Editor’s Note: Sellout Crowd’s Coverage of the Oklahoma-Texas game in Dallas is Sponsored by Modelo – The Official Beer of Fans with the Fighting Spirit (https://www.modelousa.com)
Every year when the Red River Rivalry game beckons, fans think about the biggest moments. They remember when Roy Williams flew in like Superman or they lament that Keith Stanberry intercepted that pass in 1984 and still can’t believe that the officials got it wrong.
I love all those moments as well. But I learned the first time that I went to an OU/Texas game that this game, more than any other game, is about the event. The weekend long event that is OU/Texas.
This week is about corny dogs and wax cup beers. This week is about secret routes to the fair and yearly restaurant visits to your favorite places in “Big D.” This week is about so much more than the game. On that note, here are my favorite non-game moments from the Red River Rivalry.
10. Burning (big) man
2012 marked the third time that Bob Stoops’ Sooners had put up a 60 spot on the Longhorns. The Sooners were so hot that day that just a week later, Big Tex caught on fire. Now I’ve always found Big Tex to be a little bit hokey, but even I was saddened at the loss of a Texas State Fair icon.
Thankfully, Big Tex, who has been a Texas State Fair staple since 1952 was rebuilt hastily. He is now three feet taller. I thought you were supposed to lose height with age. He’s also got a bigger head than before. That one tracks.
9. Curtains up
My first OU/Texas experience was in 2002. I didn’t know what to expect, and I made the rookie mistake of getting into the stadium way too early. In retrospect, I should’ve enjoyed the fair a little more first. As I made my way to my seat, I decided to walk over to the tunnel and look at something that I had only ever seen on television. Since no one was there yet, I sauntered over to the chain link fence near the bottom of the ramp that kept the fans from jumping over.
As I leaned against the fence to get a better look, I noticed that Chris Simms was making his way out to get in some warm-up passes. So did the old man about 10 rows above me.
It was at that point that I heard more profanity than you could ever imagine, all directed at the Longhorn quarterback. The fan’s drink was spilling as he yelled, and Simms just smiled and went about his business. It may have been my first real understanding of what the weekend was all about.
In 2005, Texas decided it had had enough beers poured on them and profanities hurled at them and tried to curtail it by drawing a black curtain over the chain link fence. If you watch this video, you’ll notice the curtains (0:17) from the 2005 game compared to the no curtains look from 2004 (0:28).
I’m not sure what the curtain status is anymore, but every time I see them, I think about that old man.
8. A penalty on everyone
2019 wasn’t the first time that things got testy between Sooners and Longhorns during the pregame routine, but it did lead to one of the most bizarre starts to a Red River Rivalry game ever. Referee Mike DeFee (the one with the massive arms and super short sleeves) announced before the opening kickoff that both teams’ entire roster had been assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
An odd prelude for sure for a game that turned out to be pretty dang good as some guy named CeeDee Lamb about made Gus Johnson have a heart attack and led OU to a 34-27 victory.
Barry Switzer wearing the “Beat Texas” hat in the rain during the OU-Texas game on October 13, 1984. (Jim Argo/The Oklahoman/Oklahoma Historical Society)
7. Barry’s lid
Remember the days when coaches didn’t tell us that they were “taking the season one game at a time,” or that their big rival was “just the next game on the schedule?” Those days were alive and well in 1984.
In the same game that Keith Stanberry’s interception wasn’t allowed, Switzer donned quite an interesting hat on the sidelines in the second half. In an interview with SiriusXM in 2016, Switzer said of the choice of headwear, “We had a deluge, just a torrential downpour, and my manager came to me and we put on our rain slickers and all and he handed me a hat. Now, the game was already in progress so I had no idea what the hat said. He just handed me a hat, I never looked at the damn hat. … Then I saw all the pictures after the ballgame, what was on television and the photographers taking the snapshots and there it was, ‘Beat Texas.’ (laughs) I was wearing a hat inscribed with ‘Beat Texas!’ It was very appropriate but at the same time I would not have worn it had I known what it said.”
