Red River Ri­valry

See spe­cial cov­er­age of OU-Texas in to­day’s sports sec­tion.

The Oklahoman - - FRONT PAGE - Jenni Carlson jcarl­son@ok­la­

Lin­coln Ri­ley stood at the podium Mon­day, less than 48 hours af­ter the first loss of his head coach­ing ca­reer and the worst up­set in his pro­gram's his­tory.

He an­swered ev­ery ques­tion with his fa­mil­iar even keel, his stan­dard un­flap­pa­bil­ity — un­til he was asked about how the hours af­ter the loss to Iowa State were for him per­son­ally. The Ok­la­homa coach averted his eyes, nod­ded his head and paused for a cou­ple sec­onds.

"It sucked," he said fi­nally.

He then looked away. Los­ing is al­ways tough, but that mo­ment shows just how much it eats at a head coach. There's re­gret and frus­tra­tion, anger and dis­ap­point­ment.

And if Ri­ley thought the strug­gle was real last week, it will only be com­pounded if the Sooners lose again this week.

In a ri­valry game where the im­por­tance runs some­where between ex­tremely high and off the charts, both OU and Texas have new head coaches. Nei­ther Ri­ley nor Tom Herman has even reached the half­way point of their first sea­sons -- but both face high stakes.

A Texas loss will fur­ther sour what has

been a sea­son with more strug­gles than many burnt or­ange bloods ex­pected. Early losses to Mary­land and USC. Re­cent close calls against Iowa State and Kansas State. Many in Horn Na­tion hoped for bet­ter re­turns in Herman's first year, though the vibe has im­proved in re­cent weeks.

"Our de­meanor and our at­ti­tude is headed in the right di­rec­tion," Herman said. "We're not a fin­ished prod­uct yet — don't know that we ever will be this year — but we are headed in the right di­rec­tion."

That out­look would only im­prove with a win in the Red River Ri­valry.

And con­sid­er­ing Texas has fired coaches in large part be­cause of their strug­gles against OU (see, Mack Brown), win­ning this game is never a bad idea for the Longhorn coach.

When it comes to Ri­ley, though, win­ning this game is al­most a must. I'm not sug­gest­ing he needs to win it to keep his job or any­thing — I'm go­ing to guess Lin­coln Ri­ley will be the Sooner coach for many years to come — but lose, and the tor­rents of hell­fire and brim­stone that will start fall­ing on his head won't be any fun.

The rea­son is los­ing to Iowa State.

Win that game, and the Red River Ri­valry has the nor­mal lev­els of pres­sure. But now? Beat­ing Texas isn't just im­por­tant be­cause it's Texas but be­cause this is the first step to­ward mak­ing that loss to Iowa State an out­lier. Win this week, and last week starts to look like the ex­cep­tion to the rule. Leave the State Fair of Texas with a vic­tory, and it dulls the pain of walk­ing off the Owen Field turf amid a Cy­clone cel­e­bra­tion.

But a loss to Texas is bad news not only in the court of pub­lic opin­ion but also in the Sooner locker room. Start pil­ing up losses, and fans won't be the only ones who start doubt­ing.

Lin­coln Ri­ley gets that. Of course he does. He's a smart guy, and he's keenly aware of the mag­ni­tude of the job that he's been given. He's been asked to add to a le­gacy of one of the sport's premier pro­grams. Build on the suc­cess. Carry on the tra­di­tion.

It's a weighty propo­si­tion.

The wide-rang­ing emo­tions that ac­com­pany that bub­bled up when Ri­ley was asked ear­lier this week how he han­dled that loss to Iowa State.

"You aren't go­ing to win them all; we get that," he ac­knowl­edged a few days later. "But when we're not at our best, that's what is dis­ap­point­ing. Re­gard­less of who we're play­ing and where we're play­ing and what the sit­u­a­tion is, we want to be at our ab­so­lute best. We weren't dur­ing that game.

"That's the thing I was most dis­ap­pointed with."

A vic­tory in the Red River Ri­valry might not solve ev­ery prob­lem, but nei­ther Lin­coln Ri­ley nor Tom Herman is in­ter­ested in find­ing out what problems come with a de­feat. Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125 or jcarl­son@ok­la­ Like her at face­ Jen­niCarl­sonOK, fol­low her at twit­­ni­carl­son_ok or view her per­son­al­ity page at­ni­carl­son.


Like his coun­ter­part at Texas, Ok­la­homa coach Lin­coln Ri­ley faces high stakes Satur­day in the Red River Ri­valry. But a week af­ter a stun­ning loss to Iowa State, Ri­ley could use a win much more than Tom Herman.


Ok­la­homa coach Lin­coln Ri­ley said ear­lier this week that his emo­tions af­ter los­ing to Iowa State were largely based on his dis­ap­point­ment about the poor per­for­mance. A win against Texas would go a long way to sooth­ing those feel­ings.

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