NORMAN — Jalen Hurts knew he would get another question about the Oklahoma-Texas rivalry comparing to the Alabama-Auburn rivalry, aka the Iron Bowl.
So naturally, Hurts had an answer prepared.
“I don’t know any other person who will be able to say they’ve gotten wins in both of those games,” Hurts said after the Sooners dispatched the Longhorns on Saturday. “That’s very special, and that’s a testament to my teammates here. I wouldn’t rather do it with any other group.”
Then, for just a fleeting moment, Hurts gave Sooner Nation a taste of what they’ve been craving.
“You talk about emotional ties that I have to this university, they are there now,” he said. “For sure. OU DNA in me.”
And there it is, the moment OU fans have been waiting for, Jalen Hurts is a Sooner. Not a ‘Bama spy, not a transplant, not a guy who just wanted out of his last school and wasn’t sure what OU football was all about.
He’s all in.
It may have been the magnitude of playing Texas, or it may have just taken Hurts six games to warm to the idea that he’s no longer under Nick Saban’s thumb. Who can say?
“Well, I think as you go throughout the season, whether you are a coach, a player or a leader on the team, you continue to learn more and more about the guys you are going to battle with,” said head coach Lincoln Riley. “Each situation presents new challenges and new opportunities to learn. So, I think he learned more about his teammates and, kind of in that type of game and the different responses as the momentum swung back-and-forth. I definitely think there were some positives there.
“I don’t know if I’d say rite of passage, but you feel the impact of what OU means, but you probably don’t feel it a whole lot more than, certainly, on that weekend. I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. Probably a little too big-picture. I think he’s excited about where this team is headed and excited about where he is headed and saw some positive steps the other day.”
Hurts went through some tense times on Saturday that he hadn’t before as a Sooner. He and his teammates fought and overcame and bonded on a new level. Afterward, he mugged for cameras and tried on the Golden Hat trophy and left the Cotton Bowl wrapped in a blanket of satisfaction he hadn’t felt since he played for the Crimson Tide.
“I think one thing I can take away from this game is how pleased we are with the mental toughness that we showed in this game,” Hurt said. “Just talk about overcoming adversity and, most importantly, playing together as a team. I think we’re not where we want to be. But we’re going to continue to take positive steps in the right direction and continue to work hard every day at practice. We’re going to continue to build from here on out and try to be the team we want to be and the team we know we can be.”
Hurts suffered two turnovers that could have been three, and his offense sputtered in the red zone and on third down. Yet, he and his teammates are better now than they were before Saturday.
Defeating one’s archrival can do that for you.
“That’s probably one of the most unique things about my entire situation in me coming here,” Hurts said Monday. “There’s definitely more of an emotional attachment there now.”
Formerly co-host of “Further Review” and “The Franchise Drive,” columnist John E. Hoover is a college football insider on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover co-hosts The Franchise “Inside OU” Podcast with Brady Trantham and Rufus Alexander, and the Locked oN Sooners podcast on the Locked oN Podcast Network. He also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his YouTube channel at YouTube.com/c/JohnHoover, and his personal page at johnehoover.com.