Brent Venables and Kevin Wilson have gone head-to-head plenty during their careers.
Those battles between Venables’ defense and Wilson’s offense were in practice, though, back when Venables was Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator and Wilson the Sooners’ offensive coordinator together from 2002-10.
Saturday, the two face off for the first time as head coaches when Venables’ No. 19 Sooners play Wilson’s Tulsa Golden Hurricane in Tulsa, Okla.
Venables fondly remembers the practices when both coached under Bob Stoops.
“The battles were what they were. In the moment, it’s personal, you’re trying to win,” Venables said. “At least that’s the goal. Very competitive.
“He’s a really smart coach and tough guy. That’s what it’s about.”
Wilson has a lot more head coaching experience, guiding Indiana from 2011-16. He’s in his first season coaching Tulsa after spending the last six seasons as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator.
Venables is in his second season as the Sooners’ coach.
Oklahoma (2-0) is looking to continue its momentum after outscoring its first two opponents 101-11.
The Sooners’ defense is the biggest reason for optimism after allowing an average of just 287.5 yards through two games.
During Venables’ first stint with Oklahoma, his defense developed a reputation for hard-hitting linebackers.
Danny Stutsman has looked to be in the mold from that era, showing improvement from last season, when he led the Big 12 in tackles but often gave up added yards before making those tackles.
He’s coming off a 17-tackle performance against SMU.
“He’s playing in a confident way,” Venables said of Stutsman. “He’s able to have a different level of anticipation because of his knowledge. Again, just being another year in the system, he’s a lot more comfortable. He’s able to lead. He’s not in the back.”
Wilson downplayed the connection with the Sooners and Venables.
“Let’s not make the game so big that we don’t enjoy the opportunity,” Wilson said. “The focus right now is my team. We’ve got a great challenge. Those are great years that I loved (at OU), but this is about Tulsa for me.”
The Golden Hurricane are coming off a 43-10 loss at No. 8 Washington in which they allowed 454 passing yards.
Tulsa (1-1) is looking for its first win over a ranked opponent since 2020.
The Sooners are set at quarterback with Dillon Gabriel, who was 0-2 against the Golden Hurricane while he was at UCF.
Tulsa’s starting quarterback is up in the air.
Wilson said Tuesday that Braylon Braxton was dealing with an ankle injury sustained in the season opener.
Backup Cardell Williams started in Braxton’s place against Washington, though he suffered a hand injury in that loss.
“He’s a guy that’s got to be able to run and move around and make plays with his feet, so we’ll see how it goes,” Wilson said of Braxton.
Saturday’s meeting is the first between the programs since 2015.
The Sooners have won the last nine meetings with the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa’s last win in the series came in 1996.
–Field Level Media