AUSTIN – A possible revenge rematch with Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game is far, far down the list of concerns for Texas.
“I just want to make sure we’re there,” senior receiver Devin Duvernay said Tuesday. “Whoever we play, it doesn’t matter.”
Texas players say they’ve moved on to Kansas preparation from the 34-27 loss to the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl.
It’s undoubtedly true from a factual standpoint.
“That emotion doesn’t help us win the next week,” quarterback Sam Ehlinger said, “so why would I carry that on?”
It’s also a good bet that the Red River Showdown has left a mark, given its status as a midseason rivalry game.
Ehlinger went from 40-1 Heisman odds a week ago at Bet Online to off the board this week (along with Georgia’s Jake Fromm and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence). The offensive line allowed nine sacks for the first time in a decade. The defense had an unfathomable amount of missed tackles.
Coach Tom Herman made a major admission this week, as well, when asked how ticked off he was at Oklahoma’s domination of the line of scrimmage.
“None, other than myself,” Herman said. “It was the first time that I can remember that we got out-physicaled on both sides of the ball. That’s not us. I’m obviously disappointed in everything — in the way that the game unfolded and the way that we played.
“If there’s anybody to be angry at, it’s me for, obviously, I didn’t do enough to get our guys to play at the level that they’re capable of playing.”
Some of that may just be a matter of health. Defensive backs Caden Sterns, Jalen Green, Chris Brown and Josh Thompson – all starters or key positional players – remain sidelined. With the injuries, freshman safety Tyler Owens, a Plano East graduate, made his first depth-chart appearance of the season.
Asked what he would like to see in the second half, besides healthy teammates returning, safety Brandon Jones suggested a more proactive approach.
“I think we do a really do good job of once a problem happens, you address it and correct it,” Jones said. “But as a defense, we need to attack the situation before it gets to that point, before it’s noticeable and something that occurs often.”
In addition to its defensive woes, Texas has struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks with 10 sacks through six games.
“We’ll work some pass rush drills and scheme better, I guess. I don’t know,” said linebacker Joseph Ossai, one of the team’s better edge rushers.
Oklahoma was able to overcome a regular-season loss to Texas last season to fight all the way back and avenge the Cotton Bowl loss at AT&T Stadium to reach the College Football Playoff.
For Texas (4-2, 2-1 Big 12), the CFP hopes are gone with the two losses. The Sugar Bowl represents the postseason ceiling.
Baylor (6-0, 3-0) and Iowa State (4-2, 2-1) loom as legitimate contenders in the Big 12, with Texas having potentially problematic road games at each team in November. None of those big-picture issues are the focus for Texas.
Ehlinger talked of eliminating “self-inflicted wounds” in the second half of the season.
“We definitely have enough time to bounce back,” Duvernay said.