OU football: In Sam Ehlinger vs. Spencer Rattler matchup, Sooners have a rare experience deficit at QB against Texas
NORMAN — Sam Ehlinger was asked this week what advice, looking back on his three previous years quarterbacking Texas against Oklahoma, he’d give to himself as a freshman if he could travel back in time.
“Good luck,” Ehlinger said. “Because you’re probably going to go against, in a four-year period, one of the best stretches of quarterback play at a single university in the past four years.”
Ehlinger has matched up against Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts during his time with the Longhorns.
Saturday, Ehlinger finally gets the experience edge in the Red River Showdown (11 a.m., Fox).
Instead of an established quarterback with plenty of big-game experience, the Sooners will rely on redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler.
Rattler comes in with plenty of hype, and strong play through the opening part of the season even as he’s gone through some growing pains, but his last big rivalry game was against Horizon High way back in his junior year at Phoenix’s Pinnacle in 2017.
This will be Ehlinger’s fifth career start against the Sooners. The Longhorns are just 1-3 in those games, with the only win coming in the 2018 showdown, but Ehlinger has performed well against the Sooners.
“He’s one of those guys, from an offensive coordinator’s standpoint, where you just feel like you really can’t call a bad play because he’s always going to make it right,” Sooners defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said.
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Ehlinger grew up surrounded by the rivalry, growing up in Austin.
The Sooners’ last four starting quarterbacks in the series — Hurts, Murray, Mayfield and Trevor Knight — were also from Texas.
Rattler doesn’t have the background they did when it comes to this game.
“I think he understands,” Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said. “He’s been a part of this program long enough to understand that. That doesn’t mean he grew up watching it as a kid, but I think he’s got a firm, strong understanding of what this game is like and how fun it is, how important it is, how competitive it is.”
It’s not hard to figure out that experience generally beats out inexperience at quarterback all other factors being equal and Riley said that gets magnified in a game like Saturday’s.
“It’s one of those games that if you haven’t been a part of it, and we’ve said before, it’s hard to understand what it feels like to play this game,” Riley said.
But Rattler won’t have to deal with much of the things that make the game so different from any other. The trip to the stadium and the crowd inside the stadium, though it will be divided, will be much closer to the rest of the games this season than is usually the case.
It’ll still be different, though.
“It’s still gonna be a great football game, that’s not going to stop that,” Riley said.
Another big difference in Rattler going into this game is OU’s record.
The Sooners have their first regular-season losing streak in more than 20 years, their chances of making the College Football Playoff are extremely slim and another loss would make their chances to even making the Big 12 Championship Game virtually non-existent.
But Riley said Rattler has been unflappable. The Sooners figure to need that Saturday.
“As far as his emotional state, psyche, confidence, all that — he’s rock solid,” Riley said. “He’s a competitor. He knows he belongs in that arena.”