BYU Reminds Oklahoma Coach Brent Venables Of Last Year’s Sooner Team

Nov 14, 2023, 1:16 PM

PROVO, Utah – Saturday morning will be the first time BYU football is hosting the Oklahoma Sooners in Provo.

It’s two teams heading in different directions, and on paper, it looks to be a complete mismatch.

No. 14 Oklahoma is 8-2 and hopes to navigate the confusing Big 12 tiebreakers to reach the Big 12 championship game in Arlington, Texas. Quarterback Dillon Gabriel set an Oklahoma single-game record last week, accounting for eight touchdowns in a blowout over West Virginia.

On the other sideline, BYU is one win away from bowl eligibility with a 5-5 record. It’s a far cry from how the season started at 4-1. They are currently on a three-game losing streak where they’ve lost by an average of 30 points in that stretch.

“Jekyll & Hyde” BYU like 2022 Oklahoma

Second-year Oklahoma head coach Brent Venables sees some similarities in this year’s BYU team from what he experienced a year ago in his first season as the Sooner headman. During Venables’s first year in Norman after replacing Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma finished with a 6-7 record. It’s losing record since 1998 when John Blake was the head coach.

“They’ve beaten Arkansas on the road, gotten after Cincinnati. Beat a Texas Tech team that went down to the wire against Oregon,” said Venables on BYU in his weekly press conference.”… They’re a little bit kind of like us a year ago. Just a little bit of Jekyll and Hyde, lost a couple of [games] to really tough teams.”

Maybe that’s the hope BYU fans need to hear that better days are on the horizon. But no one is mistaking BYU’s program stature for that of Oklahoma. The Sooners are one of the most storied brands in the sport, boasting seven national championships, 50 conference titles, and seven Heisman winners.

When the Big 12 schedule was first released in January, BYU fans were thrilled that a historic program like Oklahoma would be coming to Provo. That tune has changed as BYU desperately needs one more win to reach a bowl game. The Sooners are not the required recipe for a bounce-back win.

BYU has entered the deep end of life as a Power Five program.

Brent Venables weighs in on BYU football

Still, Venables was complimentary toward BYU and the expected atmosphere for the sold-out matchup that will serve as Oklahoma’s last Big 12 road game before leaving for the SEC next year.

“It’s an incredibly tradition-rich program and has been for such a long time,” said Venables. “They have one of the most loyal and passionate fan bases in all of college football. All the college football history excellence that’s represented; players, coaches, and wins at BYU. If you like college football, there’s a picture of the stadium nestled in the mountains in the valley there; looks pretty cool. So it’ll be fun to go compete. I’ve got an incredible respect for their program and for Coach Sitake and what he’s been able to do. The passion and loyalty of the fan base is second to none.”

Saturday’s 10 a.m. (MT) kickoff will be the earliest start in Oklahoma history, along with its first-ever trip to the state of Utah for a football game.

Memories of 2009 meeting in Jerry’s World

However, it’s not the first time these two programs have squared off. The last time they met was in 2009 at Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and Venables was on that staff under Oklahoma legend Bob Stoops as defensive coordinator. BYU won that game 14-13 as a three-touchdown underdog to the No. 3 Sooners.

“The physicality, maturity of the team, the size,” Venables said on what he remembered about BYU in that 2009 game. “Certainly, the injury [to QB Sam Bradford], the toughness that both teams fought with. I think it was a one-point game—literally a game of inches.”

Will Saturday’s game come down to inches? The prognosticators would probably say no. Still, that’s why you play the games. Venables pointed out some BYU players that stood out to him, including QB Kedon Slovis.

“They’re expecting their starting quarterback back here this week along with several other guys that have missed the last few weeks, including freshman LJ Martin, and a couple of receivers that have missed the last few weeks.

“They play really aggressive on defense. The turnover margin has been the best in the Big 12 when they play at home. Offensively, they’ve got good strong running backs and a left tackle that will get drafted early. Again, a quarterback in Slovis that career-wise is just south of 12,000 yards. … Number 92 (Tyler Batty) he’s really had an outstanding year; very disruptive play. The starting corner, number zero (Jakob Robinson), has had four interceptions. Like I said, they’re very opportunistic at home and going to be a really good, strong challenge.”

BYU vs. No. 14 Oklahoma

Date: Saturday, November 18, 2023

Location: LaVell Edwards Stadium

Kickoff: 10 a.m.


Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM)

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU Reminds Oklahoma Coach Brent Venables Of Last Year’s Sooner Team