Big 12: Red River Rivalry
Perhaps the worst thing to happen to one of college’s most anticipated rivalries happened on Saturday.
Texas lost a home affair to Baylor. Minutes later, Oklahoma was upset on the road by TCU.
Then, the questions -- and the jokes -- started. Just in time for this weekend’s Texas-Oklahoma clash at the Cotton Bowl.
With the Longhorns and Sooners -- two of college football’s most storied programs -- suffering losses over the weekend, the Red River Showdown became an unexpected undercard for the upcoming weekend in Big 12 Conference football. The conference game of the week will pit Baylor hosting TCU, two undefeated and top-10 ranked teams coming off big wins.
In 1996, Oklahoma was what Texas is.
Way worse, in fact.
In the 67 years the Red River Rivalry had been played in Dallas in October, the Sooners had never entered the game with four losses.
But in '96, Oklahoma headed to the Cotton Bowl under first-year coach John Blake with a record of 0-4. Oddsmakers favored the Longhorns by three touchdowns. And in its preview the day of the game, The Daily Oklahoman newspaper ran the headline, "The Red River Riot Might Be Rout."
Like those '96 Sooners, this year's Longhorns have few reasons to believe this weekend. After two early-season losses and three lackluster wins, Texas is a two-touchdown underdog. The Longhorns haven't shown life in the Cotton Bowl in three years, and haven't won in four. Texas fans are so pessimistic about this game that tickets on the burnt orange side of the bowl are going for half as much online as they are on the Oklahoma side.
But former Sooner James Allen, the hero of the '96 Red River game, and ex-Texas quarterback Peter Gardere, who engineered one of biggest upsets in series history, have messages of hope for the Longhorns.
"The rankings mean nothing in this game," Gardere said. "It's played on so much adrenaline, really strange things can happen."
Underdogs have usually not fared well in the Red River Rivalry. But the two biggest underdogs of the past 25 years? Well, they both won.
"There's so much emotion running on both sides," Allen said. "It's a gut check like no other for the team coming in as the underdog.
"That can be a dangerous team."
Just ask the '96 Longhorns. Or the '89 Sooners.
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You can measure Texas coach Mack Brown's Hall of Fame credentials with any number of yardsticks: 233 victories, 153 of them in burnt orange; two BCS Championship Game appearances; one crystal football, that magical victory at the Rose Bowl that not only won the 2005 national championship but, as it turned out, ended USC's stay atop the sport.
Any one of them would all but guarantee Brown's status among the top coaches of this generation. But there is one other achievement that makes Brown a singular coach, an accomplishment that attests to how much he has done as the Longhorns' coach for 16 seasons. Brown has lost to archrival Oklahoma four times by at least 30 points, including the past two seasons.
That's an accomplishment? Look at it this way -- Brown has been so good at Texas that he got the chance to lose to Oklahoma four times by at least 30 points. That's not how college football works. In 2008, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville carried a six-year winning streak and a 7-2 record against Alabama into the Iron Bowl and lost 36-0. He never coached the Tigers again.
In a sport fueled by passion, the Red River Rivalry is among the most heated. In 107 meetings between the Longhorns and the Sooners, no coach on either side has lost more than one game by that amount -- except for Brown, who is 6-9 overall against Oklahoma. Sooners coach Bob Stoops has lost to Brown once by at least 30, 45-12 in 2005.
Remember, that's the season that the Longhorns won the BCS title. And the first two times that Brown lost this rivalry by 30-plus points, the Sooners won the BCS title (2000) and played for it (2003). If you get overrun, it softens the blow to know that the team that overran you is one of the last two teams playing.
Those days are gone. In the past two seasons, Oklahoma has not played for the crystal football, much less won it. The Sooners have not played in a BCS bowl, much less won one. And yet they beat the Longhorns by 38 and 42 points, respectively.
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DALLAS -- Oklahoma beat Texas every which way en route to a dominant 63-21 victory at the Cotton Bowl.
It was over when: Backup quarterback Blake Bell plunged over the goal line for his fourth touchdown to put OU ahead 36-2 three minutes before halftime. The rout was on from there.
Game ball goes to: OU fullback Trey Millard, who had his best offensive performance as a Sooner. Known more for his blocking, Millard led OU with 119 yards receiving and a touchdown on five catches. He also rushed for 45 yards on three carries.
