Ten years ago, the No. 5 Texas Longhorns met the No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners in the Cotton Bowl for a game that still stands as one of the iconic moments Longhorns history — the 45-35 victory that highlighted an incredible season that served as a prelude to the national championship appearance the next year.
In a post for the Players’ Tribune, Longhorn Legend Jordan Shipley reflects on that game and what the Red River Showdown means to someone who served a starring role in it on multiple occasions.
Shipley writes that he still gets asked about that game more than any other in his career, perhaps in part because he played such a massive role in that win — offensive coordinator Greg Davis opted for a four-wide receiver set with Shipley as the flex tight end, which helped him get loose for 11 catches for 112 yards and a touchdown.
“He had stuff (Oklahoma) didn’t know what to do with,” Shipley said earlier this year.
The biggest play that Shipley made during that game, however, came on special teams:
Around the start of the second quarter during that game in 2008, we were down 14–3 and in a pretty tough spot. I was familiar with the past heartbreaks we’d had against OU. I’d watched the games when we came into the matchup with the better team and ended up folding early. But as I waited for the kickoff after OU scored its second touchdown, I wasn’t thinking about what had gone wrong. I wasn’t thinking about how bad it would feel if we lost. Honestly, my only thought in that moment was that I had the opportunity to do something big. I could feel it. I knew it wouldn’t happen by doing anything extraordinary or outside of my abilities. But if I followed my blockers and saw some open space, I could make a play.
And so he did.
If there’s a better event on the planet I haven’t seen it. Get your Horns up @TexasFootball #ThisIsTexas pic.twitter.com/BnDEa1BAGo— Jordan Shipley (@Jordan_Shipley) October 3, 2018
Brent Musburger’s call on the play still stands as an indelible part of experiencing that game as a fan, in part because he let the play and the moment speak for themselves in between his pauses, as one half of the stadium went silent and the other half went wild.
“From the 5-yard line is Shipley... Big hole... Shipley... End zone ahead, folks! Touchdooown, Longhorns.”
And 96 yards later, I was in the end zone and all of the energy and momentum in the Cotton Bowl shifted entirely in our direction. And that’s really the thing that makes the Red River Rivalry special — every play is a zero-sum game. One fanbase will be elated and the other will be devastated. And the fanbase that is elated will then get even louder, because honestly, what’s better than seeing a hated rival devastated?
We carried that momentum for the rest of the game and forced Oklahoma to play all the way to the end with us. And by the time we got to the fourth quarter, we had worn them down. They didn’t want anymore.
And that feeling — the feeling of knowing that you went out on neutral territory and man-for-man outplayed the Sooners? The experience of watching as the crimson filters out of the stadium but the burnt orange remains strong?
I can’t begin to describe it. It wouldn’t be right. I could never do it justice.
Of course, no recollection of that game would truly be complete without mentioning the devastating block that Texas wide receiver Quan Cosby laid on Oklahoma defensive back Lendy Holmes to nearly spring Shipley for a touchdown:
Happy Friday, especially to Lendy Holmes. pic.twitter.com/BdUkE8o1by— Longhorn Network (@LonghornNetwork) October 5, 2018
Burnt Orange Nation has reason to believe that Holmes is still feeling the sting of that block all these years later. And the play served as a microcosm of the physicality and intensity that the Longhorns brought to that game.
It was the type of play that eventually made the Sooners tap out that day.
Shipley still feels a little bit jealous that he can’t walk out of the tunnel in the Cotton Bowl and play in the game again. So he wants the current team to understand not only their opportunity, but also the fact that he “can sense how close we are to getting to where Texas should be.”
After playing in that game so many times and in so many other big games, Shipley has some final advice for the current team:
The toughest thing about competing in this game isn’t the opponent or the atmosphere. It’s just reminding yourself to actually enjoy the moment. When Texas has struggled in the past, it’s been because we played too uptight and folded under the pressure.
Yes, you’re playing against a great team. This is Texas-OU, that’s how it should be. But if you come into this game excited to win rather than fearful of losing, this is yours for the taking. I have no doubt in my mind.
On fall Saturdays in the Cotton Bowl, legends are born. Shipley knows, because he is one.