Texas head coach Tom Herman’s first memory of the intensity between Texas and Oklahoma involves an elderly woman showing the Longhorn’s bus exactly how she felt using two emphatic one-finger salutes.
Directly next to her was a young boy, no older than eight, doing the same hand gesture.
Rivalries truly know no age.
The latest edition of the Red River Shootout — the 115th edition of the game — will see the No. 11 Longhorns face off with the No. 6 Sooners Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
“It is one of, if not the, greatest games in college football,” Herman said. “I have been part of some pretty cool rivalries in my day. But this one takes the cake just because of it being interstate rivals. The two states don’t get along very well.”
Herman is 1-2 against the Sooners since coming to Austin, with the lone win coming in this game a year ago. Although Oklahoma got its revenge in the Big 12 title game to punch its ticket to the College Football Playoff.
For both teams, especially over the last three years, it all starts with the quarterback.
The Sooners have back-to-back Heisman Trophy-winning No.1 overall draft picks in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts has the potential to make that a cool three in a row.
The Longhorns have had Sam Ehlinger, which Herman and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tim Beck have helped develop into a legit NFL prospect and player on the fringe of the Heisman Trophy conversation.
“I've been so impressed with his development as a player,” Herman said. “We knew all of the intangibles were there as a young freshman, but to see him develop into the quarterback that he has, has been impressive. I don't think it can be overstating the fact that is the same system for three years in a row for the kid. There is a level of comfort in this offense, that he knows the strengths, he knows the weaknesses.”
Ehlinger has lit up the Sooners in his career, too, throwing for 314 yards and a pair of touchdowns and rushing for 72 yards and three touchdowns in the Red River Shootout a year ago.
So much is made of the Sooners’ offense, but Herman is just as focused on the Oklahoma defense.
“They are flying to the football,” he said. “Not extremely complex in terms of coverage structure but they are in the right place, not very many busts. Not turning guys loose. The thing that's a bit unique is the multiplicity of their defensive front.”
The Sooners and Longhorns are both 2-0 in the Big 12 this season, with the Sooners coming off a 45-20 win at Kansas and Texas walking away from Morgantown with a 42-31 win against West Virginia.
Texas true freshman quarterback-turned-running back Roschon Johnson was named the conference Newcomer of the Week after rushing for 121 yards on 21 carries, the largest output by a true freshman since 2015. It was just his fifth game as a running back.
The injuries for the Longhorns continued to pile up, but players are progressing as well as Herman could hope.
Tight end Cade Brewer did not have a concussion, while defensive back Chris Brown has a thigh contusion and is progressing into practice on Tuesday. Running back Jordan Whittington is doubtful but progressing.
Wide receiver Collin Johnson practiced in full on Sunday and is expected to play on Saturday, and DeMarvion Overshown ran well on the side of practice on Sunday and is probably headed into the weekend.
Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley said at his Monday press conference that none of his players would do the ‘Horns Down’ gesture this Saturday. For Herman, he’s tried to elevate the status and importance of the hand sign back to levels like when hew as a student in Austin.
“For me, it was really important being a graduate here that we have that same type of school spirit that the big boys do in college football,” Herman said. “I thought ours lost our luster somewhere along the way. It's pretty neat to see it rejuvenate itself. So we don't say ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’ anymore, we say, ‘Hook ‘em.’”