Brent Venables has countless memories of Nebraska.
From his days as a player and coach at Kansas State, then as an assistant at Oklahoma, Venables recalls thinking of Nebraska “like I’m David and that’s Goliath.”
Venables’ last encounter with the Huskers came in 2010, when Oklahoma played Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship. Venables was an assistant on the Sooners’ staff.
Now, the first-year Oklahoma head coach will return to Lincoln for the first time in over a decade — with business in mind.
“As exciting as it is an opportunity to give our guys the experience of playing in Lincoln based on the history of this rivalry, at the end of the day this is going to be about us and our ability to execute in a hostile, tough environment,” Venables said Tuesday.
When breaking down the challenge that Nebraska (1-2) will pose his Sooners (2-0) on Saturday, Venables had plenty of praise to go around for the NU offense. Venables complimented running back Anthony Grant, NU’s wide receivers as a whole and said offensive coordinator Mark Whipple has had success “everywhere he’s been.”
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However, there’s one player on Nebraska with deeper ties to Oklahoma than anyone else — quarterback Casey Thompson. His father, Charles Thompson, was a starting quarterback for Oklahoma from 1986-88, and Venables tried his hardest to land the Texas transfer during the offseason.
Instead, Thompson chose to come to Nebraska and Oklahoma landed UCF transfer Dillon Gabriel, who is 36-of-51 for 529 yards and five touchdowns on the season. Coming off a high-scoring game against Georgia Southern, Venables said he expects Thompson to bring his best on Saturday.
“Offensively, this will collectively be the best group we’ve faced; Casey’s doing a great job,” Venables said. “We tried to get him here in the offseason and thought we might have an opportunity. I know he considered us, but I think he saw a great opportunity there, a unique opportunity and I’m happy for him.”
Things might be in flux for Nebraska this week with interim head coach Mickey Joseph taking over, but Venables said he expects the Huskers to make the most of a difficult situation. And while he has never met Joseph, Venables said NU’s interim coach is well-respected around college football.
“He has a great reputation in the profession for doing things the right way as a coach and a recruiter,” Venables said of Joseph. “I know that Nebraska means a great deal to him, and I know he’s very well thought of on and off the field.”
While the No. 6 Sooners enter Saturday’s contest as a 10 or 11-point favorite, Venables isn’t holding his breath for an easy game. He’s seen all the one-score games NU has played in over the past two seasons, and Oklahoma is expecting a four-quarter challenge.
“People will be on edge and I think there’ll be a lot of emotion in the stadium,” Venables said. “This is a team that’s incredibly capable, talented, tough and has good schemes that put them in good positions. They’ve got quality players on both sides of the ball that can play with anybody, so we expect their best and a great atmosphere.”