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On a sunny, slightly crisp day at the Cotton Bowl in 2005, Mack Brown and the Texas Longhorns exorcised five years worth of demons.
Becoming a Texas fan in the middle of the dark ages of the then-Red River Shootout was hardly advisable, as the Longhorns lost five straight games from 2000 to 2004, a streak Brown would have been lucky to survive had he not experienced so much success against other opponents.
After the win in 1999 over Bob Stoops, the chinless wonder owned.
There are different types of hatred in this world. The type of condescending hatred for something so vile and base that it is absolutely despicable. It certainly applies in regards to the Sooners.
The hatred for the Sooners at that time in the rivalry, though? It was the type of hatred for a big brother who holds your head while you flail helplessly, trying to land punches that never have a chance of thudding into flesh. That was the type of hatred I had for Oklahoma as a fledgling Texas fan still still trying to understand the rivalry in those first seasons after I arrived in Austin.
Their coach was better. Some of their players were better, stolen out of Texas and away from the Longhorns. At positions where Texas had comparable talent, the gaps in coaching and overall mentality were all the more visible.
I just wanted to feel what victory was like against the goons in crimson and cream. At the time, it seemed almost unattainable. Incomprehensible.
After watching the 2002 contest with my visiting parents and brother and waking up early the next year to watch the 2003 debacle with friends, a day that devolved into the type of steady, intent, and sullen drinking that can only come after a devastating beatdown, I got tickets in 2004 for my first experience at the State Fair.
Looking back, what happened the night before was a perfect prelude to the events of that Saturday. Upon our drunken arrival back at the hotel after revelry at Across The Street Bar, my roommate at the time stepped in human feces upon entering our hotel room. Then tracked it across the floor. Yeah, that really happened. The culprit was a mystery, though my kind-hearted friend eventually took the blame even though he hadn't done it.
The identity of the phantom pooper was unknown for several years until our friends who were staying across the hall finally admitted to the dirty deed.
The next morning, on a nasty, overcast, drizzly day, the stench of shit was strong in the Cotton Bowl, emanating from the bottom of my roommates' shoe. And from the field, as the Longhorn "gameplan" was not to lose 35-14. So Texas lost 12-0, clearly showing zero confidence in sophomore Vince Young to execute anything approaching a winning gampelan.
Entering the game in 2005 after the victory in the Horsehoe, the trajectories of both teams were so different that a loss was both hard to consider and difficult to expect given the recent history.
Where the 2004 game was played in unappealing conditions, the weather in 2005 was perfect -- nearly cloudless, one of those early fall days where the air is cool and the sun still warm, the type of day that makes love to your senses.
From the first touchdown pass to Ramonce Taylor to the 80-yard touchdown by Jamaal Charles to the long touchdown pass to Billy Pittman just before the half that essentially ended the game to the hit by Brian Robison on Rhett Bomar that allowed the long return by Rodrique Wright, the game could hardly have gone better for Texas.
Those plays are permanently seared into my memory, the type that never fade with the passing years.
The next morning, reading the Oklahoman at the hotel provided even more enjoyment. There was Bomar in pictures, a big spread across two pages, experiencing his three most common emotions from that day, his faces priceless -- Bomar, about to get waxed by a Texas defender, Bomar, getting waxed by a Texas defender, Bomar, after getting waxed by a Texas defender.
My only regret from the weekend, aside from my roommate leaving my favorite hat and pillow at the hotel room after I ended up staying somewhere else, was not saving that newspaper.
Warning: the music may need to be muted
The image of him on his back after the hit by Brian Robison that jarred the ball loose, with his legs kicking in the air in pain, is probably one of my favorite as a Longhorn, the symbol of Texas domination in that game.
The Texas defenders took out five years of pain and frustration on poor Bomar (BOMAR'D!), who went 12 of 32 on the day, short-hopping receivers by the third quarter and generally showing little interest in taking the abuse being meted out by players in burnt orange jerseys with evil intentions.
How bad was the Oklahoma offense and how dominant was the Texas defense? Oklahoma didn't have a play go for 10 yards or longer until nearly 50 minutes of the game had expired. In all, the 'Horns outgained the Sooners 444 to 171.
It was a new Longhorn team, as Vince Young showcased before the game. Prior to that season, Brown had never let his players listen to music before the game, but there was Young, dancing on the field, heralding a new mentality, a new era of Texas football. One that would culminate months later with a crystal football.
After the game, Texas fans were at full throat and singing the Eyes of Texas from the upperdeck with a half-full stadium, a half-circle of Texas fans belting the alma mater at the top of their collective lungs to vent five years of their own frustrations as the players celebrated on the field, taking a half lap around the stadium to share the moment with their fans.
It was one of the top moments in my first several years as a Texas fan, the top moment I witnessed in person, and, all these years later, still one of the most enduring.
Sweet, sweet catharsis.