DALLAS (AP) — All that matters to Texas coach Mack Brown this week is trying to win a game.
That hasn’t always been an easy task the second Saturday in October in the Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma.
With so much speculation about whether Brown’s job is in jeopardy, a win by the Longhorns (3-2, 2-0 Big 12) over Bob Stoops and the 12th-ranked Sooners (5-0, 2-0) on Saturday at the State Fair of Texas would certainly settle things down — at least temporarily.
“None of that is a factor,” Brown said. “None of that matters. Winning matters.”
A fourth straight loss by the Longhorns to Oklahoma, especially another lopsided one like the last two years, would only accelerate a burnt orange panic.
This will be the 15th meeting between Brown and Stoops, already five more than Fred Akers and Barry Switzer in what had been the previous longest coaching rivalry in the series. They would need to meet four more times after this weekend to match the 19 years in a row that Texas’ Darrell Royal went against Arkansas’ Frank Broyles.
Oklahoma is 9-5 in the series under Stoops, with wins by 38 and 42 points the last two seasons and a 52-point victory 10 years ago.
“Anytime you win, there’s positive memories,” Stoops said. “Over 15 years, we’ve won our share here, so those are always fun. I’ve got probably too many to say one.”
For the second year in a row, neither team is ranked in the top 10. Before last year, that hadn’t happened since 1999, the first in the series matching Stoops against Brown.
The Big 12 title is still a legitimate goal for both teams. But only the Sooners, who are favored by nearly two touchdowns, can still think about the possibility of a national championship this season.
Asked if the bigger challenge was facing Oklahoma or his own team, Brown quickly responded, “It’s with us. We have got to continue to get better. … We have got a lot of things we have got to fix.”
Besides Brown’s future, here are five things to watch when Texas plays Oklahoma for the 108th time.
BELL AND CASE: Blake Bell is in his first season as Oklahoma’s starting quarterback and Case McCoy is filling in at Texas because David Ash has lingering concussion symptoms. But Bell and McCoy have both already had significant moments in the Red River Rivalry. McCoy started the 2011 game, when he was sacked three times while completing 9 of 16 passes for 116 yards in a 55-17 loss. He threw two touchdowns in the final 5 minutes of last year’s game while Bell ran for four scores in the first half of Oklahoma’s 63-21 win. Bell is 3-0 as a starter this season, throwing six TDs without an interception — or a rushing TD.
SOONERS STREAKING: Oklahoma has won 10 straight Big 12 games. It is the Sooners’ longest conference winning streak since winning 17 in a row from 2003-05, a span that ended with a loss to Texas after the Longhorns had fallen twice in that streak. The Sooners aren’t quite halfway to the Big 12 record of 21 consecutive conference victories by Kansas State from 1997-99. Oklahoma also had 13 Big 12 victories in a row from 1999-2001, another stretch when the Sooners beat Texas twice.
QUITE A SCENE: The Red River Rivalry has been part of the State Fair of Texas since 1929. The game is played at the Cotton Bowl, where the crowd is split 50-50 in burnt orange and crimson. The winner gets The Golden Hat, the rotating trophy in use since 1941. “It’s always exciting. It’s a great experience,” Stoops said. “It’s really special. It’s always kind of a bowl game in the middle of the year. It’s a great game.” Texas holds a 59-43-5 series lead and is the only Big 12 team with a series lead over the Sooners.
OH SO CLOSE: Oklahoma and Texas are both coming off victories that were close. The Sooners had their closest game of the season last weekend, pulling out a 20-17 victory over TCU. Brennan Clay’s 76-yard touchdown run with 4½ minutes left provided the winning margin for OU. The Longhorns won 31-30 at Iowa State, scoring in the final minute after a disputed near-fumble when it appeared that the Cyclones had recovered.
ALMOST THE MOST: Now in his 15th season at Oklahoma, Stoops has 154 victories, which is one more than Brown has in his 16th season at Texas. Stoops is three wins shy of matching Switzer for the most in Oklahoma history, a mark that could be easily attainable this year. Brown’s 153 wins have him 14 behind Royal for the most in Longhorns history.
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