Sorry Barry, but I’m not buying it, and I’m glad you wore it.
6. Uninvited guest
2021 gave us arguably the best OU/Texas game of all time, and while Sooner fans celebrated the play of Caleb Williams and basked in the glory of Kennedy Brooks scoring a walk-off touchdown, many forget that early in the game there was a furry guest on the Cotton Bowl turf.
Now I’ve seen streakers and squirrels, protests and possums, but I’d never seen a fox run on a football field before. That’s what happened in 2021, and the game was so good, most people just forgot about it.
As you’ll see here, unlike Marvin Mims later in the game, the fox did not keep its feet inbounds.
5. Good looking sister?
Oklahoma was still clinging to hope that Howard Schnellenberger was the right man for the job when they went to The State Fair in 1995, but found themselves down 21-0 after the first quarter. The Sooners came back to tie the game up at 24-24 with six minutes to go and the game ended in a tie (yes, that was a thing).
After the game, Schnelly was asked if he agreed with the old adage that a tie was like kissing your sister. “It’s a lot better than kissing my sister, and she’s a good-lookin’ gal,” he said.
As my colleague Berry Tramel remarked at our weekly meeting of the minds, “That’s a bad question and an even worse answer.”
His team wasn’t buying what he was selling either, as the Sooners won just one of their remaining five games, scoring just 26 points in the last 19 quarters they played that year.
4. Behind the scenes
It’s no secret that Barry Switzer wasn’t shy around a camera, and while it wasn’t the first time I’d ever seen locker room footage before a game, the video captured of Switzer’s pregame talk in 1985 is one of the few locker room videos that I’m convinced was genuine.
You can see the stress on Switzer’s face. You see him pace and go through his mental checklist to try and check the nerves, and then you see the moment captured when that nervousness turns to confidence.
3. The finger and the grab
In 2003, Oklahoma beat Texas 65-13, which may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for defensive coordinator Carl Reese. The next season, Texas replaced Reese with long-time coach Greg Robinson. Robinson had been coaching in the NFL from 1990-2003, and perhaps playing Oklahoma in early 2004 was a bit of an assault on the senses for the veteran coach.
As legend goes, during Oklahoma’s 12-0 win over Texas that season, Greg Robinson had a run-in with some Oklahoma fans in which he may or may not have flipped off said fans and/or grabbed his crotch to express his displeasure (think Baker Mayfield at Kansas).
Greg Robinson only lasted one season at Texas, moving on to be the head coach at Syracuse the next season, but he made his one Red River Rivalry game count. Robinson doesn’t admit flipping off or grabbing his crotch, but he did confirm nine years later that there was a “heated exchange.”
2. Awkward meeting with the POTUS
The 1976 OU/Texas matchup marked the end of the Switzer vs. Royal era, and it was quite the bitter end. After years of spying accusations leveled against Switzer, Royal was quoted by AP writer Robert Heard as calling Switzer and assistant coach Larry Lacewell, “sorry bastards.”
This made for quite a terse meeting in the tunnel when the two head coaches walked out with President Gerald Ford. As the story goes, when the three emerged from the tunnel, an OU fan located down front yelled, “Who are those a*******s with Switzer?”
Come to think of it, that might’ve been the same old man I saw years later cussing out Chris Simms.
I’m sure most of you have heard the story by now, but in his one year at Oklahoma, Mike Leach left a quirky imprint on the Red River Rivalry. During pregame warmups in 1999, Leach employed tight end Trent Smith to “accidentally” leave a dummy script of the first plays of the game on the field. The script was scooped up by Texas managers, shuttled to their defensive coaches, and Leach torched Texas DC Carl Reese, who fell for the fake script hook, line and sinker.
ESPN chronicled the shenanigans in 2018, and then again after Leach passed away in December. You can find that here.
Just another thing to add to the legend of the late, great Mike Leach.