RIVALRY – a serious and often continuing competition.
It exists in all aspects of life but nothing compares to sports rivalry for its ability to provoke emotions between the two protagonists. Baseball has the Red Sox and the Yankees. The Oxford versus Cambridge boat race is one of the most prestigious rivalries in sport. In the NFL, the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears have the longest running rivalry, dating back to 1921. However, this college football weekend sees the renewal of a rivalry that runs just a little deeper…
RED RIVER RIVALRY
1360 miles in length, the Red River snakes between and forms the border of Oklahoma to the North and Texas to the South. It has been the scene of many historical battles, most recently the 1931 Red River Bridge War between Texas and Oklahoma. Perhaps more famously, it lends its name to one of college football’s fiercest rivalries – the Red River Rivalry between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns.
The two teams have been battling it out in the rivalry, shootout or showdown (the title depending on sponsorship and sensitivities over the association of shootout to gun related crime) for the prize of the Golden Hat since 1900. There have been 112 clashes since that first game which ended Texas 28 Oklahoma 2. Texas hold the winning record to date (61-46-5).
To add to the sense of rivalry and pageantry of the game, it is always held at a neutral venue and since 1932 that venue is the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Chosen as it is as close to a mid point between the home of each team, Norman, Oklahoma and Austin, Texas, as possible. The stadium is split straight down the 50 yard line with half filled with the burnt orange of the Longhorns and half with the crimson and cream of the Sooners, the colours evocative of the river that flows between the two.
The history of the fixture is littered with memorable and close fought games. From that first game in 1900 to the 2015 game when the unranked Longhorns trampled the #10 ranked Sooners with 313 yards from a devastating run game lead by D’Onta Foreman. Going into the 1958 game, Oklahoma had won six straight and were ranked #2. Texas, led by coach Durell Royal who had previously been the quarterback at Oklahoma, won 15-14 and set about a win streak which saw Oklahoma win only once in the next twelve years. The rivalry ran on into the ‘70s which saw not one, but two spying furores. Both were instances of Oklahoma spying on Texas practices and using the findings to devastating effect in the games.
The last twenty years have seen some of the marque milestones achieved for the rivalry. 2005 was the 100th game between the two teams. It was the first win in five years for the Longhorns as they ran out 45-12 winners en route to the National Championship.
The most memorable of those games is surely the 2008 matchup. Going in to the game the Sooners were ranked as the best team in college football and had gotten off to a 5-0 start. In front of the largest recorded rivalry crowd of 92,182 the two teams battled it out in the highest scoring meeting between the two teams as Texas ran out 45-35 winners.
Which seems a good place to lead in to this years AT&T Red River Showdown, given that the free scoring Sooners go into the game with a 5-0 record, a number 7 ranking and a mind blowing defense shattering, average of 49 points per game.
A close fought, overtime win over Army aside, Oklahoma have been turning teams over at will, putting 60+ points on both Baylor and FAU. Junior quarterback Kyler Murray has been stacking up crazy numbers through the air (1460 yards, 17 TDs, 2 INT) and looks to be firmly in the Heisman conversation after replacing Baker Mayfield for this season.
CAN TEXAS STOP THE OFFENSIVE JUGGERNAUT?
Texas go into the game with a 4-1 record, 2-0 in conference play and with the 19th ranking. It could be argued they have had a tougher start to the season than the Sooners given victories over two ranked opponents in TCU and USC.
For me, the keys to a potential victory lay with a defense that is giving up just 20 yards per game on average, limiting USC and Kansas State to just 14 points each. Todd Orlando, defensive coordinator for the Longhorns, will look to limit big plays from Kyler Murray.
In freshman defensive back Caden Sterns I think he might just have the man to do it. Sterns had two interceptions in the game against TCU and blocked a field goal against USC. He was also named the week 4 Big 12 newcomer of the week. Add the pressure to the pocket from DE Charles Omenihu, who logged two sacks against Kansas State, and you could have the makings of an upset.
If it comes down to the wire, it’s worth noting that Texas kicker Cameron Dicker is the first freshman kicker to make three field goals in one game since 2001. Clutch Cameron has a bit of a ring to it don’t you think? For the winner, their season will gather momentum and flow on. For the loser, their hopes and dreams for this year might just lay at the bottom of the Red River.
This guest piece was written by Oli Hodgkinson who is a Patriots and Boston College Eagles fan. He has followed the game since 2010 thanks to his brother who introduced him to the game via Madden. You can follow Oli on Twitter at @OJHodgkinson.