A week after suffering one of the most humiliating losses in the program’s history, the Texas Longhorns (1-4, 0-2) get a chance at redemption when they face rival No. 10 Oklahoma Sooners (4-0, 1-0) in Saturday’s Red River Rivalry at the Cotton Bowl.
The Longhorns are coming off a 50-7 blowout loss to then-No. 4 TCU, due in large part to the defense allowing 604 total offensive yards and six touchdowns through the air. The humiliating effort prompted some to call for second-year head coach Charlie Strong to be fired. Even the Texas Rangers had to issue an apologetic statement after a member of the professional baseball team's social media department posted on Twitter: "FireCharlie.# bye" during the Rangers' series with the Los Angeles Angels.
The loss also resulted in finger pointing amongst the Longhorn players. Upperclassmen lambasted some younger teammates for a “lack of work ethic,” according to the San Antonio News-Express.
“People need to grow up and take things more seriously,” junior safety Dylan Haines said on Monday. “A lot of people aren’t preparing the way we should be preparing. … They just want to go out and play the game on Saturday. They don’t want to put in the work on (the other days).”
The score could have even been more lopsided had it not been for quarterback Tyrone Swoopes finding receiver Lorenzo Joe for a 21-yard touchdown strike with 5:14 remaining in the fourth quarter. With Texas trailing 47-0, Swoopes replaced starting quarterback Jerrod Heard in the third quarter after the struggling freshman connected on only eight of his 20 passes for 48 yards.
Herrod has failed to throw a touchdown pass in three straight games, and completed less than 53 percent of his passes in the last two. There may not be a better time for the dual-threat star to have a breakout performance than this weekend in Dallas. The Longhorns have lost three straight games this season, and their most heated rival is not expected to show much mercy.
Texas enters the matchup as 17-point underdogs to the red-hot Sooners. While the odds are stacked against Texas, it wouldn't be surprising if they make things a little more competitive than many might expect. In 2014, Oklahoma opened as 14.5-point favorites but managed to just edge Texas, 31-26.
After picking up their second victory over a ranked team on Saturday, the Sooners climbed five spots in the national rankings. Oklahoma blasted then-No. 23 West Virginia, 44-24, behind junior Baker Mayfield’s three touchdowns passes and 320 yards.
Mayfield has done his job for Oklahoma, averaging 345.5 passing yards, and throwing 13 touchdown passes with only three interceptions. The Austin native, who attended Lake Travis High School, faced Texas in 2013 as a quarterback for Texas Tech. Mayfield failed to throw for a touchdown and was also intercepted as Texas prevailed over the Red Raiders, 41-16, at Royal-Memorial Stadium.
Mayfield has a stronger cast around him this season. Bob Stoops' offense has poured on the points, with the lowest output a 31-point overtime effort against Tennessee in Knoxville. Stoops is not overlooking the Longhorns, who still boast a talented roster despite faltering against relatively tough competition this season, and expects more out of his own team.
"We are very aware of the tough schedule [which] is probably the most that is overlooked in regards to Texas and where they're at right now," Stoops told the media. "Their four losses are to four ranked teams. I believe, it was just pointed out to me, that those four teams are 19-1. So they've probably played the toughest schedule to this point of anybody in the country with a couple of tight losses to Cal and Oklahoma State.
"We understand they'll work hard and they'll play hard. There's a lot of good football players out there as you watch them and put on the tape. I know coach Strong and his staff do an excellent job. We've got to keep preparing to be our best.
"We're not even five games into [the season], so we've got to really push to make our improvement. I'm still really angry with our team, disappointed, on our lack of discipline. We've got way too many foolish penalties that will hurt us. We continue to have two turnovers a game, which can't happen. We've got to do some things across the board in every area to get better. That's what we're really going to focus on this week."
Betting Odds: Oklahoma -17
Over/Under: 61.5 points
Prediction: Oklahoma over Texas, 40-20