No. 6 Oklahoma out to maintain mastery of Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has been a part of plenty of losses during his 14 seasons at the helm of his alma mater, going 2-11 against the Sooners.
Riley hopes to continue that trend and Gundy hopes to reverse it when No. 6 Oklahoma hosts Oklahoma State on Saturday.
“They’ve been battles, I know that,” Riley, who will coach in his fourth Bedlam, said. “They’ve been absolutely battles. The first couple, we had a chance to separate a little bit in those games, but they’ve always been battles.
“You can feel the intensity of the rivalry. It’s been a game that’s been very relevant on the national stage here for the last several years.”
This season, it will be just for one side.
The Sooners are right in the thick of the race for a spot in the College Football Playoff but must win out to have a shot after dropping a game to Texas in early October.
Oklahoma State has stumbled lately, though, dropping to 5-4 overall and 2-4 in Big 12 play with last week’s loss at Baylor.
One of Oklahoma State’s problems this season has been with avoiding costly penalties.
In the loss to the Bears, the Cowboys were flagged 12 times for 133 yards, including three 15-yard penalties on Baylor’s two fourth-quarter scoring drives that turned the tide.
Oklahoma State is averaging more than 90 penalty yards per game in its four losses and nearly 80 yards per game overall.
But Gundy insists his team is still listening to himself and the other coaches, despite the recurrent problem.
“I don’t think we’re to that point,” Gundy told reporters. “I don’t see that at all with this team. I don’t see lack of effort, I don’t see frustration that’s created animosity on the team.
“I don’t see any of that — and I have seen it before — but I don’t see any of that. I don’t think they’re tuning us out. We’re just not getting results.”
It’ll be a problem that Oklahoma State figures to need to fix against the Sooners if it is to find a way to pick up its first win in the series since the 2014 overtime win in Norman.
Gundy compared disciplining his players for penalties to punishing his teenage sons, saying he was going to be more mindful of the long-term impact on the program than the short-term one for the rest of the season.
“We have to be a more disciplined football team,” Gundy said. “And the decisions that we have to make from here on out have to be so that, if I don’t come in on a curfew, that’s I’m not losing my truck for two weeks, I’m losing my truck for two months.
“Do I want to lose my truck for two months and stay out after curfew? Well, that’s your choice. That’s what has to happen.”
On the other side, the Sooners struggled with penalties last week, but overall their fate lies in being able to get enough defensive stops to make things easier on an offense that continues to be one of the top few in college football.
The Sooners struggled defensively at times a week ago, showing signs of the issues that plagued them earlier in the season before Riley decided to fire defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.
“At the end of the day, it’s FIDO — Forget It and Drive On,” linebacker Kenneth Murray said, using a phrase that interim defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill uses often. “That’s what we’re going to do as a team.”
There were some positive signs, though, including the continued solid play of sophomores cornerback Tre Brown and safety Robert Barnes.
“We weren’t great, we weren’t terrible, we were somewhere in between,” Riley said. “We were tough. We played really, really hard.”
In that 2014 game, the Cowboys’ win saved their season, pushing them to bowl eligibility in the final game of the regular season.
Oklahoma State will have other chances after this one to try to maintain its program-best bowl streak, but the Cowboys, unranked and reeling, come into this game in similar position.