For Oklahoma, the Red River rivalry suddenly moves in the wrong direction

DALLAS — Brent Venables has certainly delivered his share of embarrassing beatings in Texas.

This time the shoe was on the other foot.

The Longhorns’ 49-0 antics in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday propelled Texas in the right direction as a program and reduced Venables’ first season to virtual dust.

Is Texas finally “back?” There is still half a season to play. That remains to be determined.

“We are taking the necessary steps,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said. “We are on the right path.”

Was that more a commentary on how far Oklahoma’s program has to go to become a legitimate title contender under Venables? A candidate for the playoffs? A competitor to the Big 12? A bowling competitor?

“I always have the right perspective,” Venables said. “Having been on the right side 3-4 times, it’s never as bad as it looks, and it’s never as good as it looks.

“Right now, it’s not good. Don’t try to hide that. I fought through these today while on that sideline – what it looks like. It’s not good. We need to do a better job helping our guys.

The Red River rivalry always swings back and forth. A game does not make a trend. But the product Oklahoma put on the field Saturday and the product Texas put on the field felt like two completely disparate levels of football.

“We’ve all circled this one on the schedule,” Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers said. “Mostly because they come to our state and we own this state. And for us to collect this (Golden Hat Trophy) is just a lot of fun.

“It’s been a minute,” Sarkisan said, “since we got that Golden Hat.

As bitter as they are, it wasn’t just another loss to Texas.

It was a 49-point loss, the worst in series history, and zero points on the scoreboard for the first time in 24 years.

Oklahoma finished with a total offense of 195 yards – the fewest in the program since producing just 171 in a 45-12 loss to the Longhorns in 2005.

It was a catastrophe of the greatest magnitude. The Sooners are taking on water. Everyone is on deck, even if that doesn’t seem to help. Oklahoma’s program is at Defcon 1 and a nuclear strike seems imminent.

All that remains is to take shelter and wait for the fallout. Texas is on the rise, and Oklahoma is decidedly not.

It doesn’t get much easier: OU host Kansas upstart Norman next week. Like the Sooners, KU is dealing with an injury to its starting quarterback. Unlike OU, the Jayhawks’ backup produced points — and nearly a win — against TCU.

“In my opinion,” Venables said, “we can’t do it alone right now.”

Sarkisian, in his second season on the Forty Acres, said his loss to the Sooners after taking a 28-7 lead left a mark on that team.

“I hate to dwell on last year,” Sarkissian said, “but I felt like we let one slip away last year.”

It was not about to happen this year. When he made it 21-0, the Longhorns tipped him.

Venables has seen this game spiral out of control – in his favor. He was sidelined in 2000 for 63-14, and again in 2003 for 65-13. He was first in 2011 for 55-17, and again in 2012 for 63-21.

This was surely a shocking turn of events for him.

“Shocked? Nothing shocks me,” Venables said. “This game will punish you when you don’t — all kinds of different things, whether it’s practice or play.”

Getting blown up at TCU is one thing. But watching Texas hang half a hundred and then take their foot off the gas is as bad as it gets for Sooner Nation.

How does Oklahoma get out of this quagmire? Get back to work, Venables said, and have the right attitude.

“Those same qualities in a moment of weakness, when things aren’t going your way, the same things it takes to be successful,” he said. “You have to trust the basis of these things. That’s what will sustain you, to have that kind of mindset. Not an easy thing to do. Adversity, failure and defeat can quickly divide a team. You see it all the time. Or else it is the people who make a choice. It’s literally as simple as that.

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