As we move another day closer to Oklahoma’s season opener against the Houston Cougars attention is starting to turn to player personnel and on-field strategy. Before we fully jump in that direction, here are ten facts leading up to the game that you’ll want to know.
1. No One Else Can Say That
Oklahoma has won two more Big 12 championships over the last 20 years (12) than it has lost home games. OU is 113-10 (.919) at Memorial Stadium since the start of the 1999 season. It is the best home winning percentage among Power Five schools over the last 20 seasons (Ohio State is next at .887). OU has outscored its opponents by an average of 43-17 in those games.
No school has won more than two Big 12 titles since the Sooners won their first in 2000.
2. The Defenses Had Better Be Ready
Houston and Oklahoma were two of the most productive offenses in 2018 and both teams return key pieces from last year’s squads. The Cougars finished the 2018 season fifth nationally, averaging 43.9 points per game, and seventh in total offense with an average of 512.5 yards per contest. Oklahoma led the country with 48.4 points per game and averaged 570.3 yards per contest. Houston, Oklahoma and Clemson were the only three programs last season to rank in the top 25 for both passing and rushing offense.
3. New Team But Familiar Face
This will mark the eighth straight year the Sooners have faced a Dana Holgorsen-coached team. Oklahoma went 7-0 against West Virginia with Holgorsen on the sidelines. The Sooners outscored the Mountaineers 329-228 in those games (average of 47-33) and posted 56 points in 2016 and 59 in 2017 and ’18.
4. Jalen Hurts Isn’t The Only QB To Keep An Eye On
Houston senior quarterback D’Eriq King looks to build off his impressive season in 2018 where he set The American Conference record for touchdowns responsible for with 50.
King threw 36 touchdowns passes and added 14 more on the ground in 11 games. Among returning quarterbacks, only Alabama’s Tua Tagavailoa passed for more touchdowns (50) than King in 2018.
5. A First Time
Oklahoma’s opener against Houston will be the Sooners’ first-ever regular season game to be played on a Sunday. It is the only FBS game scheduled for the day.
Oklahoma’s three previous Sunday football games occurred in bowls. OU beat Penn State in the Sugar Bowl on Dec. 31, 1972, and handled Virginia 48-14 in the Gator Bowl on Dec. 29, 1991. The Sooners lost 21-14 to LSU in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4, 2004, giving them an all-time 2-1 record on the Sabbath.
6. Hey, I Know You!
There are plenty of ties between the coaching staffs for Houston and Oklahoma. During his time as an assistant at Texas Tech, Cougars head coach Dana Holgorsen worked alongside Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, associate head coach/outside wide receivers coach Dennis Simmons, assistant head coach/outside linebackers coach Ruffin McNeill and co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh.
Cougars co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Brandon Jones played at Texas Tech and also worked alongside Riley, Simmons and McNeil at ECU from 2010-14 as the offensive line coach. Holgersen and Bedenbaugh also spent two seasons together at West Virginia (2011-12).
7. A Talent-Rich City
Oklahoma has had a solid amount of successful football alumni that were products of the Houston area. The list of OU standouts who hailed from that area include the likes of RB Greg Pruitt (Houston; 1970-72), RB Joe Washington (Port Arthur; 1972-75), DE Darrell Reed (Cypress; 1984-87), DE Cedric Jones (Houston; 1992-95), RB Quentin Griffin (Humble; 1999-2002) and OLB/DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (Houston; 2014-17).
8. Heading South To Play College Ball
Houston has two players on the roster from the state of Oklahoma: safety Gervarrius Owens and kicker Dalton Witherspoon. Both players are from nearby Moore, OK., which is 10 miles from OU’s campus.
9. Heading North To Play College Ball
Oklahoma has 43 Texans on its roster, including 10 from the Houston metro area: RB Todd Hudson (League City; Clear Springs HS), QB Jalen Hurts (Houston; Channelview HS), WR CeeDee Lamb (Richmond; Foster HS), S Jamal Morris (Houston; Fort Bend Bush HS), LB Kenneth Murray (Missouri City; Elkins HS), DL Kori Roberson (Manvel; Manvel HS), WR Devin Staton (Katy; Cinco Ranch HS), DL Marcus Stripling (Houston; Mayde Creek HS), S Delarrin Turner-Yell (Hempstead; Hempstead HS) and OLB David Ogwoegbu (Katy; Seven Lakes HS). OU defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux also hails from Houston (Westbury HS) and was a defensive graduate assistant for the Cougars from 2008-09.
10. A Short Series
Oklahoma owns a 2-1 all-time record against Houston. In the first meeting on Dec. 26, 1981, Barry Switzer’s Sooners posted an easier-than-anticipated 40-14 Sun Bowl victory in El Paso, Texas. MVP Darrell Shepard, who began his career at Houston, scored two touchdowns against his former team. OU scored 30 fourth-quarter points to turn a close contest into a rout.
Freshman Fred Sims rolled up 181 yards rushing in the game after running for just 179 during the regular season.
In the second meeting — a 63-13 OU win in Norman on Sept. 11, 2004 —Jason White threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-18 passing, while Antonio Perkins tied the NCAA record with his eighth career punt return for a score. Following a 3-yard touchdown run by Jackie Battle on Houston’s opening drive, No. 2-ranked OU scored TDs on each of its first seven possessions to take a 49-7 halftime lead. Adrian Peterson ran for 117 yards and two scores on the day, while Mark Clayton caught five passes (all third down conversions) for 122 yards and Travis Wilson added a pair of TD catches.
In the 2016 season opener, No. 3 OU scored on three of its first four possessions to take a 17-13 lead but was held without a point on its next seven series in a 33-23 loss to No. 15 UH in the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff at NRG Stadium in Houston. Baker Mayfield completed his first 11 pass attempts and finished 24 of 33 (73 percent) for 323 yards and two touchdowns, and the Sooners outgained Houston 6.6 yards per play to 5.1. But OU committed two turnovers to UH’s one and the Cougars controlled the clock (35:06 time of possession to 24:54) in handing the Sooners their first season-opening loss since 2009.
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