Stat of the game: The Sooners produced both their longest rush and longest pass in the history of the Red River Rivalry. Damien Williams’ 95-yard touchdown put OU up 13-2 late in the first quarter. Millard’s 73-yard reception -- in which he a hurdled a Texas defender -- set up the Sooners’ fourth touchdown.
Turning point: Late in the first quarter, Texas punter Alex King pinned OU inside its own 5-yard line. But Williams broke free along the sideline and, with a key block from teammate Kenny Stills, raced 95 yards for a touchdown to put the Sooners up 13-2. Texas failed to generate any momentum the rest of the game.
Unsung hero: Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, whose game plan completely shut down the nation’s sixth-highest scoring offense. Texas was held to just 74 rushing yards, and quarterback David Ash was forced into three turnovers.
What it means: The Sooners are right back in the thick of the Big 12 title race, and maybe the national championship picture, too. Voters are likely to take notice of OU’s dominant Red River performance. With back-to-back losses, Texas will have its work cut out getting off the mat after getting destroyed by its biggest rival.
Carter Strickland writes : It's never too early to talk about OU-Texas. Now that the SEC has swallowed up two former conference foes, this game is by far the Big 12's best.
The two sites also looked at five memorable plays from each team:
Oklahoma: Without question, Roy Williams' leaping blitz on Texas QB Chris Simms tops the list of Sooners plays in the rivalry.
Texas : Stonie Clark's goalline stop and Jordan Shipley's game-changing kick return are two of the Longhorns' best plays from the game.
Carter Strickland writes: By rule, Texas coaches aren't allowed in workouts or throwing sessions, but that hasn't stopped them from finding new ways to build unity with the newest Longhorns.
William Wilkerson writes : Chevoski Collins wants to be a playmaker in college, but if he goes to OU or Texas, his two favorites, his chances will come on defense.
Burnt Orange Breakdown : Today's look at the Texas roster breaks down defensive back Josh Turner. He made some big plays on special teams in 2011 and could fight for more time in the secondary in 2012.
60 days, 60 stats : No. 38 isn't pretty -- it's the margin of defeat in the Red River Rivalry. However, Texas is better equipped, on both sides of the ball, to give the Sooners a game.
Texas and Oklahoma are in similar situations entering 2010. Both lose franchise quarterbacks, even if Oklahoma's watched most of the 2009 season from the sideline. Both lose a handful of defensive stars with promising young players ready to step into the spotlight. But Texas has the advantage over Oklahoma. Even though the winner of the Red River Rivalry hasn’t advanced to the title game in two of the past four years, the winner always gets the inside track. Texas has dominated Oklahoma at the State Fair, winning four of the past five. Can’t pick Oklahoma to win the South until Bob Stoops’ teams get back some of the swagger they had in five straight defeats of Texas from 2000 to 2004.
The Sooners will be ready to erase the memory of a frustrating 2009 when about everything went wrong, even though they still managed an eight-win season. Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles were a reliable connection in 2009, and there’s not much reason to think that won’t be the case again this season. Broyles caught 89 passes for 1,120 yards and a Big 12-most 15 touchdowns. And that’s even after Broyles fractured his shoulder blade on the opening drive against Miami and missed the rest of that loss as well as a win over Baylor, the only game Sam Bradford finished all season. The Sooners' success is tied closely with what Broyles can do in his junior season.
Still a concern is a shuffling offensive line that could be filled with young players once again in the fall.
3. Texas A&M
Everyone’s dark horse to win the South could benefit from a season in which Oklahoma and Texas aren’t virtual guarantees to compete for the national championship. Jerrod Johnson will sling it like he did 497 times last season, and heralded running back recruit Christine Michael returns for his second season.
For the Aggies to climb into the Big 12 South’s top two spots, new defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter’s defense will need to improve from 2009, when the Aggies were last in the Big 12 in scoring defense.
4. Oklahoma State
Dana Holgorsen brings his spread offense to Stillwater with 26-year-old quarterback Brandon Weeden expected to run it. Running back Kendall Hunter darted around defenders for 1,555 yards rushing in 2008, but was hampered by an ankle injury in 2009 and failed to reach 400 yards as a junior. Hunter missed five games last season, and failed to rush for 100 yards even once. He’ll want to finish his career with a flourish, but the Cowboys could be swallowed up in the always-deep Big 12 South.
