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OU Smorgasbord

If you’re a fan of Texas, Oklahoma, or college football in general, you can’t taste the full flavor of the Texas-OU experience until you’ve attended this game.  In fact, you haven’t had the full experience unless you’ve arrived in Dallas at least by the Friday evening before the game and been out and about the city whether downtown, the west end, Greenville Avenue, or wherever Texas and Oklahoma fans are congregating. I’m not much of baseball fan anymore but to be in a bar in Dallas the night before the game amid fans adorned in burnt orange or red with a major league baseball playoff game on the television, this is my Octoberfest.

Then there’s the state fair. The folks, the fans, the carnival atmosphere and most importantly the smells or should I say the aromas. It seems like once or twice a year I’m at a high school football game, a Texas home game, or a restaurant bar with outdoor seating when for an instant the aroma of draft beer and fried food wafts by my and I’m wistfully reminded of the Texas-OU game.

*****

In October 1968, six years before I would set foot on the UT campus as a student, my parents drove from Vestal, New York to Austin to visit my brother Clayton who was a student at UT. Along the way, they stopped off in Dallas to visit with some old friends who had been across the street neighbors when we had lived in Houston a few years before. The trip was planned so my parents would arrive in Dallas on the Saturday afternoon of the Texas-OU game and meet Clayton on the fairgrounds after the game. During the game—my father reported—my mother asked a ticket-taker at one of the Cotton Bowl gates to let her in the stadium just for a few minutes so she could visit with her son. That of course was a no-go.

But something else my father told me about that day at the fair resonated the most to me. In relating the experience of being on the fairgrounds while the Texas-OU game was going on inside the Cotton Bowl he simply said, “The sounds billowing out of that stadium . . .” as he looked at me with wonder and slowly shook his head. I got it. I couldn’t wait.

*****

The 1968 Texas-OU game was the second of four straight victories for the Longhorns during a streak where they won 12 of 13. It’s impossible for Texas fans nowadays to relate to such success in this game. Not so much for Oklahoma. They’ve won 15 of the last 22, and five of the last six.

According to 247 Sports, the recruiting since 2010 has been pretty even in this series. Texas’ average ranking over those 12 years is 9.9, Oklahoma’s is 11.6. Since 2017, Oklahoma has a slight edge with an average rank of 9 versus Texas’ 11.8.

The above recruiting analysis indicates that one of the reasons Oklahoma is dominating this series is their superiority over Texas in developing talent. In my opinion the other factor in OU’s dominance is game planning and game day coaching.  During Mack Brown’s tenure, Texas lost the Oklahoma game five straight years from 2000 to 2004. Bob Stoops was interviewed on an Austin sports talk station this week and he told a story about telling his coaches on the Monday before the game in 2000 after he’d watched film on Texas, “We’re going to kick the hell out of these guys.” Yeah, they did 63-14. I doubt Mack Brown ever thought his team was going to kick the hell out of Oklahoma. This was reflected in his game plans that were painfully conservative exacerbated by Brown and his offensive coordinator coaching not to lose. Brown was tight. Darrell Royal and Fred Akers were never tight during the Oklahoma game. Since the Mack Brown era, Oklahoma has had the decided edge in coaching staffs. It’s not even close.

This year, Texas fans have reasons to feel optimistic. Steve Sarkisian has proven so far this season that he’s not a conservative play caller as evidenced by the deep shots in the passing game that he’s called in all five games including the loss in Fayetteville.  And unlike his predecessor he prioritizes putting the ball in his playmakers’ hands. Bijan Robinson had 35 carries against TCU and is the second leading rusher in the country. Freshman Xavier Worthy has 15 receptions for 253 yards and four touchdowns.  Jordan Whittington has 21 receptions for 324 yards and three touchdowns.

The challenge for Texas won’t be the offensive game planning or play calling. The challenge—and the game may hinge on it—is Casey Thompson’s ability to connect with open receivers 30 and 40 yards downfield at least a couple of times. Sarkisian can scheme his talented receivers free on those deep routes as he has in every game this season but first Hudson Card and for the last three games Casey Thompson have failed to connect on those opportunities.  

Thompson’s inability to hit on those deep balls may be the reason Hudson Card originally beat him out. Maybe Card—who the scouts believe has the superior arm talent to Thompson—hit those long balls more consistently than Thompson did in August.  I know none of you want to consider this but if Thompson misses opportunities in the passing game and the offense struggles on Saturday will Sarkisian send in Card?

