Jay Boulware, an Oklahoma assistant coach, grew up in Irving, Texas and has a degree from the University of Texas. This week he gave the Sooners a history lesson on Saturday’s Red River Rivalry – Texas vs. Oklahoma.
He told the OU players about the start of the rivalry in 1900, that 111 games have been played and that since World War II it’s all square at 34. Recruited by John Mackovic as an offensive linemen, a heart condition kept him from playing in the Red River Rivalry but he knows both sides.
“It’s one of the top three rivalry games in the country,” he said during a post-practice media session Monday. “I still get goosebumps pulling into the (Texas State Fairgrounds) to this day. You can feel the intensity as you pull in. I’m getting goosebumps thinking about it right now.”
The Cotton Bowl in Dallas is famously split on the 50-yard line, half crimson and half burnt orange. The buzz and juice for this year’s meeting is evident from the fact that instead of an 11 a.m. CT kickoff, the game is at 2:30 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.
But not by ABC. The national, non-cable game will be Georgia Tech-Miami. The Big 12 likely lost out on the network slot when Oklahoma was stunned by Iowa State last Saturday. While that loss put the Sooners in must-win mode for the rest of the season, there remains a grocery list worth of story angles.
- For the first time since 1947, when Oklahoma’s Bud Wilkinson faced Texas’ Blair Cherry, this game matches first-year coaches. In the what-have-you-done lately category, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley is suddenly feeling the heat after the Cyclones flattened his team. Texas and coach Tom Herman come into the game as underdogs. Herman has been a coaching underdog 12 times (six at Ohio State as offensive coordinator, five at Houston and once at Texas as coach. His only loss was this season’s double-OT defeat at USC.
- Herman has been cagey about naming his starting quarterback. Freshman Sam Ehlinger led the team to a double-overtime defeat of Kansas State, setting a school record for passing yards by a freshman. He replaced sophomore Shane Buechele, who has been sidelined three games by two different injuries. “I thought he played very well,” offensive coordinator Tim Beck said of Ehlinger. “He made a lot of plays. He played with a lot of passion, that’s the one thing. A lot of juice. When he can play like that, be a physical player and presence and play with a lot of juice and play fast, usually the offense is playing the same.”
- If Ehlinger gets the start, the game will match two quarterbacks from Austin. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield played at Lake Travis High School while Ehlinger played at Westlake. Mayfield, who has thrown more shade than a rain forest, fired off this zinger at the UT QB: “He went to Westlake and he’s never beaten Lake Travis.”
- The good folks over at The Athletic have developed a new defensive measurement called “stop rate.” It measures the percentage of opponent’s drives that end in punts, turnovers or turnover on downs. Oklahoma ranks 93rd out of FBS teams this week. Texas is No. 33. In its last two games (Baylor and Iowa State), the Sooners have allowed 831 passing yards, 69 percent completions, seven passing TDs, zero interceptions, 10.8 yards per attempt, 15.7 per completion and 13 completions of 20 or more yards.
- Which brings us to Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. After the last two games – and especially the loss to Iowa State – Sooners fans have fantasized that Mike had retired like his brother. Riley said this week that staff changes “weren’t on the table.” But the fact that Riley hired Ruffin McNeill, his friend and mentor, to be a defensive line coach stirs the speculation pot. McNeill has experience as a defensive coordinator. Another poor performance – especially if it comes against Texas – and Stoops will feel even more heat.
- During this decade, the Big 12 has been desperate for Texas to rise above mediocrity. Hiring Herman was supposed to be the cure for the Longhorns’ ills. The irony is that if Texas is “back” (check the Internet memes) then it will be as a spoiler. Saturday and then on Oct. 21 when Oklahoma State visits Austin, UT could end the College Football Playoff hopes of the two teams that were favored to make a run at the final four.
There you have it dear reader. You’re now as gorged on the Red River Rivalry as if you had spent the day on the Midway eating Tamale Donuts*, deep-fried Philly cheesesteaks* and Funnel Cake Bacon Queso Burgers*. (* – authentic gastronomic offerings at this year’s Texas State Fair.)
Who is Kyle Kempt and how did he beat OU?
The most unlikely aspect of Iowa State’s unexpected stunner Saturday was this: Oklahoma senior quarterback Baker Mayfield, a Heisman Trophy candidate, was outplayed by a QB who had thrown a total of two passes since 2012 when he was a high school senior.
