New coaches Ri­ley, Her­man take lead roles for Ok­la­homa-Texas

Texarkana Gazette - - SPORTS -

NORMAN, Okla.—Lin­coln Ri­ley and Tom Her­man have played sup­port­ing roles in the long, bit­ter ri­valry be­tween Ok­la­homa and Texas.

They will take cen­ter stage on Satur­day.

Ri­ley was Ok­la­homa’s of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor the past two years be­fore be­ing pro­moted in June. Her­man was a grad­u­ate as­sis­tant coach at Texas in 1999 and 2000 and took sev­eral de­tours be­fore re­turn­ing to Austin as head coach. It’s the first time since 1947 that the game will fea­ture two coaches in their first years lead­ing their re­spec­tive schools.

Be­cause both have had a taste of the se­ries, they un­der­stand what they are walk­ing into.

“I think when you go into one of the most sto­ried ri­val­ries in col­lege foot­ball his­tory, if not the most, I think it is im­por­tant that you rec­og­nize that this is a big game for a lot of peo­ple in both states,” said Her­man, who was born in Cincin­nati and raised in Cal­i­for­nia. “It’s a big game be­cause it’s a con­fer­ence game. It’s a big game be­cause of the unique­ness of the Texas State Fair and it be­ing on a neu­tral site ev­ery year. Half the sta­dium is burnt or­ange and half the sta­dium is crim­son. We do rec­og­nize that.”

Be­yond the ri­valry, the game is mean­ing­ful for ad­di­tional rea­sons. Texas has had three straight los­ing sea­sons, but the Longhorns might be on the verge of a break­through. Texas (3-2, 2-0 Big 12) is tied with TCU for first place in the con­fer­ence, and a win over Ok­la­homa would be huge for the pro­gram.

No. 12 Ok­la­homa (4-1, 1-1) is com­ing off a stun­ning home loss to Iowa State, and a de­feat Satur­day would al­most cer­tainly elim­i­nate the Soon­ers from Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off con­tention.

“We’ve got to bounce back, got to re­spond,” said Ri­ley, a na­tive Texan. “That’s part of col­lege foot­ball these days. Ob­vi­ously we’ve got a big one this week with Texas that’s big, re­gard­less of what’s hap­pened in the past. One of the great games in col­lege foot­ball year in and year out, and one that we’re very much look­ing for­ward to go­ing down to Dal­las and play­ing.”

Ri­ley had one of his worst games as of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in a loss to the Longhorns in 2015. Texas en­tered that game with a 1-4 record but pulled off a 24-17 shocker against the 10th-ranked Soon­ers , show­ing once again that records don’t mat­ter in this se­ries.

“It’s a dif­fer­ent game, it’s a dif­fer­ent at­mos­phere,” Ri­ley said. “It’s closer to a bowl game to me than any­thing else. I think you’ve got to have the kids in the right mind frame for it. The right mind­set. And you’ve got to be there as a coach and know re­gard­less of what you’ve seen on tape from ei­ther team it’s go­ing to be prob­a­bly the best and hard­est that both those teams have played all year.”

Ok­la­homa has been a solid fa­vorite the past four years and has come out of the an­nual show­down with two losses and two five-point wins. Ok­la­homa held on to win 45-40 last year .

“You start wor­ry­ing about the out­side opin­ions or what a team’s done be­fore that, it doesn’t mat­ter in that game,” Ri­ley said of play­ing Texas. “Both teams are damn good in that game. Ev­ery year, re­gard­less is they’re 0-5 com­ing in or 5-0. It doesn’t mat­ter. Any time you have a chance to win on that field and you do, you’re played a good ball game.”

Her­man said the hard­est part is not to lose fo­cus on ac­tu­ally pre­par­ing to play a foot­ball game.

“I think it’s also im­por­tant to make sure your team knows the for­mula for suc­cess is not go­ing to change, and it’s not go­ing to change de­pend­ing on the op­po­nent,” he said. “So we won’t change any of that way of think­ing be­cause it is our ri­val, but we do rec­og­nize its place in col­lege foot­ball lore, if you will.”

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