******

The Thursday before the OU game in 1975, I went to the pep rally in Gregory Gym. I remember Marty Akins and Earl Campbell speaking and then Darrell Royal wrapped it up. The last comments he made were about the weather forecast for the game. It was going to be sunny and hot and Royal said that’s the way it should be for Texas-OU. Then he said it had been a while since we’ve won this one and it was time to get back in win column. Well, Texas played valiantly but in one of the greatest Texas-OU games I’ve been to, fell to Oklahoma 24-17.

Still, what Royal said in 1975 applies to 2021. It’s going to be sunny and hot on gameday and it’s been a while since we’ve won this one and it’s time to get back in the win column against the Sooners.

Oh, Wouldn’t it be nice?

Willie Earl’s Song of the Week

“Wouldn’t it Be Nice” written by Brian Wilson / Tony Asher / Michael Love

Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray
It might come true
Baby, then there wouldn’t be a single thing we couldn’t do
Oh, we could be married (oh, we could be married)
And then we’d be happy (and then we’d be happy)
Oh, wouldn’t it be nice?

Hook “Em, and KICK THE HELL OUTTA OU
W.E.

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TCU Over/Under Results

Either the questions were too easy, or the players are hitting their stride in October. The average score of 6.8 is the highest I can remember in quite a while. All 15 players answered correctly, over 10.5 points scored in the first quarter. 12 of 15 players said no, TCU would not ever hold the lead in the 4th quarter and 12 of 15 took Bijan Robinson over Zach Evans for more yards rushing. Only three players took Jordan Whittington over Xavier Worthy for more receiving yards.

Perhaps I’ve buried the lead. D.R. Flower posted a perfect 10 this week to take the victory. Without checking the archives, I believe D.R. is the only player this year with a perfect score.

Tom Yoxall and David Frink tied for second with nine correct answers. Mark Adams and Helen Frink tied for fourth with eight correct.

W.E.

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Sarkisian versus Patterson

By now, TCU’s domination of the Longhorns since joining the Big 12 is well-trod ground. TCU has won seven of nine. More illuminating though is that TCU coach Gary Patterson is 1-1 versus Mack Brown, 3-0 versus Charley Strong, and 3-1 against Tom Herman.

According to 247 Sports, TCU’s recruiting class rankings nationally were No. 25 in 2018, No. 31 in 2019, No. 23 in 2020, and No. 53 in 2021. Texas’s rankings were No. 3, No. 3, No. 8, and No. 15. Obviously, this rivalry over recent years should be more even than it is.

TCU’s current dominance over Texas can be summed up by a famous Bum Phillips quote about Bear Bryant. “Bryant can take his’n and beat your’n, and then he can turn around and take your’n and beat his’n.” In the current vernacular, Gary Patterson and his staff has been “pantsing” Texas’s head coaches and their staffs.

Steve Sarkisian doesn’t have to account for Gary Patterson’s “pantsing” of former Texas coaches, but this game will be a difficult test for Sark. He failed miserably the test in Fayetteville and is looking for his first road victory as the Texas head coach in Ft. Worth. His road record is not good as I pointed out after the Arkansas game. Sarkisian’s record on the road as a head coach is 10-22. If you take out his first two years after taking over an 0-12 Washington team his road record is 7-14.

The TCU game is an opportunity for Sarkisian to pass a big road test and set up the Longhorns for good season. If Texas loses there’ll be a big road monkey on Sark’s back.

Blasphemous?

Hey, any chance that Casey Thompson is better than Sam Ehlinger?  Thompson is on kind of a roll leading Texas to 24 scores in the 27 drives he’s led. He makes quicker decisions than Ehlinger did and so far, he’s been a more accurate passer. Okay, it’s way too early to be talking about this and maybe Ehlinger would have been way better with Sark as his coach and offensive coordinator.

Gracious in defeat?

Gary Patterson whined earlier this week that SMU had pre-planned the attempt to plant their flag on TCU’s field after the game. So what if they did?  Does that mean they were confident of beating you on your home field Gary?

Patterson further claimed that an SMU player hit TCU assistant Jerry Kill with a helmet and gave him a concussion during the scuffle that ensued during the attempt to plant the flag. He revised his story to Kill being knocked down during the fracas though video confirms that Kill was knocked down by TCU players. Then Patterson revised his story again saying Kill was knocked down, but he doesn’t know by which team’s players but if there wasn’t the flag-planting Kill wouldn’t have been injured.

You go Gary!

Did You know?

