Oklahoma-Texas matchup likely to be high-scoring again

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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NORMAN, Okla. – Recent meetings between Texas and Oklahoma have been shootouts.

Both teams have scored at least 40 points in four of the past six regular-season meetings, with Oklahoma breaking 50 in victories the past two years.

There are plenty of reasons to believe the high-scoring trend will continue. Both teams have had issues at times on defense heading into Saturday’s matchup in Dallas.

Oklahoma’s defense started the season strong under new coach Brent Venables, allowing just 10 points per game in three wins, but the past two weeks have been rough. The Sooners gave up 509 yards in a 41-34 home loss to Kansas State, then surrendered 668 yards in a 55-24 loss at TCU.

“We’ve got to play with better discipline,” Venables said. “That’s where it all starts. If we don’t do that, we’ll have the same kind of inconsistent results. The first three weeks, I thought we played with really good discipline. The last two weeks, not as much.”

Venables was renowned for his defenses as the coordinator at Clemson, though the coordinator duties at Oklahoma are being handled by Ted Roof and Todd Bates, both in their first year with the Sooners.

Oklahoma (3-2, 0-2 Big 12) gave up 361 yards rushing to TCU. And now the Sooners face Bijan Robinson, one of the nation’s top running backs. Robinson averages 103 yards rushing per game and ran for 137 yards and a touchdown last year against Oklahoma.

Robinson is looking forward to Saturday’s matchup. Texas (3-2, 1-1) is averaging 154 yards rushing per game.

“TCU did a really good job,” Robinson said. “All the running backs and coach Sark (Texas coach Steve Sarkisian), we’re trying to find a way to really be effective on the run game and be hard to stop. I’m excited to see what the game plan will be about that.”

The Sooners also must deal with receiver Xavier Worthy, who torched the Sooners with nine catches for 261 yards and two touchdowns last year as a freshman.

Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers could return from injury for the big rivalry game. The strong-armed freshman was off to a good start against Alabama before suffering an injured clavicle, and he has not played since. Sarkisian has not said whether Ewers or Hudson Card will start on Saturday.

Venables said keeping his players thinking positive and blocking outside opinions will be points of emphasis this week.

“It’s continuing to show belief in people,” he said. “It’s getting the best out of them. It’s still correcting and holding them accountable. Being tough and demanding, but continuing to give them hope.”

The Texas defense has improved over last year’s porous bunch and has played well in spurts but struggled in others.

Against Alabama, the Longhorns controlled the line of scrimmage for most of the game, and all but shut down Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, only to surrender the lead twice in the fourth quarter as the Crimson Tide rallied late to win.

Against Texas Tech, the Longhorns held a two-touchdown lead in the second half before losing 37-34 in overtime. Texas allowed the Red Raiders to convert six fourth downs and wore down as the Longhorns allowed 479 yards and struggled to get off the field.

But the Sooners have problems on offense. Quarterback Dillon Gabriel is in concussion protocol, and the Sooners are looking at their options. Davis Beville stepped in last week against TCU and struggled, connecting on just 7 of 16 passes for 50 yards. General Booty and Nick Evers are next on the list.

The Longhorns have forced just two turnovers in five games – numbers they could increase against a backup quarterback.

“We’re so close,” Sarkisian said. “I love the effort by the guys. We are punching and ripping at the ball. It’s not about effort. Sooner or later, that dam will break.”

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. returning for 2023 season

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SEATTLE – Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said Sunday he will return to the school for his sixth and final season of eligibility in 2023.

Penix announced his decision on social media and it was a surprising one at that. Penix was the national leader in passing this season, throwing for 4,354 yards and led Washington’s turnaround. The No. 12-ranked Huskies went 10-2 in the regular season, finished tied for second in the Pac-12 and will face No. 21 Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Penix will have a chance at setting Washington’s single-season record for yards passing in the bowl game. He also threw 29 touchdowns this season. Because of his performance this season, Penix saw his NFL draft stock rise to where he was being expected to be a second-day pick at the latest.

In his announcement, Penix wrote, “As I look back on this special season we had, I realized there were so many great moments and things to celebrate, but I KNOW there is so much for out there for this team and the job is still not finished. I can’t wait to be playing in Husky Stadium for the 2023 season!”

Penix started his career at Indiana and showed flashes of stardom while also battling injuries. He transferred to Washington after the 2021 season, a move that reunited him with new Huskies’ coach Kalen DeBoer, who was Penix’s offensive coordinator for one season at Indiana.

North Texas fires Littrell after .500 record over 7 years

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
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DENTON, Texas – Bowl-bound North Texas has fired coach Seth Littrell, who went 44-44 over seven seasons.

University president Neal Smatresk said Sunday night that the decision to make the move came after a thorough assessment of the program.

The Mean Green are 7-6 this season after losing 48-27 to UTSA in the Conference USA championship game Friday night.

Phil Bennett, their defensive coordinator the past two seasons, was named interim head coach. North Texas plays Boise State in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 17.

The 44-year-old Littrell had one year left on his contract in what was his first head coaching job. He was the youngest coach in Conference USA and one of the youngest at the FBS level when he arrived after two seasons as offensive coordinator at North Carolina with UNT coming off a 1-11 season at the time.

While the Mean Green are going to their sixth bowl since Littrell first got there, they haven’t won any of those yet. The bowl in his debut season came after only five wins since there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of the slots. Consecutive nine-win seasons followed in 2017 and 2018, but they then had three consecutive losing records before this year.

North Texas also has an interim athletic director after Wren Baker was named as West Virginia’s AD last week.

Smatresk said Jared Mosley, the chief operating officer of UNT athletics, will serve as interim AD. The university is working with a search firm to find Baker’s successor.