October 8, 2014 | by Mark McDonald
Nothing Neutral About This Game

OU, Texas Always Generate Their Own Brand of Electricity

By Bo Carter
College Correspondent, sportsandoutdoors.guru

DALLAS — Give me the old-fashioned grudge matches, away from campus, with the stadium divided equally into halves’ cheering sections.

There is nothing like a major rivalry game played at a neutral site – especially the 86th annual Oklahoma-Texas AT&T Red River Showdown.

Though the Longhorns lead the overall series 60-43-5, the 85 consecutive games played in this city have produced 46 wins by Texas, 35 by Oklahoma, with four ties.

After 23 games in four different sites – Austin, Norman, Oklahoma City, and even Dallas for the first time in 1912 – the schools decided to play each year around the bombastic State Fair of Texas starting in on Oct. 19, 1929 – some nine days before Black Tuesday and the New York Stock Market Crash, which ignited the Great Recession.

While the early times of the economic downtown did not slow the nine-month construction of the concrete version of Fair Park Stadium (later named Cotton Bowl Stadium in 1938 after the famed traditional New Year’s Day bowl began in ’37). Seating for 45,500 could not hold the crowds, so authorities allowed standing room and sideline jamming.

In the coach Bob Stoops era beginning in 2000, the Sooners hold a 9-5 advantage – a mark that includes last year’s stunning 36-20 upset by Texas in what would be Longhorn coach Mack Brown’s final game in this storied series.

Back to my penchant for neutral sites, players, coaches and fans alike can tell you there’s nothing quite like the electricity when the first team comes out of long tunnel onto the turf at Cotton Bowl Stadium turf before the evenly-divided crowd.

For years the same sensation has rocked the Mississippi State-Ole Miss Egg Bowl games in Jackson, Miss. and the famed Alabama-Auburn Iron Bowl in Birmingham, Ala. In modern days, Baylor has met Texas Tech in Dallas, and Arkansas and Texas A&M have collided in Arlington.

Those former neutral site tussles have gone the way of the wins with campus stadium expansions and Birmingham Ala., and Jackson, Miss., failing to meet facility and new capacity demands. Cotton Bowl Stadium remedied that with an enlarged capacity, to 75,000-plus. The winning team’s side remains packed until the famed Silver Hat is presented in postgame ceremonies.

That has been the case in such recent years as OU’s national championship squad in 2000 with a 63-14 thrashing of then-No. 11 and falling Texas or UT’s 2005 45-12 thumping of unranked Oklahoma en route to Vince Young’s BCS title win over Southern California 41-38 at Pasadena, Calif. And don’t discount the Sooners’ 2011 55-17 intrusion of No. 11 Texas’ possibilities for a Big 12 or BCS trophy or the 63-21 mashing of No. 15 UT by No. 13 Oklahoma in 2012. These crunchings probably sped up the process toward Brown’s departure after the 2013 season.

But give the Longhorns credit for rising to the occasion last October behind a 190-yard passing day by graduated QB Case McCoy (13-of-21 with two TDs) and 133 rushing yards on 29 carries by the sometimes-spectacular Jonathan Gray (then a sophomore) and a defense, which held the Sooners to 263 yards of total offense.

OU quarterback Trevor Knight, shown here in last season’s bowl victory over Alabama, presents dual run-pass challenges for the Texas defense this weekend. (photo by Chuck Cook, USA Today Sports)

OU quarterback Trevor Knight, shown here in last season’s bowl victory over Alabama, presents dual run-pass challenges for the Texas defense this weekend. (photo by Chuck Cook, USA Today Sports)

That loss signaled to Stoops and his staff that “The Belldozer” Blake Bell probably was more suited for short-yardage runs in goalline situations than open field passing, and freshman Trevor Knight became a more integral part of the OU game plan leading up to the gigantic upset of Alabama by Trevor Knight and Co. in the BCS 2015 Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, La.

The leading casts for both teams are somewhat different in ’14, and the naked truth is that the loser in this annual classic will fall to 1-2 in Big 12 activity.

UT still has the enigmatic Gray who’s capable of a workhorse game as he did earlier this year against Conference USA contender North Texas in Austin. The Longhorns’ offensive line, however, will be tested by the OU defensive front.

Texas’ passing game to date has been something of a clanger. QB Tyrone Swoopes, an emergency in-season replacement for concussion-sidelined David Ash, has a 59.4 percent completion rate, with five TDs against three interceptions. His go-to guy is veteran receiver Jaxon Shipley with 29 catches for 245 yards and a needs-to-go-higher 8.4 yards per reception.

On the OU side, Knight has continued to show progress except for the TCU setback and still posts some solid numbers. His passes are 54.5 percent accurate, with five TDs and five interceptions. Freshman tend to forge their identity in this series. This year, 5-11, 243-pound crusher RB Samaje Perine of Austin suburb Pflugerville is the most likely candidate. His 5.6 yards per rush and “take it to the house” mentality should be worrisome for Texas fans.

About to make his first walk down the Cotton Bowl tunnel to meet OU, Longhorns coach Charlie Strong has lost his starting QB, David Ash, to repeat concussions and dismissed nine players for undisclosed violations of team rules. (photo by Michael Thomas, AP)

About to make his first walk down the Cotton Bowl tunnel to meet OU, Longhorns coach Charlie Strong has lost his starting QB, David Ash, to repeat concussions and dismissed nine players for undisclosed violations of team rules. (photo by Michael Thomas, AP)

On paper, it appears this one might be another 40-35 or 38-34, but maybe not. Texas head coach Charlie Strong has the Longhorns’ defense zoned in. Case in point was a 7-0 Baylor halftime lead last weekend at Austin when the Bears did not score an offensive touchdown.Both head coaches have the “defense-first” mentality, which might produce another nail-biter such as the 16-13 Texas verdict in 2009.

While this game may not enjoy the nation-wide glitz of yesteryear – it’s the first time since 2007 neither of the teams is unbeaten – hang on to your ticket. There will be enough suspense to keep fans glued to their seats and TV sets.

For me, here are some of the more recent OU-Texas highlights:

(1)   Texas’ defense holding Oklahoma to minus 16 yards rushing in 2009.

(2)   Oklahoma completing a series-record 31 passes in both the 1999 and 2011 contests.

(3)   Texas holding the Wishbone-running Sooners to zero pass completions on eight attempts in 1981.

(4)   OU setting a series mark with 387 passing yards in 2008.

(5)   Oklahoma rolling to a series-high 677 yards of total offense in 2012.

(6)   The teams playing to last college game tie 24-24 at Cotton Bowl Stadium in 1995 before overtime rules went into effect in ’96.

(7)   UT running back Ricky Williams’ 40 carries against OU in 1998.

(8)   291 yards rushing by Oklahoma’s De’Mond Parker vs. the Horns in 1997.

(9)   Texas QB Vince Young motoring for a QB-record 127 net yards rushing in the 2003 tilt.

(10)Texas QB Major Applewhite hooking up with WR Wane Magarity on a 97-yards TD in 1998, longest ever for a college game played in the 85-year-old building.

BoFormer sports information director of the Big 12, Bo Carter follows college athletics for this site, with a focus on trends, players, coaches and traditions of the Southwest. A native of Alabama, now secretary of the American Football Foundation, Bo knows football.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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