Robert Griffin returns, but as an athlete, the concern is his torn ACL could reduce him to a player unequal to the freshman Robert Griffin that made headlines in 2008. Will his quickness and shiftiness still be there? Additionally, will he still be as apt to scramble after the injury? He says he will, but no one will know for sure until he makes his return to the field next fall. If the Bears want to leave their usual post in the Big 12 South cellar, Griffin will have to carry them on his back with a reconstructed knee.
6. Texas Tech
The Tuberville experiment in Lubbock will begin this spring, but for all the changes in personnel within the program, the Red Raiders will be without a few other stars. Hard-hitting defensive back Jamar Wall is gone and so are three starting offensive linemen, including (ex) Twitterer/face-painter/offensive lineman Brandon Carter.
Tuberville and the Red Raiders making a bowl game wouldn't surprise me , but they also have the highest potential for disaster of any team in the Big 12.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Previous Oct. 11 games in the Texas-OU series have provided several surprising results over the years. Here are a couple of the more memorable moments on previous games on this date.
Oct. 11, 1958: No. 16 Texas 15, No. 2 Oklahoma 14 -- Backup Texas quarterback Bobby Lackey came off the bench to throw a game-tying fourth-down touchdown pass to Bill Bryant to lead the Longhorns to the upset victory. Lackey then tacked on the game-winning extra point and added a clinching interception at his own 28-yard line that sealed the triumph. Texas had completed only eight passes in its previous three games, but beat that total between Vince Matthews and Bryant in this single game.
Oct. 11, 2003: No. 1 Oklahoma 65, No. 11 Texas 13 -- The Sooners' victory wasn't a surprise but the margin of victory was. Jason White rifled four touchdown passes and passed for 290 yards to help the Sooners cruise to the largest victory margin in the history of the series. The Sooners tormented Texas quarterbacks Vince Young and Chance Mock during a run of six-straight turnovers midway through that blew the game open. Mark Clayton grabbed eight passes for 190 yards and a touchdown and Renaldo Works rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns to pace Oklahoma's offensive burst.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
DALLAS -- Tomorrow amongst the ferris wheels and corn dogs, we'll celebrate the kind of coaching rivalry that used to mark college football.
In the Big Ten, the legendary "Ten-Year War" involved Woody Hayes vs. Bo Schembechler. Barry Switzer vs. Tom Osborne was almost as big as the Big Eight Conference itself. The SEC had Bear Bryant against Shug Jordan. And the Southwest Conference celebrated the annual grudge game between good friends Darrell Royal and Frank Broyles.
But after surveying the landscape of college football today, those matchups look about as quaint as dollar-a-gallon gasoline. We likely won't see many like those again.
That's what makes tomorrow's game at the Cotton Bowl so special and intriguing.
Mack Brown and Bob Stoops are that rare breed today of rock stars with coaching whistles, arguably bigger than their respective programs. Both have won national championships and are headed towards induction one day in the College Football Hall of Fame.
And their yearly battles in the Red River Rivalry will one day be remembered as one of the greatest coaching rivalries in college football history.
Saturday's game will be the 10th time that Stoops and Brown have hooked up. Stoops holds a 6-3 edge, including a five-game winning streak from 2000-04. But Brown has claimed two of the last three games between the two South Division rivals.
When each arrived at their respective schools, both programs were perceived to be downtrodden dinosaurs that had seen better days. Just look back to the coaching tenures of John Blake and John Mackovic and remember how far both schools have risen since their swoons a decade ago.
After their arrivals, Brown and Stoops elevated the stature of both programs, turning them into two of a handful of national powers who are national championship threats almost every season in the new millennium.
Since Stoops arrived in 1999, either Oklahoma or Texas has won the Big 12 South Division championship every year. The Sooners have accounted for five Big 12 titles and the Longhorns one during the nine-year period. During that same period, every Big 12 North team has claimed at least a share of the title.
Brown realizes how the Big 12 has changed the dynamics of their rivalry.
"I remember when we got here, everybody said the luster was gone," Brown said. "This game wasn't important anymore and nobody really cared about it and it wasn't even a national TV game and it was so sad that the Texas-OU game was unimportant.
"It was important to the players, it was important to the coaches, but it's back now to where it has national implications, and that's been fun."
The Stoops-Brown rivalry might not be as bitter as some of those other coaching matchups. But that doesn't mean that either coach doesn't want to beat the pants off his coaching rival tomorrow afternoon.
Stoops said he might run into Brown three or four times a year -- including their 3 ˝-hour yearly shindig at the Cotton Bowl.
Brown has always spoken reverently about his respect for Stoops.
"What I've gotten is a great respect for Bob and what he's done over the last 10 years," he said. "He'll be remembered like Barry Switzer and (former Oklahoma coach Bud) Wilkinson. He's done exactly for them what they've asked him to do.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
There's a palpable excitement that buzzes through Dallas this weekend every year. The annual Texas-Oklahoma rivalry raises college football to its preeminent slot in the Midwest for the second Saturday in October. It's an exciting time and I'm glad to get a chance to experience it.
But there are a bunch of other newsworthy items across the Big 12. Here are a few links of the stories that people are writing and talking about.
- Gary Pinkel would be at the top of Washington's list if an opening would materialize there, but legendary former Husky coach Don James told the St. Louis Post-Disptach that his former protégé likely wouldn't want to return. Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen likely might be different stories, however.
- Despite its recent struggles, Kansas State is in the unlikely role as a favorite Saturday at Texas A&M.
- The Kansas City Star's Big 12 beat reporter Blair Kerkhoff analyzes the differences in style between the Big 12 and the Southeastern conferences. He also picks a winner in six dream matchups between each conference's top six schools -- all of whom are ranked among the top 20 nationally.
- Veteran Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis has become the forgotten assistant on Mack Brown's staff with the arrival of Will Muschamp. Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls writes that Davis might be doing one of his best jobs of his career with the current Texas attack.
- The Wall Street Journal's Darren Everson writes about the attributes of Oklahoma's no-huddle offense -- an attack so meticulously precise that players aren't supposed to high-five teammates after big plays because it would waste too much time.
- Even though he spends half his practice time working at practice as a backup quarterback, Kansas wide receiver Kerry Meier is on pace to break the school's single-season records for receptions and receiving yards this season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are some trends I'll be watching for across the Big 12 on Saturday:
1. How Texas and Oklahoma handle the emotional cauldron that is the Red River Rivalry. Saturday's game appears to be one of the most intriguing matchups in the storied series in years. Quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford are legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates. The battle between Texas' defensive front and Oklahoma's collection of hugely talented offensive linemen is dotted with future NFL standouts on both sides. Bob Stoops and Mack Brown are both headed for the College Football Hall of Fame one day. But I'm most interested in watching how these two teams -- both potential national title contenders -- overcome the challenges presented by their biggest rival on the Big 12's biggest annual stage. And the fried Twinkies and Fletcher's Corny Dogs are a bonus.
2. The battle of offenses at Faurot Field. Missouri and Oklahoma State both rank among the nation's top three offenses in scoring. Both teams have enough defensive questions to make it entirely possible that we might see them combine for more than 100 points and more than 1,000 yards when the two teams hook up Saturday night. It might resemble an Arena Football League game, but it should be fun watching it.
3. Kansas State's struggling rush defense against against Texas A&M's running attack. The Wildcats have been gashed for more than 300 yards twice in the last three weeks. Even Texas Tech looked good running the ball against KSU. The Wildcats will be tested to keep Mike Goodson, Brad Stephens, Cyrus Gray and even Jorvorskie Lane in check behind an improving Aggie offensive line that showed some flashes of life last week against Oklahoma State.
4. The Austen Arnaud/Robert Griffin battle. Sure, there are bigger games across the Big 12 this week but the matchup between Baylor and Iowa State will feature two of college football's most underrated quarterbacks. Arnaud has pumped some life into the Cyclones offense, nearly sparking an upset over Kansas and UNLV in the last two games. Griffin is the shining hope for better days in the Baylor program, along with being the nation's only quarterback with more than 100 pass attempts this season with no interceptions.
