No. 6 Oklahoma rolls into Big 12 opener vs. Texas Tech

Field Level Media

September 25, 2019 at 1:16 am.

Lincoln Riley grew up an hour away from Lubbock, Texas, dreaming of playing for Texas Tech, where he eventually walked on.

Matt Wells grew up a couple hours away from Norman, Okla., the son of two Oklahoma graduates.

Saturday, they’ll meet as head coaches in Norman, although it’s Riley coaching No. 6 Oklahoma against Wells’ Texas Tech squad.

It’s the Big 12 opener for both teams, and both are coming off a bye week.

The Sooners — leading the nation with 676.7 yards per game — are looking to extend their streak of Big 12 dominance, having won four consecutive conference titles.

“Getting off to a good start there is critical,” Riley said.

That weekend off probably benefited the Red Raiders more, as they look to replace quarterback Alan Bowman, who suffered a shoulder injury in the loss to Arizona that will keep him out for several weeks.

Wells said Rice graduate transfer Jackson Tyner and junior Jett Duffey will play against the Sooners.

“Not sure how that’s going to play out,” Wells said. “We’ll see how the week goes in practice, and we’ll have a plan defined exactly for those guys by the end of the week before we get on the bus to head to the airport.”

Neither has played much in the first three games, with Tyner missing on all three of his pass attempts while Duffey completed a 4-yard pass in his only snap of the year.

Duffey played significantly in last season’s 51-46 loss to Oklahoma after Bowman was hurt in the first half. In 2018, the dual threat completed 104 of 154 passes for 1,221 yards with eight touchdowns and six interceptions while leading the team with 369 rushing yards.

“It’s never a great thing to lose your starter, I get that. But having two full weeks to know that has been a positive compared to other times in the season that it could happen,” Riley said of Duffey. “He’s got game experience. He’s a good runner. He’s a very capable thrower.

“So I’m sure they’ll be very confident.”

While Oklahoma (3-0) has won seven consecutive games against the Red Raiders (2-1), two of the past three have been decided by a touchdown or less. Shootouts have been the norm: The past four meetings have produced an average of 97 points per game.

This Texas Tech offense, though, hasn’t been nearly as explosive as in recent seasons as the Red Raiders adjust from Kliff Kingsbury to Wells, who took over after Kingsbury was fired following last season.

Oklahoma has been every bit as explosive as in recent years as the Sooners transition to Jalen Hurts at quarterback after Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield each won the Heisman Trophy in the past two years.

“It’s been three straight weeks for them of domination and what a major challenge to our staff and our team to go in there and compete on national television,” Wells said. “I’m excited about the opportunity. Our players are.”

Hurts is second in the country with 417.7 yards of total offense per game as he starts his first go-round in the Big 12 after playing at Alabama in the previous three seasons. He is trying to tune out any of the positive attention after his team has scored 167 points through three games.

“I’ve been saying ‘rat poison’ forever and I’m gonna continue to say it because that’s what it is,” Hurts said, using a favorite phrase of his old coach, Nick Saban. “I’m not worried about none of that. I’m worried about what we want to accomplish as a team and what we need to do as a team to achieve those goals and the process of doing it.”