TCU is 19-21 against over the past five years against Big 12 teams other than Texas. They’re 4-1 versus Texas over the last five years. I guess Texas has been saving Gary Patterson’s job.

Bijan vs Zach Evans

Speaking of recruiting, Bijan Robinson was the No. 1 running back prospect in the nation in 2020 according to 247 Sports.  Zach Evans was one spot behind him. Robinson and Evans were the No. 15 and 16 recruits respectively overall.

Through three games this season Evans has 330 rushing yards averaging 7.9 yards per carry. Uh oh.  Robinson, through four games, has 436 yards rushing and averages 6.2 yards per carry.

Robinson versus Evans is an interesting game within the game. It’s not Vince Young versus Reggie Bush but it’s not bad.

The Game

Sarkisian is going to have to do a better job than he did in Fayetteville adjusting on the fly his offensive tactics to beat TCU. My man Paul Wadlington in his TCU preview suggested that Gary Patterson could try to take Xavier Worthy out of the game and blitz frequently. Seems like Sarkisian would have an answer for Worthy being blanketed but I worry about the blitzing.

Defensively Texas needs to eliminate the running threat from TCU quarterback Max Duggan. Concede that Zach Evans will get his yards but don’t get fooled by play-action and get burned by the deep ball like they did against Arkansas.

As in every game, turnovers, if they occur, will be difficult for either team to overcome.

Texas is favored by 4.5.

I’m really looking forward to this one.

Texas vs TCU 1982

Earlier this week I was talking to a longtime friend of mine who is planning on going to the game on Saturday. He’s not exactly sanguine about the Longhorns W-L record in road games that he attends. I think he said every time he goes to the Texas-TCU game in Ft. Worth the Longhorns lose and some of his friends are taking up a collection to pay him not to go to Ft. Worth Saturday.

The conversation reminded me that Texas is 2-0 versus TCU in games that I’ve attended in Ft. Worth. I went in 2013 and 1982.

It certainly isn’t monumental in Texas Football history, but I have fond memories of my trip to Ft. Worth in 1982. I really liked our 1982 team though going into the TCU game the Longhorns’ record was an average by 1982 standards 5-2. Texas had lost a close game to Oklahoma that they had a chance to win late in the 4th quarter and suffered a heartbreaking 30-17 loss in Austin that was much closer than the score indicates.

In 1982 I was 27, living in Austin in a one-bedroom apartment on Barton Hills drive which was a three-minute walk from Barton Springs. I spent about half my weekends that year in Dallas hanging out with my friend and boss Mike Frank, my friend David Bergstrom and my girlfriend who was working as an accountant at Sanger-Harris, her first job after graduating from UT that spring.  In addition to having a great social life in Dallas, I owned a 1982 Mazda RX-7 that I really, really enjoyed driving so the otherwise boring drive up I35 was actually pretty fun for me. I recall one trip in particular when after passing through West, Texas, I set the cruise on 100. The speed limit in those days was 55 by the way. It was somewhere around Waxahachie when I spotted a cop car in my rearview mirror that I estimated was about ¼ of a mile behind me. This literally almost scared the piss out of me since I was traveling with some illegal substances. Of course, I slowed down to 55 and then pulled over in a rest stop where I watched the cop car continue driving north, uninterested, or unaware of the white RX-7 that had been doing 100 since West. Phew. Remind me of this the next time I accuse a 20 something of being stupid.

Anyway, after spending Friday night in Dallas, David Bergstrom our girlfriends, and I drove over to Ft. Worth for the game. I had a stress-free relationship with the girl I was dating because the relationship was low stakes since I knew it wasn’t long-term. I had someone else in mind for that.  Without reviewing the Texas Football archives my memory of the game is that it wasn’t the easy win for the Longhorns that I was anticipating but eventually the Horns put TCU away relatively comfortably. After reviewing the box score of the game, I see that TCU had the halftime lead 21-17 and that Texas pulled away in the 4th quarter winning 38-21. My memory that it was beautiful autumn football weather that day is confirmed by the box score that reports that it was sunny and 50 at the 2 pm kickoff.

During the game, we followed the SMU-Texas Tech game being played in Lubbock by watching the periodic posting of the score on the Amon Carter Stadium scoreboard. The Pony Express was in first place in the Southwest Conference, highly ranked, and a big favorite over Tech. The game was surprisingly close which got my hopes up for a Tech win which would put Texas back into the race with SMU to win the conference.

