History says OU-Texas winner must run the ball — but can these Sooners make that leap?

Only twice in the past 20 years has the winner of the RRR failed to rush for more yards
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Creed Humphrey knows what’s important.

Good quarterback play, sure. Don’t turn the ball over, of course. Avoid giving up big plays on defense, always. And don’t be a liability on special teams, naturally.

But when Oklahoma meets Texas, one single element trumps all those: run the football.

The winner of the OU-Texas game has run for more yards than the loser in 18 of the last 20 meetings.

“That’s definitely the story throughout the history of this game,” Humphrey said. “It’s always the more physical (team) wins, the team who can run the ball better and the team that plays the more physical defense. So I think we’re up for the challenge for that.”

Creed Humphrey after last year's game

Creed Humphrey after last year's game

Recent history in this series has begun to show that running the football better than your opponent isn’t what it used to be. Of the two games the loser had more rushing yards, one happened in 2014 and one happened in 2018.

In 2018, OU fell behind by 21 points before Kyler Murray’s 67-yard touchdown run launched a comeback and gave OU the edge in rushing yards — but Texas won 48-45.

In 2014, OU struggled to both run (103 yards) and throw (129), but got a 91-yard kickoff return from Alex Ross and won 31-26.

This year’s results so far don’t portend good things for Oklahoma on Saturday.

Against an easier schedule, the Sooners rank 57th in the nation (out of 74 teams) in rushing offense at just 122.7 yards per game. Meanwhile, Texas’ run offense ranks 23rd at 191.3.

OU’s run defense (85 yards per game) is stouter and ranks ninth nationally, while the Longhorns (126.3 yards per game) aren’t bad at 23rd.

In net rushing, Texas is plus-65, while OU is plus-37.7.

Humphrey said the Sooners’ o-line has been “inconsistent” despite returning all five starters (Humphrey at center, Adrian Ealy and Erik Swenson at tackle and Marquis Hayes and Tyrese Robinson at guard, plus several top backups) from last year’s team that averaged 240 yards per game and 6.0 yards per carry.

“I think we’ve had our flashes of really good play,” Humphrey said. “Then flashes of bad play. We just gotta become more consistent. Same with me. I’ve played inconsistent so far. We’ve gotta take that step of playing consistently well. Which I think we definitely have that chance and opportunity to do this week.

“This group expects a lot out of ourselves. We think we have the chance to be really special. We have to be more consistent. We’ve talked about trusting the technique more. We’re looking to get that fixed this weekend.”

Head coach Lincoln Riley again clarified that not everything that goes bad for the offense can be blamed on the offensive line.

“As far as the group there, they’re kind of like our whole team,” Riley said. “They’ve had some really good stretches, they really have. Everybody thinks if you’re not running the football well or if you give up a sack it’s automatically on the offensive line. Well, no it’s not. Some of the times we haven’t run it well this year backs have missed cuts. I’ve made some poor calls. Receivers have missed blocks. For us it’s just been a lot of nine- and 10-man football. Same thing in the pass-pro game. I don’t think they’re any more or less to blame than anybody for any of the things that haven’t gone their way.”

Playing Texas in the Cotton Bowl every October offers many a shot at glory. But this season, with the Sooners off to a 1-2 start and any talk of a championship taken off the back burner (it’s more in the icebox wrapped in foil at the moment), beating the Longhorns with a physical running game would be a taste of redemption.

“I do think there’s a lot of positives and a lot of promise,” Riley said. “But yeah, that’s a position we hold in very high regard here. We do have high expectations for them. They’ve done a lot of good things, but can they play better? Yes, they can. I know the guy we’ve got coaching them (Bill Bedenbaugh) will stop at nothing to get them to that point.”

Said Humphrey, “These guys are really excited to get back on that field and improve. I’m pretty confident these guys will come out and play physical.”

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