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College Sports: 5 takeaways from Texas’ player availability: Sam Ehlinger, Charles Omenihu respond to Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray

AUSTIN — Texas players met with the media on Tuesday to preview Saturday’s rematch against Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game. It’s the first time since 1903 that the Longhorns (9-3, 7-2 Big 12) and Sooners (11-1, 8-1 Big 12) will have met twice in the same season.

Here are five takeaways from Tuesday’s availability:

1. Sam Ehlinger responds to Kyler Murray

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger and Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray’s mini-feud has started to gain a bit of steam again. 

It all started when the two were seen exchanging words in a postgame spat on the field following Texas’ win over Oklahoma on Oct. 6 at the Cotton Bowl. On Monday, ahead of their rematch for the Big 12 title game on Saturday at AT&T Stadium, Murray stirred the pot again when he was asked if he respects Ehlinger’s game.

“I have no comment on that,” Murray said. 

Later Monday, Ehlinger issued the following response from his Twitter account:

Ehlinger was asked about the tweet on Tuesday and to whom it was directed toward, but he predictably deflected giving any major details. 

“I was just tweeting myself,” Ehlinger said.

The sophomore quarterback also stayed mum on the altercation between him and Murray following the Red River Showdown last month and said he couldn’t remember what he told the Oklahoma star. 

But as for him respecting Murray’s game, Ehlinger did not decline to comment and instead offered some praise.

“I’d absolutely love to comment on that,” Ehlinger said. “I absolutely respect his game.”

2. Charles Omenihu throws shade at Murray

Other Texas players were asked Tuesday what they made of Murray’s comments, or lack thereof, on Ehlinger and the two’s postgame spat at the Cotton Bowl last month.

Senior defensive end Charles Omenihu offered probably the most unfiltered response you’re going to get, adding to the pregame banter between both sides heading into Saturday’s showdown in Arlington.

“After the game, I mean, I guess ole boy don’t like losing,” Omenihu said of Murray’s encounter with Ehlinger last month. “But (Murray) lost. It is what it is.”

Omenihu continued: “(Murray’s) comment yesterday? I’m not surprised that he said that, if you know him or have heard how he is. It’s not surprising. To be honest with you, I really don’t care. It’s funny to me actually. I saw it and I started laughing. It’s very, very funny. I’m probably gonna laugh after this because I’m gonna go look at it and laugh some more.”

Asked if he respected Murray’s game, Omenihu kept things subtle.

“He cool,” Omenihu said. “It’s all good. He’s alright.”

Lil’Jordan Humphrey, meanwhile, has seen first hand how good Ehlinger’s game has been this season for Texas. The junior wide receiver, who’s had a breakout year in his own right, stood up for his quarterback on Tuesday.

“He doesn’t have to prove a point,” Humphrey said. “People on this team know that he’s one of the best in the Big 12, and that’s all that really matters to us. He’s gonna go out there and perform like he’s been performing all year.”

3. Ehlinger updates on throwing shoulder

Texas coach Tom Herman admitted Monday that the health of Ehlinger’s throwing shoulder was still “not great.” The sophomore quarterback, who was shaky throwing the ball at times during this past Friday’s win over Kansas, said after the game it got “aggravated” again.

Ehlinger’s right shoulder has not been fully healthy since the Baylor game on Oct. 13, per Herman. Ehlinger suffered a first-degree AC sprain on the opening drive of that game. He then re-injured the same shoulder on Nov. 17 against Iowa State, suffering an AC contusion right before halftime. Both injuries knocked Ehlinger out of the game.

“I think this week I feel better than I have since the original injury,” Ehlinger said Tuesday. “I think this eight-day stretch playing on Friday and being able to get more time to rest and heal is incredibly helpful. I think that this week was definitely less of a (re-aggravation) for my shoulder. It definitely isn’t 100 percent, but it’s definitely something that’s getting a lot better as the season progresses.”

Junior wide receiver Collin Johnson said he doesn’t feel Ehlinger’s throwing ability has been affected by his hurt shoulder.

“I haven’t heard him complain about it one time,” Johnson said. “Really just (goes) about his business. If it’s hurting a little bit, just get some treatment. And if it’s anything like that, he’ll figure out a way to just play through it at a really high level. He’s been doing a really good job of still leading this offense despite the adversity he’s forced to go through. It’s great to see a quarterback with that kind of grit.”

4. Difference between Jerry World and the Cotton Bowl

Saturday’s Big 12 title game just may be the biggest in the history of the conference. Who would have ever predicted that Texas and Oklahoma would meet a second time in the same season — something that hasn’t happened in 115 years — with the Big 12 championship on the line?

Part of what makes Texas-OU a unique rivalry are the atmospheric conditions at the Cotton Bowl every October. It’s a neutral site with the State Fair of Texas as the backdrop. Both teams share one tunnel in the stadium. The team’s fans are split in half at the 50-yard line. 

But that’s the Red River Showdown. Saturday’s meeting at AT&T Stadium, which sits 30 minutes west of the Cotton Bowl, will be just a little bit different. Texas and Oklahoma haven’t played outside the city of Dallas since 1923, when the Longhorns hosted the Sooners in Austin.

“I honestly don’t know how the atmosphere is gonna be on Saturday,” Ehlinger said. “I don’t know the seating arrangement or anything like that. It’ll definitely be different, just because the atmosphere at the Cotton Bowl is so unlike any other.”

Humphrey, who played some high school games at the Cowboys’ stadium, added: “It gets real under those lights. I don’t know, you step on that field, it’s like magical things happen. It’s gonna be really fun.”

5. Does another offensive shootout await?

The final score at the Cotton Bowl last month read 48-45. Texas freshman Cameron Dicker drilled a last-second, 40-yard field goal after Murray and the Sooners rallied back from 21 points down in the fourth quarter to tie the game. Each team racked up over 500 yards of offense.

Many are expecting another shootout on Saturday between Texas and Oklahoma. Both team’s defenses have slipped a little bit in the second half of the season, while both offenses — especially Texas’ — have gotten even better. Per OddsShark, the over/under is currently set at 78, with Oklahoma as a 7.5-point favorite.

On paper, Saturday’s rematch between the Longhorns and Sooners looks to be setting up for another high-scoring affair. 

“When you play OU, they can almost score at will. They have such a great offense over there,” Johnson said. “There’s no telling when you play a great offense like that. I feel like we have a great offense as well, so there’s no telling when it comes to that, how that could turn out.”

But don’t assume Texas’ defense is entering this one assuming Oklahoma will just be able to go and get its points, regardless of the stats and how elite of a quarterback Murray is.

“We’ll never think like that,” freshman safety Caden Sterns said. “We’re not one of those teams that’s gonna go in a game — regardless of how much an offense puts up points — we’re not gonna go in like, OK, we only (need) three stops. So no, we’re gonna try to stop them, go 1-0 every drive and not let them score.”

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