During the walk to our car after the game, we heard from someone who was listening to the SMU-Tech game on a transistor radio that Tech had tied the game with only seconds remaining. I was gleeful. A few minutes later, just as we arrived at our car, we got another report that SMU’s Bobby Leach had returned a kickoff for a touchdown at the gun to give SMU the win. Crap! How the hell did that happen?  David’s girlfriend laughed at my outrage and disappointment.

Oh well.

Hook ‘Em,

W.E.

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Texas Tech Over/Under Results

It was a bit of an unusual Over/Under game this week. There was an invalid question, three questions that every player got right, and a perfect score.

Tahahj Brooks didn’t play so W.E. threw out that question creating a nine-question game. Every player predicted that both teams wouldn’t score on their first possession, that there would be fewer than five total interceptions, and that Texas would lead with six minutes left in the game.

With every player getting three of the nine questions right, the game was ripe for a perfect score, and that’s what happened. Pitching a perfect Over/Under, Andy Garrod is the winner this week. It’s Andy’s first win of the year and perhaps his first win ever. I’m sure Andy can confirm this.

Helen Frink and Kelly Malek came up one shy of perfection and tied for second with eight correct answers. Tyler Cotton, Mark Adams, and Mike Frank tied for third with seven correct.

W.E.

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Facts, Figures, Thoughts, and a Gut Prediction

       Factoids

  1. Last year, trailing 56-41 with three minutes remaining the fourth quarter, Texas and Sam Ehlinger mounted a furious rally that included a successful onside kick to tie the game in regulation. Texas won in overtime 63-56.
  2. This is Casey Thompson’s first start versus a non-Rice opponent. It will be the biggest challenge of his career. Texas Tech has just enough film to prepare a defensive gameplan for Thompson.
  3. Tech’s defense has allowed an 54.7 yards per game rushing through three games this season. They give up an average of 1.8 yards per rush.
  4. Tech is 3-0 this season beating Houston, Stephen F. Austin, and Florida International. The cumulative record of these defeated foes is 5-5.
  5. Stephen F. Austin came up short on a 4th and goal with less than a minute before losing to Tech 28-22
  6. Tech is averaging 441 yards and 40 points per game. 270 yards per game passing and 170 rushing.
  7. Tech’s leading rusher, Tahj Brooks, is averaging 94.7 yards a game at an 8.1 yard per carry clip.
  8. Tech’s leading receiver, Erik Ezukanma, average yards per reception is 21.9.
  9. Tech’s quarterback Tyler Shough, is averaging 9.9 yards per reception. In case you don’t follow this metric, 9.9 per attempt is quite good.
  10. As of Friday morning, Texas is an 8.5-9.0 favorite. Figuring that the odds makers automatically spot the home team three points, they think Texas is about a touchdown better than Texas Tech.

Big Game for Sark

Texas’s next three games are Texas Tech, at TCU, and Oklahoma. In ascending order, each one will be the biggest of Steve Sarkisian’s career at Texas. If Texas doesn’t win at least two of these three matchups, it’s hard to conjure up Texas finishing the regular season with any better than an 8-4 record. I don’t know about you but 8-4 doesn’t excite me much.

Casey Thompson’s 16 for 18

Thompson has led Texas to 16 scores on the 18 drives he’s piloted dating back to the Alamo Bowl last year. So, I’m getting a little annoyed with Steve Sarkisian still going out of his way to state that Hudson Card will be playing (I’m paraphrasing) a significant role for the remainder of the season. Maybe he’s playing the long game in recruiting but can’t he just use the old cliché, Hudson needs to prepare each week like he’s going to play because you never know . . .?

Gut Prediction

Given the deficiencies of the Horns’ offensive and defensive lines, I don’t see Texas having an easy time with any of their remaining opponents. Save Kansas, I expect every game is going to be close. I expect the defense to disappoint most weeks, especially this one. I expect the offense will be the strength of the team and will keep Texas in all the remaining games.

If you’re looking forward to my gut prediction for this game, you may be disappointed. No, I’m not picking Tech to win. I’m not picking a winner in this one.  I do predict a game that will be decided late by less than six points. If Texas holds Tech to under 35 points, I think we have to be satisfied with the defense.

I will predict the final score will be something like 38-35 and it could go either way.

Willie Earl’s Song of the Week

“In My Life” – The Beatles

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

For my money, this is the greatest love song of my generation.

I wept like Jack Paar when I rediscovered this opening of the “The Beatles Anthology” documentary from 1995.

https://archive.org/details/the-beatles-anthology-1995-dvd

Hook “Em,

W.E.

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