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Texas-OU rematch for Big 12 title heating up

AUSTIN, Texas — Tom Herman is calling friend and former Kansas coach David Beaty for “self-scouting” tips. Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley doesn’t like it.

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger tried to tell OU star quarterback Kyler Murray good game after the Longhorns won an instant-classic, Red River Shootout, 48-45, back on Oct. 6, and Murray didn’t like it.

Throw in Texas senior captain defensive end Breckyn Hager getting reprimanded by the Big 12 last week for making what he thought were a couple off-the-record comments walking out of a post-game press conference (about Oklahoma’s struggling defense and how “It’s 11:12 pm, and OU still sucks”) — and the Red River rancor is flowing.

The greatest rivalry game in college football won’t be in its usual location — the Cotton Bowl in the middle of the State Fair of Texas — and the Golden Hat Trophy won’t be on the line.

But the way things are going, by the time we get to Saturday’s Big 12 title game at 11 am CT in Jerryworld, the 100,000-plus Longhorns (9-3, 7-2 Big 12) and Sooners (11-1, 8-1) in attendance may voluntarily reseat themselves on either side of the 50.

Herman acknowledged on Monday’s Big 12 coaches’ teleconference he and his staff were calling Beaty and members of the now-fired KU coaching staff for self-scouting tendencies Texas may have shown on film that the Longhorns needed to clean up before facing the No. 5 Sooners, who are a 7.5-point favorite Saturday despite Texas’ victory over OU in October.

“Coach Beaty can do what he wants to do,” Riley said. “I don’t like the precedent of it, bringing in somebody from the league from the same year. But it’s not against the rules. So that’s fine.”

At his weekly press conference, Herman said a snowstorm in Kansas City kept Beaty from coming to Austin. So communication was done by phone as Texas makes it game plan for Saturday’s game. Last week, leading up to Texas’ 24-17 victory at KU, Beaty called Herman “probably my best friend in coaching.” Beaty, who learned Les Miles would be replacing him before coaching the Texas game , has been rumored as a possible addition to Herman’s staff in some capacity after this season.

“I don’t know why that’s news,” said Herman, who was once described by senior defensive back P.J. Locke III as being able “to play mind games like a wizard.”

“Whenever you play an opponent, and then you don’t play that opponent again, and you have friends on that staff, you’re going to call ’em and say, ‘Hey, what did you have on us?’ When we got done playing USC, we called the coaches at USC and said, ‘Hey, what did you have on us? Here is what we had on you.’

“You share that information to help. It’s all self-scout stuff like, ‘When so-and-so DB lines up in this stance, it’s man and when it’s in this stance, it’s zone.’ You get lost at times. As good of coaches as we have, you’re so focused on game planning for your opponent that sometimes you lose sight of what your opponent is game planning for you.

“It’s always nice to have a fresh set of eyes. Talking about signals, they had some of the signals for us that we wanted to, ‘Hey, do we need to change signals?’

“So a lot of it, really all of it was self-scout type stuff like, ‘Here is what we had on you.’ It’s very common. It just so happened that we were playing this week and they weren’t. He’s a friend of mine, and we weren’t going to play each other again. But the visit actually never materialized because of the blizzard in Kansas City. But we did talk to them extensively on the phone, talked to David (Beaty), (former KU defensive coordinator) Clint Bowen and Kenny Perry, their special teams coordinator.

“All of that stuff is commonplace to say, ‘Hey, what do you got on us? And how have we evolved as a team?'”

Murray and Ehlinger had a moment on the field after the game on Oct. 6.

Ehlinger went to Murray to tell him good game. And Murray seemed to take offense to it, especially when Ehlinger clapped his hand on top of Murray’s helmet.

Ehlinger told Murray, “I was saying good game. Have some respect.”

Murray told him to get out of his face.

Ehlinger responded, “Well, then take that ‘L’ (expletive).”

Murray on Monday said, “If we would’ve won the game, I wouldn’t have run up to him in that moment.”

Asked about how much he respects Ehlinger’s game and season, Murray said, “I have no comment on that.”

When Oklahoma linebacker Curtis Bolton Jr. was told about the comments of Hager, who said three years ago he wouldn’t cut his hair until Texas won a Big 12 title and is one win away from the most meaningful haircut of his life, Bolton said:

“Blows my mind. We hung 50 (45) on them, too. If anyone on their defense has anything to say, they can have fun facing Kyler (Murray).”

Murray is a sure-fire Heisman Trophy finalist after throwing for 37 touchdowns with seven interceptions while completing 70.8 of his passes with 11 rushing touchdowns and an average of 7.5 yards per carry.

Despite giving up 45 points, Herman was asked how Texas was able to hold Murray to 33 yards rushing through three quarters in their first meeting.

“I think we did a good job of collapsing the pocket,” Herman said. “We did not want him on read plays, we certainly didn’t want him carrying the football out there on the loose.

“Then I think we were able to get the ball out of his hands quickly. His big scrambles — there is not a lot of designed quarterback runs, except the one that went 70-something yards for a touchdown back in October.

“But I think if you can get the ball out fast, you know — a lot of his big scrambles have come when you’re covering them but not getting good pressure on him, and he’s sitting back there, sitting back there, nobody is open, okay, go. When it’s pressure, get it out, obviously, he doesn’t have time to make those kind of decisions.”

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Asked about facing Murray again, this time on turf in the stadium where he won three straight state titles (2012-14) at Allen while going 43-0 as a high school starter, Herman compared it to a quote from the movie Armageddon: “Scariest environment imaginable.”

But Herman said his team won’t be daunted by the idea of another shootout.

“Our offense is designed to score one more point than our opponent,” Herman said. “And whatever it takes to do that, we will be ready to do.”

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