NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma coach Brent Venables and Tulsa coach Kevin Wilson will renew acquaintances when their teams meet on Saturday.
Venables was a defensive assistant coach on Bob Stoops' staff at Oklahoma from 1999 to 2011. Wilson was an offensive assistant for the Sooners from 2002 to 2010.
Venables remembers practices against Wilson's unit and expects to see a well-coached team when the 19th-ranked Sooners (2-0) visit Tulsa (0-2).
“Competitive,” Venables said. “He’s a really smart coach and tough guy.”
Wilson said competing with Venables made him a better coach.
“You were just trying everything you could," he said. "If your players aren’t playing well when you've got good players, sometimes you look at how you’re coaching — are you covering things properly or are you getting things taught properly and how to implement install things.”
Both have been successful since assisting Stoops. Venables led Clemson's defenses for a decade, helping the Tigers win two national titles before returning to Oklahoma before the 2022 season as head coach. Wilson was Indiana's head coach from 2011 to 2016. He was offensive coordinator at Ohio State from 2017 to 2022 and heled the Buckeyes win two Rose Bowls, a Cotton Bowl and a College Football Playoff semifinal.
Venables and defensive coordinator Ted Roof have Oklahoma's defense playing well this season. The Sooners are allowing 5.5 points per game and rank eighth nationally in third-down defense. Danny Stutsman was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week after posting 17 tackles, 2 1/2 tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and a sack in a 28-11 win over SMU.
Tulsa counters with a strong running game. Jordan Ford has rushed for 177 yards, Anthony Watkins 120 and Bill Jackson 109 in two games.
Tulsa will try to bounce back from a 43-10 loss to No. 8 Washington. Wilson said Saturday's game will be about more than the result.
“I’m sure there’s going to be energy," he said. “It’s about preparing and giving our guys the best chance to win this game. And it’s also about developing long term and restoring the program and where you’re trying to get to.”
Oklahoma freshman quarterback Jackson Arnold has completed all 11 of his passes for 114 yards and a touchdown and has rushed nine times for 50 yards and a score. He was used as a short-yardage runner against SMU.
Venables said Arnold is the No. 2 quarterback and won't redshirt this year.
“I don’t see any reason we would want to redshirt him,” Venables said. “We can’t afford to. We don’t have the depth at that position, so we have to continue to bring him along. What we’re doing with him, I don’t think that’s necessarily indicative of what he can’t do. We’ll continue to give him some opportunity when it’s the right time.”
Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel ranks fifth nationally with a 200.9 passer rating. He has six touchdown passes with no interceptions this season.
“Dillon’s been doing a great job,” Oklahoma running back Jovantae Barnes said. “Obviously, this is year two in (offensive coordinator Jeff) Lebby’s offense and everyone is more comfortable. And he’s showing it. Just is the same Dillon from last year but he’s just showing off what he can do.”
Oklahoma defensive end Ethan Downs was named to the All-State AFCA Good Works team for his contributions in the community. He's one of 11 FBS players nationally honored and the only one from the Big 12. Downs was a preseason All-Big 12 selection.
Starting quarterback Braylon Braxton has been out with an ankle injury and Wilson wants to bring him along slowly. Cardell Williams and Roman Fuller have gotten most of the action since, and Wilson said he doesn't know who will start Saturday. Williams has passed for 298 yards and three touchdowns. Fuller has passed for 100 yards and two scores. Wilson also mentioned freshman Kirk Francis when discussing the quarterbacks.
Michigan transfer Andrel Anthony has emerged as Oklahoma’s top target through two games. He leads the Sooners with 10 catches and 142 yards and is tied with six players with one touchdown reception.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll