College Football is full of countless rivalries that spread across the United States. The yearly Army/Navy, Michigan/Notre Dame, Minnesota/Wisconsin, and Alabama/LSU games create a contagious spirit of competition between fan bases.
The oldest rivalry game in the history of College Football dates back to 1890 when the Minnesota Golden Gophers played the Wisconsin Badgers for Paul Bunyan’s Axe. Minnesota and Wisconsin have played each other 122 times in their program’s history,
elevating their rivalry into the annals of College Football. However, the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe has not had as much national impact as of late because the Golden Gophers have not been competing at a high level of play.
One example of a rivalry game that impacts the national stage is the Red River Rivalry between the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma.
The Red River Rivalry started back on October 10th, 1900 when Texas defeated Oklahoma 28-2. Since that day long ago, Texas and Oklahoma have met 107 times, battling each other for the ownership of the prize they call, the Golden Hat. One of the best things about the Red River Rivalry is the fact that it is played at a neutral site, the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas. Unlike most rivalries where
each team takes a turn hosting the game, the Red River Rivalry is played at the Cotton Bowl. The Sooners make the 195
mile trip from Norman down into Texas while the Longhorns make the 209 mile trip up to Dallas from Austin. This game also takes place during the State Fair of Texas, an event late September to late October. The rivalry game is perfectly timed with the State Fair to produce a mass exodus of Longhorn and Sooner fans alike into one single location, and that is where the rivalry is born.
Fans from respective teams crowd into the State Fair, adorned in burnt orange or dark red, some beginning to tailgate days before
kickoff. Fans are fat and happy as they feast on foods such as fried bacon cinnamon rolls, fried bubblegum, buffalo chicken, fried beer, deep fried butter, fried banana split, fried pickles and Texas fried cookie dough. Vendors crowd the area, selling anything from Longhorn fold-up chairs to Boomer Sooner key-chain lanyards while a 55-foot statue of a cowboy named Big Tex looms above. All these festivities are just the beginning of one of the greatest rivalries in College Football.
While the rivalry has lasted for over a century, the intensity has increased in the last 10 years because of the phenomenal leadership by the respective coaches, Mack Brown and Bob Stoops.
Brown was hired at Texas in 1998 to resurrect a program that had tasted the depths of College Football as it struggled to return to glory. Brown immediately made a huge impact at Texas, coaching the Longhorns to a 9-3 record in his first season. That was just the beginning as Brown cemented himself in the annals of College Football by coaching Texas to twelve straight years with a winning record and nine straight seasons with at least ten wins. In 2005, the Longhorns won the National Championship, defeating USC 41-38 because of a Heisman-worthy performance by quarterback Vince Young.
Stoops became the coach of the Sooners in 1999 and immediately brought success to the program as they won a National Championship in 2000 when they defeated Florida State 13-2. While the offense didn’t exactly dazzle, the OU secondary intercepted
two passes and shutdown a Florida State team that included future NFL star wide receiver, Anquan Boldin.
As you can see, both coaches have brought huge success to their programs, but the story doesn’t end there. Ever since their first meeting in 1999 when Texas defeated Oklahoma 38-28, a more intense rivalry was born not only between UT and OU, but between Brown and Stoops. Stoops dominated Brown from 2000-2004 with Oklahoma scoring 189 points while limiting Texas to 54. 2003 was especially bad when Oklahoma defeated Texas 65-13, by far the largest margin of victory by any team in the Red Rivalry history. Quarterback Jason White was dominant, throwing 4 touchdown passes and the Sooner defense had the two Longhorn quarterbacks, Chance Mock and Vince Young, running for their lives.
However, Brown would have his own stretch of greatness as the tables turned in 2005 for the Longhorns. When Vince Young took hold of the starting quarterback job, he propelled Texas to its first victory in years against Oklahoma. Texas won that year 45-12, and went on to win the National Championship against USC. Texas won again in 2006, lost in 2007, and then won again in 2008 and
2009. The 2008 game was electrifying with two Heisman candidates, Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford going head to head. Texas was losing 14-3 early in the 2nd quarter when wide receiver Jordan Shipley returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. That return
sparked the Longhorns and drove them to victory as they defeated the Sooners 45-35.
However, once again mediocrity has struck Texas as they have lost the last three matchups to Oklahoma. The latest matchup in 2012 was a blowout as OU smacked UT 63-21 on the strength of Landry Jones’s three touchdown passes and a Sooner defense that
confounded Texas quarterback David Ash, forcing him to throw 2 interceptions. As the game ended, defensive tackle Casey Walker stood proud at midfield, waving the OU flag high, subjecting the Longhorns to humiliation in their own state.
This year, the pressure has reached a bursting point for Mack Brown and the Longhorns. Texas has struggled this year, winning their season opener but then being blown out in consecutive games by BYU and Ole Miss. Although Texas has won their last two games since those losses, the Texas defense has been absolutely horrible. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was fired after they gave up 550
rushing yards to Brigham Young, one of the most embarrassing moments in school history. Since then, Greg Davis was hired to fix the holes in the Texas defense. Although Texas has won some games, they are still showing the inability to complete basic assignments such as staying in their gaps and tackling in the open field. Although not everything about the abysmal Longhorn season has been Mack Brown’s fault, he has taken the brunt of the fire from Texas faithful. Many have called for the immediate firing of the Texas legend while others, like myself, have called for his resignation at the end of the season unless he can turn the season around.
Lucky for Brown, this Saturday’s game against OU is a perfect opportunity to re-establish his grip on the head coach position. Although Texas has a 3-2 record for the season, they are 2-0 in the Big XII and still have a chance to play for the Conference Championship. If Texas can squeeze out a win against Oklahoma, I believe the pressure on Brown will reside somewhat.
The problem for Texas is that Oklahoma is 5-0 on the season, fresh off a 20-17 victory against a tough TCU team. OU ranks 17th overall in the country rushing for over 240 yards a game and scoring over 30 points a game. They also have the 6th best defense in FBS, giving up only 13 points a game. Quarterback Blake Bell has been effective, completing 69% of his passes and rushing for 175 yards. But the OU defense has been the story this season, flexing its muscles and playing like an SEC team would. In their most recent game against TCU, OU gave up only 18 yards in the entire 3rd quarter, forcing the explosive TCU offense to a grinding halt.
To make matters worse for Texas, David Ash will miss his 2nd straight game due to concussion symptoms. Ash has been reasonably effective for Texas this year, throwing 7 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. Case McCoy will start his 2nd game in a row, and will hope to give Texas a boost at quarterback. While McCoy is not quite the athlete that Ash is, he has shown the ability to stay cool under pressure. Last week against Iowa State, McCoy rallied Texas on a game winning drive that included him scoring a 1-yard quarterback sneak with 51 seconds left in the game.
All the factors surrounding the Red River Rivalry make for one of the most interesting games in the history of the two teams. If Mack Brown can pull off a win against Bob Stoops, he will hold on to his job for a little bit longer. But if Texas loses, Brown will lose his job
in embarrassing fashion, whether midseason or at the end of the year.
If you don’t have any plans this Saturday, make a trip to Dallas, Texas to witness one of the greatest rivalry games you will ever see. The sea of red chanting “Boomer Sooner” and the mass of burnt orange chanting, “Texas Fight,” provide one of the most hostile atmospheres known to football.
So grab some fried bacon and a coke and join the 92,000 people filling up the Cotton Bowl to watch a good ole intrastate rivalry between the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners.