"Grit and Cowbells?" That was the best SI's Austin Murphy could come up with when describing arguably the most significant Texas victory over OU in years? Allow me to offer you a slightly more "bellicose" version...
When Rivalries Go To War
From 1969 to 1978, Michigan (led by former Buckeyes assistant coach Bo Schembechler) and Ohio State (under enigmatic coaching legend Woody Hayes) carved out a series of hotly contested games in their long running rivalry in which both teams entered their annual border clash as dominant college football programs. With conference championship and national title implications often at stake, not to mention bragging rights for either of two fan bases that flat out hate each other, that decade of games has been famously referred to as “The 10-Year War” by Wolverines and Buckeyes fans. Four out of those ten years, both teams entered the game ranked in the Top 5, and six out of the ten years they shared the Big 10 Title. When the dust settled, Michigan held a 5-4-1 advantage and the passion and hatred fueling the rivalry was more explosive than ever.
From 1999 to 2008, Texas (under the leadership of Mack Brown--a former Sooners assistant coach) and Oklahoma (headed by fiery upstart Bob Stoops) have rekindled the Red River Rivalry with a series of memorable games in the new Millennium in which one or both teams were ranked in the Top 10 and the outcome often had conference and national title implications. Unlike “The 10-Year War” however, the last nine years of the TX/OU rivalry have been characterized as largely one-sided in favor of the Sooners who’ve gone 6-3, winning all three times the teams met when they were both ranked in the Top 5, and losing only in when they were decidedly underdogs. Adding even more insult to injury, the Sooners relished two 45+ point blowout wins over the Horns as well.
Due to the nature and number of wins, many pundits have even gone as far as to suggest that “Stoops has Mack’s number” and Oklahoma “plays a smarter, more aggressive brand of football than Texas.” To put it another way, “OU plays with more heart and just wants it more.” That's an accusation few Longhorns fans were willing to admit publicly but probably allowed themselves to believe in their heavy hearts after witnessing a myriad of soul-scratching losses. And while the recent National Championship run certainly did wonders for UT’s wounded pride, when it came to Brown vs. Stoops, there was still something missing.
On October 11, 2008, the search ended as the unsatisfied souls of the burnt orange faithful found redemption on the gridiron of the Cotton Bowl where the #5 Texas Longhorns wore their hearts on their sleeves and refused to lose in an epic battle against the #1 Oklahoma Sooners. In arguably the most competitive edition of the Red River Rivalry in over 20 years, the Longhorns outplayed, out-coached, and out-muscled a Sooners squad being hailed as Bob Stoops’ best team ever. And in doing so, they rewrote history, turning a one-sided rivalry into a “war” for the foreseeable future.
For there is not a doubt in any Longhorn’s mind that the Sooners will return to the Cotton Bowl next year hell bent on avenging this loss along with a threatened fan base in tow expressing more vitriol for their burnt orange-clad counterparts than ever. But regardless of the outcome of next year’s Red River Rivalry game, Longhorns fans will enter the annual clash knowing the lines have been redrawn, the playing field leveled, and their equal footing in the rivalry restored.
Perhaps the true significance of UT’s 45-35 upset will only reveal itself when the dust finally settles on the Brown-Stoops era, but when it does, I imagine fans from both sides of the Red River will look back at this time as the most hotly contested period in the hundred-plus year tilt and remember October 11, 2008 as the day the rivalry went to war.
(Warning: If you are currently feeling a sense of urgency to seek and destroy anything in your path, I recommend punching a pillow, preferably one with a red pillow case.)
As for those of you who think I've succumb to hyperbole and are currently questioning my sanity, perspective and misplaced priorities, here’s another edition of...
What Texas Fans Were Thinking When The Score Was:
TX - OU
0 – 0 Increased capacity, more room to maneuver, comfortable seating...and that’s just the new restrooms at the Cotton Bowl.
0 – 7 Apparently Bradford pushed the Staples "Easy" button...the last time a group of guys scored that quickly, the USS Enterprise just docked in Tijuana.
3 – 7 I knew it was rare for our defense to give up touchdowns, but I didn’t realize UT was running the “Bend But Don’t Break” offense too.
3 – 14 O...U...lucky mother truckers...we would have to be playing the only school in the country that offers “The Fundamentals of Hot Potater” as an elective
10 – 14 Good idea, Bob...kick the ball off to the little white boy with the surgically repaired knee, what could the endangered Albino Squirrel possibly do to you?
10 – 21 Better put a picture of Jermaine Gresham on a milk carton because according to the Longhorn defense, he’s missing.
17 – 21 Deep Thought: I think Roy Miller should yell, “Hey Kool Aid,” just before he creates a huge hole in defenses on short yardage running situations. That way defenders know they’re only a fraction of a second away from a refreshing glass of whoop ass.
20 – 21 Thanks to Earl Thomas’ superhuman interception, we’re only down by one and that “BOOM” we just heard was Will Muschamp’s heart rate breaking the sound barrier.
20 – 28 Ah yes, a Sooner staple, the Slip Screen. 60% of the time, it works against UT every time.
