Oklahoma Football: Five Sooners that need to step up in the Red River Showdown


The Oklahoma Sooner face their arch-rival Texas Longhorns this Saturday in the annual Red River Showdown. It will be the first time since Bob Stoops was hired in 1999 that Texas will have a new head coach, with Charlie Strong making his inaugural visit to the Cotton Bowl for the game. It is also the first time Texas will enter the game with three losses, as they pain through a tough rebuilding process.

After a disappointing loss to the TCU Horned Frogs last Saturday, the Sooners look to get back on track and make a jump back into the top 10 of the polls. But regardless of Texas’ record, it won’t be easy. Texas’ defense is ranked 21st in the country in points per game allowed, with only 19.2 per game. As we saw last Saturday, Oklahoma’s offense needs a lot of work. It will take a team effort to get the win, but let’s narrow it down to five specific players or groups of players needing to perform well and step up for the Sooners.

1. Trevor Knight
This may seem obvious as the quarterback position is one of the most important in any sport, but Knight needs to shrug off his last performance and be more accurate with the football. As mentioned, Texas’ defense is rated as one of the best in the country. Knight struggled against a top five defense last week at TCU, so he will have to get his passes on target, and look for other receivers to get involved in the passing game. Sterling Shepard can’t do it all himself. Knight will have to trust his other receivers and tight ends and deliver accurate footballs against a good Texas defense.

2. Durron Neal
The #2 wide receiver on the team, Neal cannot expect Sterling Shepard to catch every football. Although Shepard is third in the nation in receiving, the Sooners need a second option to get the ball to when Shepard is well covered. Neal, one of only five upperclassmen receivers, and with only four of them eligible, will have to step up and take pressure off of Knight, Shepard, and the many younger receivers.

3. The entire Oklahoma secondary.
I don’t even know where to begin here. This secondary has been exposed the past two games. Texas doesn’t throw the ball very well, only throwing for 184.8 yards per game, at 104th in the country, but this secondary can’t take Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes lightly. Zack Sanchez’s tackling has been shaky, as does Julian Wilson with his cover skills. The safeties, Hatari Byrd, Quentin Hayes, and Steven Parker have to help out. West Virginia had a few long TD passes, and TCU had two TD passes that featured two wide open receivers. That is not acceptable, and this secondary knows that.
This tweet by the Tulsa World’s Guerin Emig shows that the secondary is looking to improve.

4 and 5. Eric Striker and Geneo Grissom
We heard Eric Striker’s name a lot the first three games vs. Louisiana Tech, Tulsa, and especially Tennessee. But since then, he hasn’t made as big of an impact. He has four sacks already, while he had 6.5 all of last season, but most of his work has been the first three games. A big reason WVU’s Trickett and TCU’s Boykin was able to beat the defense a lot of times was because Striker wasn’t able to get to them on time. Striker has the skills to be the best pass rusher in the country and needs to start playing like it to help the Sooners out. The same goes for Geneo Grissom. Another very talented linebacker that had an interception for a TD against Tulsa, but hasn’t played to his potential thus far. If he and Striker amp it up, the Sooner defense gets a whole lot scarier.

Bonus: Josh Heupel…again
Plain and simple, his play calls need to get better. I know Bob Stoops will defend his calls, but I’m sure he knows the calls are not working. You simply cannot call three straight pass-plays with a struggling QB and talented running backs. You can’t call a draw play on third down with no timeouts and less than a minute to go with 65 yards needed. You cannot line up in the pistol formation on 4th and 1 with the game on the line when you have a big QB in Blake Bell and again, talented running backs that can power a yard easily. Like I said earlier, Durron Neal and Trevor Knight need to step up to make it easier on Heupel, but at the same time, Heupel needs to call better plays to make it easier on Neal and Knight.

It should be yet another good game in Dallas this weekend. Arguably the best college football rivalry, Oklahoma will be looking to improve to 5-1 and if they can get the help needed from these players, will not only win the game, but get back in the race for the playoff.