NORMAN- With the yearly fanfare surrounding OU-Texas, the cliches surrounding the matchup begin to make the rounds.
Throw out the records, they don’t matter.
The game is never over until it’s over.
This edition of the Red River Showdown may embody those mantras more than ever.
Both Oklahoma and Texas enter Saturday off of losses, and neither team has felt good about either conference game they’ve played.
Whoever exits the Cotton Bowl hanging their heads may find themselves effectively eliminated from Big 12 Conference contention, which is unacceptable for both programs.
Expect the desperation to be palpable on both sidelines, resulting in a game decided late in the fourth quarter.
Photo finishes are expected in this game, however.
Six of the past seven matchups between the Sooners and the Longhorns have been decided by one score or less.
The Sooners have fared well in those close games, winning four of the six.
Oklahoma’s play so far casts doubt on if the Sooners will be able to pull out this game late.
“Our biggest issue over the last two weeks is that fourth quarter,” Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said earlier this week.
“We win the fourth quarter and we’re feeling a whole lot different right now.”
In two conference games, the Sooners have been outscored 31-10 in the fourth quarter.
“We just have a problem finishing,” linebacker DaShaun White said.
”It’s simple, but it’s not easy to fix.”
Both Grinch and White believe for the defense to improve late in games, they have to remain focused and play with more consistency.
Redshirt sophomore RUSH linebacker Nik Bonitto said finishing strong has been the emphasis all week for the Sooners.
“We’re practicing that, we’re preaching it, now we got to show in the games that we can play all four quarters,” Bonitto said.
The Oklahoma defense hasn’t been alone in their fourth quarter struggles, all three sides of the football have let the Sooners down.
Two big special teams plays, Kansas State’s blocked punt and Iowa State’s 85-yard kickoff return, both occurred in the fourth quarter.
In the midst of those huge momentum swings, the offense hasn’t been able to consistently put points on the board late in games.
“It cost us these past few games because we haven’t played up to our standard on offense late in games,” center Creed Humphrey said. “It’s come to bite us in the butt.”
Humphrey said mental lapses have also cost the offense, but they’ve been focusing on playing a complete four quarters against Texas.
“We haven’t done our assignments across the board very well,” he said.
“We kind of take our foot off the gas and that’s something that we’ve harped on this whole week that we cannot do.”
If the Sooners want to repeat their late game heroics in the Cotton Bowl, they’ll have to exercise their late game demons on Saturday.
“I think we’re up for the challenge,” Humphrey said.
“These guys are really excited to get back on that field and improve.”