5. Colorado's makeshift offensive line. The Buffaloes are down to taking reinforcements from the defense after defensive tackle Eugene Goree was moved to guard this week. They must get some kind of running game going to reduce some of the pressure facing beleaguered quarterback Cody Hawkins. Kansas will present some challenges, but not nearly those that were seen last week against Texas. This might provide Colorado a chance to run the ball - as it has done when it's been most successful this season.
6. What gives in the battle of losing streaks at Waco? Somebody's futility has to end Saturday at Floyd Casey Stadium. Baylor comes in with a 13-game conference losing streak that is the second longest among FBS schools behind only Idaho's 15-game conference losing streak. And the Cyclones' 13-game losing streak is for the nation's second-longest (with SMU) behind UAB's 17-game road losing streak.
7. Jake Sharp. After being relegated to the bench as what coach Mark Mangino considered a situational player, Sharp flourished in the second half last week against Iowa State. His continued use came when he was able to play long enough to gain rhythm with the Kansas offense. The result was an offensive eruption that enabled the Jayhawks to overcome a 20-0 halftime deficit and escape with a comeback win. Will that performance enable him to get more carries and prolonged use Saturday against Colorado?
8. Can Texas protect Colt McCoy? The Longhorns are counting on McCoy not only for his passing, but also to be their primary rushing threat. He'll have to do that against a ferocious Oklahoma defense that has knocked out a rival starting quarterback for at least a series in every game but one this season. Will McCoy be able to withstand the pounding in the pocket, but also as a ball carrier against a Sooner defense honing for kill shots when it gets an opportunity?
9. Nebraska's response to its embarrassing home loss against Missouri last week. The Cornhuskers were humbled by a trip to the woodshed against the Tigers, leading coach Bo Pelini to apologize to practically the entire state of Nebraska after the loss. A similarly talented team in Texas Tech is upcoming. On the Cornhuskers' last trip to Lubbock, they allowed 70 points. This Red Raider is much better than that 2004 squad. And the jury is still out about this Nebraska team and particularly its offense. So, it could get ugly at Jones AT&T Stadium.
10. Will Missouri overlook Oklahoma State with the huge game against Texas looming next week? After an emotional victory last week at Nebraska and an even bigger one at Texas approaching, it might be understandable if Missouri was looking past its game against the Cowboys. But that attitude isn't one that a national title contender can afford. And I don't think that Chase Daniel will let his team play that way, either.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Let the hype begin.
The Texas-Oklahoma football game -- or the Oklahoma-Texas game depending on your slant in the rivalry -- is the bedrock of Big 12 football.
And this season's game Saturday will be as big as any of them. Two top five teams will be battling at the renovated Cotton Bowl, with all of the frills of the nearby State Fair of Texas swirling nearby.
It will be the fourth time this decade that the Longhorns and Sooners both are ranked in the top five for the game, although the first time any team was ranked No. 1. Oklahoma has won all three previous games.
The ESPN Game Day crew will be there with more of an immediate rush, considering that kickoff will take place immediately after they leave the air.
"It is always exciting, the tradition and history," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said of the Red River Rivalry.
And Texas coach Mack Brown is excited about what appears to be an even matchup. The Sooners are favored by a touchdown, but it wouldn't surprise anybody if the Longhorns escaped with an upset after an impressive 5-0 start.
"It's fun," Brown told reporters shortly after his team's victory at Colorado Saturday night. "It's what Texas and OU have wanted forever. We've had it most of the time, and we have it back -- 90,000-some fans, plus [ESPN's] GameDay, plus everybody in America watching the game at 11 o'clock.
"They're real good. They are very deserving of No. 1. And we're getting better."
But before I get too excited about my thoughts of consuming my first turkey leg, Fletcher's Corny Dog or fried Twinkie before 10 a.m. on Saturday, here are some links from across the conference to keep me grounded today -- while I hopefully eat a salad to get ready for the weekend.
- Don't overlook Oklahoma State's trip to Missouri, an intriguing battle of two top 20 teams that should provide a boatload of offense from two of the nation's top three scoring teams.
- Colorado coach Dan Hawkins isn't hitting the panic button despite a second-straight loss and a tough game at Kansas looming.
- Iowa State will face three rebuilding teams over the next three weeks, giving the Cyclones an edge because Gene Chizik's renovation is a year advanced.
- Oklahoma hopes to have both defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and center Jon Cooper ready for the Texas game after both were injured against Baylor.