When the Cyclones announced that QB Jacob Park had left the team to deal with a personal health issue, the wise guys in Las Vegas made the Sooners a 30.5 favorite. Final score: Iowa State 38, No. 3 Oklahoma 31.
Starting in place of Park, senior Kyle Kempt was 18-of-24 for 343 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning 25-yard TD to Allen Lazard with 2:19 remaining. Mayfield finished 24-of-33 for 306 yards and two touchdowns.
Kempt was a three-star recruit when he graduated high school in Massillon, Ohio – the same hometown as Cyclones coach Matt Campbell. Kempt was recruited by Campbell but he chose Cincinnati. That didn’t last through enrollment because Bearcats coach Butch Jones left for Tennessee. Kempt then chose Oregon State, where he didn’t play in two seasons under Mike Riley, who then departed for Nebraska.
Sense a pattern here? Kempt left Corvallis and spent a year at Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College – where he didn’t play. When Campbell took the Iowa State job, Kempt decided he’d give football one last try and asked for a walk-on opportunity.
“He’s a pretty special young guy,” Campbell said of Kempt. “I’m really proud of him. He’s exactly what you want in your quarterback. Even when he wasn’t a starter, he’s a kid that prepared diligently like he was the starter.”
From ‘Trill’ To Triple Threat
TCU quarterback Kenny Hill – whose then-and-gone nickname of “Trill” was the most unfortunate aspect of his time at Texas A&M – became the first Big 12 player since 2008 to score touchdowns rushing, passing and receiving. The Frogs needed every bit of his triple threat production in their 31-24 victory over West Virginia.
Hill’s determined and diving 3-yard run with 2:53 remaining broke a 24-all tie. Midway through the third-quarter, his 45-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Reagor had staked the Frogs to a 17-3 lead before the Mountaineers rallied with two touchdowns.
TCU then broke that tie with a trick play. Hill handed off to KaVontae Turpin on an apparent jet sweep. But Turpin stopped and threw back to Hill in the left flat. He spun out of one tackle and followed his blockers for a 48-yard touchdown reception.
“It was a lot easier in practice,” Hill said. “We’ve been practicing that play all week. “I was so excited when they called that play. I said [to coaches], ‘if ya’ll throw to me, I’m going to score. I’m not letting anyone tackle me on this.’ ”
Hill was completing 73 percent of his passes coming into the game and finished just 15-of-28 for 188 yards. Perhaps most importantly, he didn’t throw an interception. And on the drive to set up his game-winning TD, he was 4-of-5 and twice converted third downs on the 10-play drive.
Rock Chalk QB Talk
When a team is 13-74 since 2010, discussing a quarterback controversy seems frivolous. But since Todd Reesing threw his final pass in 2009, the Kansas QB carousel has been spinning.
The roll call: Jordan Webb, Quinn Meacham, Kale Pick, Dayne Crist, Michael Cummings, Jake Heaps, Montel Cozart, Ryan Willis, Carter Stanley and Peyton Bender have all taken significant snaps for KU. Bender, a transfer from Washington State, was supposed to be “the answer” but after starting the first five games, Stanley played the second half in Saturday’s 65-19 shellacking administered by Texas Tech.
Coach David Beaty is 3-26 and with seven Big 12 games remaining the future doesn’t look bright. Last season, Beaty took over offensive coordinator duties in mid-season and then hired offensive coordinator Doug Meacham from TCU. But now it appears that shuffling QBs is considered the solution.
After the game, Beaty said “It’s going to be a competition” to decide who starts at quarterback against Iowa State.
Last season’s victory over Texas continues to fade. It provided momentum for the school to start a $300 million renovation of Memorial Stadium and a $50 million donation has helped with the fundraising. The announced attendance for homecoming Saturday was 21,050. As Lawrence Journal-World columnist Tom Keegan snarked, if each of the fans remaining at the end of the game donated $1 million, the goal would be reached.
“Y’all want me to say ‘disappointed’ a bunch, and I’m not going to do it,” Beaty said after the game. “We’re about our next play, period. Am I happy about the way things turned out? No, I’m not. I’m not ready to flush this thing, I can tell you that. We’re going to be all right.”
The Final Word
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield assessing the aftermath of the Sooners’ shocking upset loss to Iowa State:
“I think it’s a sense of complacency. We’ve been talking about it; it’s not like we haven’t addressed it. We’ve let teams come back in games and give them hope. When you do that to a team who has their back against the wall, it’s something you can’t do.”