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Stats that matter: Texas-Oklahoma

10/9/2014

Ready for some numbers? It's time for our weekly stat digs, in which we team with ESPN Stats & Information to find the numbers that matter most for the Longhorns and their next opponent. Here are the stats to remember going into Texas' Red River Showdown game against No. 11 Oklahoma on Saturday (11 a.m. CT, ABC).

1. 3/24

Take a closer look at what Texas’ defense has done on a drive-by-drive basis in its first two Big 12 games.

The Longhorns did not allow a single point until their 20th drive in conference play. Throw out three drives that ended with the clock expiring to end a half and you get a better sense of this group’s dominance.

Texas has now given up scores on just three of its first 24 drives in Big 12 play. Half of those 24 drives have ended in punts. Five have ended with a turnover on downs and four have ended with takeaways.

By the way: If you throw in the UCLA game, Texas’ defense hasn’t allowed points on 28 of its last 35 possessions, with 18 of those 28 drives ending in punts.

2. 21.7

Texas’ handling of Sterling Shepard will go a long way toward deciding if Trevor Knight struggles or succeeds in his first Red River Showdown start.

Shepard is the true go-to receiver this season, getting exactly one-third of Knight’s targets and has accounted for one-third of his completions. At 30 catches for 651 yards, Shepard already has his career-high for single-season receiving yards and we’re only five games in.

Among receivers with 30 or more receptions, nobody in FBS can top Shepard’s 21.7 yards per reception. And he’s gained first downs on 22 of those catches. He’s instant offense. But that’s not the only reason he’ll be so important to Quandre Diggs and Duke Thomas on Saturday.

Knight has completed passes to only three other wide receivers this season. His two interceptions against TCU came on throws intended for Shepard. At a time when the young quarterback is struggling again, Texas needs to take away his safety blanket as frequently as possible.

3. 5/23

When Oklahoma inevitably loads the box to stop the run, is Tyrone Swoopes going to be able to make the defense pay?

On pass attempts of 15-plus yards this season, Swoopes is 5-of-23 with no touchdowns and one interception. Texas coaches have acknowledged the need for downfield shots, and Swoopes is doing a good job of passing them up when they’re not open. But he’s connecting on about only one per game.

Case McCoy’s four completions of 20-plus yards against OU last year were a game-changer: two went for TDs, three came on third downs. Swoopes doesn’t have to match that. But when he gets the 1-on-1 or busted coverage he wants, he can’t hesitate and miss his throwing window.

Swoopes will need to be sharper than ever, because this has been a weakness for OU. Though the Sooners do have nine interceptions, they’ve also given up more 20-plus yard passes than any other Big 12 team, including seven against TCU.

Three more to remember

16: The number of points Texas has given up in the first half this season, including three in the second quarter. Texas ranks No. 3 nationally in first-half scoring defense behind Baylor and Marshall. And yet, Charlie Strong and Vance Bedford must wonder why their D has allowed 80 points in the second half.

256: Samaje Perine’s rushing yards after contact this season, best in the Big 12. He’s gained 50.6 percent of his rushing yards this season after absorbing the first hit.

1: The number of tackles for loss Texas produced on Baylor rushing plays. That’s a big credit to Baylor’s offensive line, and it could be a big problem for Texas against OU. It must get stops in the backfield.