got to come out there and score fast and get a rhythm going. That's something that we need to start off doing this week. I feel like we've done a good job of mixing it up."
The other thing the Longhorns will have to avoid are the turnovers and three-and-outs that have plagued them in the last two games.
"We've got to have a good play on first and second down," McCoy said. "That way we're left with a 3rd-and-short, and we're not having to go with a 3rd-and-medium or 3rd-and-long. Once you can get in that 3rd-and-short or 3rd-and-one or two or three yards, it's not as hard to get that first down."
Front Seven Getting Better
Earlier this week, defensive coordinator Greg Robinson talked about the improvements that the defensive line has made in the past several weeks.
We are just more confident of being a dominant defensive front. I mean everybody is hustling to the ball with Malcom [Brown], Ced [Reed] and all the other guys," Whaley said. "Everybody is hustling to the ball, everybody is buying in and playing hard, playing with full speed, and playing as one defensive unit."
Brown's improvement in particular has become a popular talking point. Since Robinson took over in the season's third game, Brown has had 17 tackles, including five tackles for loss and two sacks in three contests.
"He's just more confident in everything he's doing," Whaley said. "He goes out and plays in full speed. Him being a sophomore, you really can't tell that he is that young. His game is really good and I love the way he plays. I am very appreciative having him right beside me and I wouldn't want anyone else."
"They always play hard," Whaley said. "They play downhill and hard and they bring a tremendous force at the linebacker position. That is what I like about those guys."
Together, the front seven — with Peter Jinkens as the outside guy opposite Edmond — will be tasked with stopping a tough Oklahoma run game. Texas has struggled to stop the run this year, and Whaley said Texas has tried to shore up those issues this week.
"It has been just little things," Whaley said. "Just getting our assignments fixed here and there, better at our rush lanes up front, and just things like that. We don't have to change up much. We still are the same thing but just better technique in what we do."