Much like last season, Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong is looking for a turning-point victory on Saturday against the Oklahoma Sooners. And, as he now takes over defensive play-calling duties, the outcome will hinge on his defense’s ability to slow the Sooners down.
If Strong’s three-game history against Oklahoma is any indication, his Longhorns defense should take a desperately-needed step forward in the Red River Rivalry.
As Drew Lieberman of Horns247 noted on Twitter, Strong’s defenses have found considerable success against the Sooners in three meetings — two at Texas and one while Strong was the defensive coordinator at Florida in the Gators’ 24-14 national championship victory. In the three meetings, Strong’s defenses have allowed only 48 total points, equating to only 16 points per game.
That’s an exceptionally impressive feat considering Oklahoma’s 2008 offense led by Heisman-winning quarterback Sam Bradford and a pair of 1,000-yard rushers ranked second in total offense (7,670) and third in yards per game (548). Strong’s unit at Florida held that explosive offense to only 14 points and 363 total yards, including only 107 on the ground.
In 2014, if it were up to Strong’s defense alone, he might hold a 2-0 record in the Red River Rivalry, as Texas’ defense allowed only 17 points and 232 yards — 129 through the air and 103 on the ground.
The downfall for Texas in 2014 was Oklahoma’s non-offensive scores, as Alex Ross returned a 91-yard kick return to the house and Zack Sanchez added a 43-yard pick six. Otherwise, Texas likely wins what became a 31-26 defeat.
Even last season against a Sooners offense that finished No. 10 nationally in total yards (6,893) and seventh in yards per game (530), the Texas defense held Oklahoma to only 211 passing yards and 67 rushing yards in a 24-17 victory that ended in the young Longhorns carrying Strong off the field..
Collectively, Strong’s defenses, whether with him as the defensive coordinator or head coach, have held Oklahoma to 291 yards per game. That’s the same effort as Wisconsin’s currently 14th-ranked defense.
If only Strong’s defenses could compete and execute at the same level on a weekly basis, his job in Austin may not be in jeopardy. Now that he’s once again calling the plays, Strong can pull his teetering program back from the brink on Saturday at the Cotton Bowl against a team he’s found success against over the years.