Lincoln Riley has been a part of three Bedlam games and is entering his second as a head coach. Thus far, he hasn’t lost.
Despite being new to the in-state rivalry and his perfect record, Riley said the intensity of the game isn’t lost for him at his weekly news conference Monday.
“It’s a huge game, the rivalry,” Riley said. “Regardless of teams’ records, regardless of what you’ve done, it’s an important game. It’s an important game to this state. It’s been a very important game on the national scene for the last several years. It’s going to be an important game for us here, as well.”
It’s no secret to Riley the Cowboys are in the midst of a down season. Riley called OSU an “interesting team” Monday. He said the Cowboys are talented and are only a few plays away from having the season they imagined having. He said OSU is still playing at a high level.
In his opening statement Monday, Riley unpromptedly raved about Justice Hill. Hill is the Big 12’s second-leading rusher with 895 yards this season. Against the Sooners last season, Hill rushed for a career-high 228 yards and two touchdowns.
“Offensively, I think it starts with Justice Hill,” Riley said. “I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for him. We’ve had a lot of battles against him over the years. He’s a tremendous football player, easily one of the best running backs in the country. They’ve done a great job continuing to get him involved, and he’s tremendous.”
No word on whether Riley has considered jumping in the Hill-OU social spat from earlier this week.
“At receiver, Tylan Wallace obviously stands out, as well. Has been great for them all year. One of the best receivers in this league and in the country this year. Makes play after play, just absolutely playing outstanding.”
Riley spoke highly of the OSU pass rush Monday. Teams have struggled getting to OU quarterback Kyler Murray this season, as the Sooners have allowed only 10 sacks this season, trailing only TCU in the Big 12. That counters the 33 sacks the Cowboys have claimed this season, the most in the country.
“Defensively, we obviously know they’ve brought in a new defensive coordinator with Coach (Jim) Knowles, who’s done a nice job with that group,” Riley said. “The thing I would say that really stands out right now is the amount of pressure that they’ve gotten on the quarterback. They’ve got several guys with big sack numbers.
“Obviously the (Jordan) Brailford kid is one of the top guys in the country right now both in sacks and in tackles for loss, but they’ve got other guys, too, who have created pressure.”
Like OSU, OU is coming off a game in which the Sooners were called for more than 100 yards in penalties. With the intensity and emotion Bedlam draws out, Riley said it’s important to keep cool heads Saturday. The Sooners been called for 585 yards in penalties this season, sixth-most in the Big 12. The Cowboys have been flagged for 699 penalty yards, the most in the conference.
“This game’s gonna be intense,” Riley said. “Emotions are gonna be high, like they should be in this game, but we’ve certainly gotta manage it and do a better job and not give a good football team any extra yards.”
To this point the Cowboys have had four disappointing losses this season. The Sooners have had one. Riley said that won’t matter Saturday.
“Doesn’t matter what’s happened before this week, I know that,” Riley said. “It’ll be a battle like always.”