27 – 28 McCoy to Shipley for yet another glorious TD just makes me want to sing, "Isn’t it Bromantic"
30 – 28 Thanks for giving us the lead, Bob. Probably should have punted it. After all, nobody likes a faker...
30 – 35 ...except for the OU punter of course, who recently won a 1st Down for his performance as “Nancy” in the one-(girly)man play, “Why me?”
38 – 35 Do you think Lendy Holmes knows which planet he just landed on...WR Quan Cosby: Honorary Member of the Will Mushchamp KTMFO Defense.
45 – 35 Previous champion overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds to defeat a seemingly invincible foe after getting knocked down repeatedly...Is it just me or did we just see the college football equivalent of the Balboa-Drago fight from Rocky IV?
Final Thoughts On A Truly Historic Day
Looking back, I don’t think I realized how badly I wanted to win this game until my friend reminded me that I spent the TV Time-Outs during the 4th quarter crouching on the bleacher, clasping my hands, and rocking back and forth like a meth addict. I was so emotionally involved that when I finally realized the Horns were going to pull off the upset, I involuntarily raised both of my fists into the air, clinching them so hard that my body was shaking with pure, unadulterated satisfaction. I never wanted that feeling to end, and neither did the majority of Longhorns fans who stuck around long after the game was over. You could hear the pride bursting when 45,000 orange bloods sang probably the most reverent rendition of The Eyes of Texas I’ve ever heard (including the 2006 Rose Bowl).
As the euphoria of last Saturday finally wears off, the popular coach-speak phrase, “haven’t won nothin’ yet,” sobers me up all the more quickly. The buffet of formidable foes which awaits Texas is one of the most daunting stretches of games a Longhorns team has ever attempted, basically playing four Top 10 teams four weeks in a row including the one last Saturday. And now UT has the added benefit of wearing the #1 on their backs. But after watching what this team just pulled off in the Cotton Bowl, I say, “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” Bring on the...
Next up on the GameDay parade is Mizzou, a team that, deservedly or not, probably ought to be ranked #1 right now if not for an inexplicable loss at home last Saturday to an OSU team quickly making a name for itself on the national scene. No doubt the Tigers watched the TX/OU game earlier that day and lost some focus when realizing the magnitude of that which awaited them this weekend in Austin. Unfortunately for UT, I don’t see them overlooking two opponents in a row, especially when Chase Daniel has been waiting for a chance to pay back Texas for not recruiting him due to his relatively diminutive stature.
Even still, and this may sound crazy, I actually walked out of the Cotton Bowl last Saturday thinking we’d yet to see the Longhorns play their best ball. Even the casual observer can’t deny that this Texas team is getting better week after week. The defense is still far from perfect, and they’re probably still going to give up a bunch of passing yards to all these prolific offenses, but their confidence is gaining. As long as they keep disallowing any rushing TD’s, life is going to be extra tough for the opposition when (if) they make it to the Red Zone. And as long as Colt, Quan, and Ship can play keep away from opposing defenses, UT’s always going to have a good chance to win. I think even Muschamp would admit that, for right now anyway, the best defense against a spread offense is still a time-eating offense of your own.
But with all the hype surrounding the win over OU, being vaulted to #1, and welcoming ESPN Gameday to Austin, can the Horns avoid losing focus and becoming complacent having already exceeded most expectations. Well, for the answer to that incredibly deep and insightful question, let’s turn it over to the utterly absurd and thoughtless...
Gameday’s back and that means we need signs for the times...
Corso shoots blanks.
Your wife doesn’t fake it as well as OU’s punter. (Hat tip to El Arroyo.)
Muschamp’s mama said knock Mizzou out.
Chase’s moustache gives magic booger rides.
Sllly Chase...mohawks make you look fatter, not taller.
Look out for #1, but don’t step in Bevo’s #2.
Missouri loves company 10
(Figrued that was the outcome the last three times we played at DKR, no need to change it up now.)
When asked what beating OU meant to the Texas team...
“We’re bowl-eligible, baby.” - Quan Cosby
Long way to go...strap it on.
PS. One last funny story from Saturday...even in Section 18, deep in the heart of Texas territory at the Cotton Bowl, I found myself sitting next to who else, “obnoxious Sooner fan” sitting with his wife who went to UT. And of course, he never shut up the entire game. But before he could leave the stadium with his tail between his legs, he got what was coming to him in one of the best F-U moves I’ve ever seen.
The guy sitting in front of us got absolutely hammered during halftime and nearly passed out during the 3rd Quarter despite all the excitement. Well with about four minutes left on the clock and the Horns holding a commanding 10 point lead, the drunk turns around, looks right on the Sooner, and offers him a good-game handshake. After a few seconds, the Sooner obliges and begrudgingly shakes his hand. No big deal, right? Well the guy was so drunk, he forgot that he had done that and turned around to shake the Sooners’ hand again like two minutes later. And he did it like three or four more times until the Sooner finally had enough and left. I swear, good sportsmanship never hurt so good.