Red River Rivalry. Those three words are probably the most important set of words each season for any Texas or Oklahoma football fan. The hits are harder, the emotions are stronger, and the victory is so much sweeter. Heck, Texas even has a chant dedicated to trash-talking Oklahoma. So, when the teams faced off this past Saturday in their 110th meeting, fans from both sides knew they were in for a treat. When Texas and Oklahoma face off, ranks go out the window and what remains is pure competition.
Story by Jay Desai
Photos by Lauren Ussery
Although the Sooners came into this year’s match as the better team — ranked 10th in the nation with a 4-0 record — the showdown stayed true to its nature, in that pre-game rankings were irrelevant. Since the Associated Press started ranking teams in 1936, an unranked Texas has defeated Oklahoma 16 times, six of which have come against a ranked Sooner team. With 61 wins in the series, that gives Texas more than a 25% success rate against the Sooners, who have won the showdown 44 times.
If you need more proof that Texas plays just as hard without a number in front of its name, look no further than the fact that the team has lost only 12 times while unranked, 11 of those coming to a ranked Oklahoma team, since the introduction of the AP Poll. Do the math, and it shows that unranked Longhorns teams are 16-12 against the Sooners. Conversely, Oklahoma has won only three times while unranked.
The Longhorns laser sharp focus against the Sooners was evident on Saturday, as they minimized mistakes and took advantage of opportunities. Special teams, which plagued Texas over the last few weeks, ended up being a big boost for the Longhorns, who were able to capture the momentum from a forced fumble recovery on a kickoff following Texas’ first touchdown. That turnover ignited the Longhorn offense to an early 14-0 lead.
Texas kicking, which also received a lot of heat in weeks past, overcame its issues against Oklahoma. Kicker Nick Rose converted all of his extra point and field goal attempts, while punter Michael Dickson averaged a healthy 41.7 yards per punt.
Even redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard stepped up, making huge plays in a 39-yard drive that ran the final seconds off the clock to seal the victory. Heard has played well in recent games, but grabbed this game by the horns, showing poise and control.
Texas’ ability to play well against Oklahoma regardless of the overall season not only gives the team some momentum, but also cools head coach Charlie Strong’s seat. Before the game, many were doubting Strong’s ability to guide this team to victory. With this monumental win, Strong silenced naysayers — at least temporarily.
The annual game against the Sooners brings the Longhorns together in a way other games don’t, which is why Texas is often so successful against its biggest rival. That closeness was evident when players doused coach Strong with ice water and hoisted him up on their shoulders at the end of the game.
The Longhorns might not make it to a bowl game this year, but this win shows that you can never count Texas out. The unity exhibited facing the Sooners gives a very young Longhorn team something to build on moving forward. Hopefully this serves as a turning point in the season, but even if all other games are lost, at least Texas beat OU.