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Red River Rejuvenation
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More often than not, Oklahoma has dominated Texas under Bob Stoops
Gary Gibbs had the unenviable task of following Barry Switzer as head coach at Oklahoma, and that was never going to work.
Gibbs won 65 percent of his games and did what he was sworn to do — work to help clean up the image of a college football giant whose public perception had been tarnished by too many off-the-field player shenanigans.
Gibbs’ teams went 1-5 against Tom Osborne’s juggernaut Nebraska teams and 0-5-1 against Colorado in the Buffs’ heyday.
Sooner Nation might have been somewhat forgiving of those shortcomings if only Gibbs had managed to beat Texas. But OU’s 1-5 record vs. the Longhorns ensured Gibbs’ demise.
The four years that followed, under the direction of Howard Schnellenberger and John Blake, Oklahoma went just 1-2-1 in the Cotton Bowl, extending the program’s decade-long misery versus Texas to 2-7-1.
But that began to change in 1999 when Bob Stoops arrived in Norman. As Oklahoma's football fortunes took a significant turn for the better, so did its success rate against the Longhorns.
Texas had hired Mack Brown in 1998, beginning one of the most prosperous periods in UT football history. In 16 seasons, Brown’s ‘Horns were 158-48. They won at least 10 games nine years in a row, won a national championship and claimed a runner-up medal and became college football’s most prized property.
With one little problem: No matter how hard he tried, Brown couldn’t shake Stoops. Never came close.
Stoops lost that first game to Brown in 1999, but then won five in a row and later won five out of eight.
Before the end of World War II, OU’s record in the Red River Rivalry was 11-27-2. But in the last 68 meetings since 1947 — that’s when Bud Wilkinson took over as head coach — the Sooners’ record vs. Texas is 33-32-3.
That’s a winning record, thanks to Bud Wilkinson and Switzer — and especially Stoops.
Gomer Jones, Jim Mackenzie, Chuck Fairbanks, Gibbs, Schnellenberger and Blake combined to go just 5-13-1 against the Longhorns.
Stoops goes into this year’s Red River Rivalry 10-6 in his career against Texas, the most wins and highest winning percentage of any coach in OU history against the archrival ‘Horns.
And Stoops hasn’t just beaten Texas. His teams have utterly humiliated the ‘Horns — four times. The scores by which Stoops’ Sooners have slaughtered Bevo — 63-14, 65-13, 55-17, 63-21 — make Stoops’ 10-6 record against UT feel like 20-6.
Consider, too, that the only sustained success Texas had against Stoops was when the Longhorns featured an otherworldly quarterback. Vince Young beat OU in 2005 (and won the national championship), and Colt McCoy beat the Sooners in 2006, 2008 and 2009 and (and, after leaving the game with a shoulder injury, lost the '09 national championship).
Young ranked third nationally in passer efficiency rating and is arguably one of the greatest offensive college football players of all time, and McCoy set the NCAA record for completion percentage and career victories.
Without those two rare talents, who knows what Stoops’ record in the Cotton Bowl might be?
Stoops has done it, too, by either getting the recruits that Texas couldn’t, or by taking the recruits the Longhorns wouldn’t.
Texas regularly finished ahead of Oklahoma in the National Signing Day rankings, but then inevitably couldn’t win the big game — or the Big 12. In Stoops’ first 16 seasons, Texas under Brown won two Big 12 championships (2005, 2009), while Stoops guided the Sooners to eight (2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012).
And while all those blowouts were good, clean fun for Sooner Nation and certainly helped define the Stoops vs. Brown rivalry, it has been an ongoing series of individual plays in the close games — call them clutch, call them unexpected, call them spectacular — that will forever cement Stoops’ legacy in this series.
The list is a compelling recap of crunch-time excellence:
* Roy Williams’ “Superman” fly-in late in the 2001 game, leaping over a backfield block to tag Chris Simms in mid-throw, causing the ball to float into Teddy Lehman’s arms for a walk-in touchdown and clinch a 14-3 Sooner triumph. …
* Quentin Griffin’s 2002 miracle recovery and touchdown after Will Peoples fumbled a catch near the goal line, putting the Sooners ahead for the first time in what became a 35-24 OU victory. …
* Backed up to the 4-yard line, Adrian Peterson’s 44-yard burst on the first carry of his 2004 OU-Texas debut, a 12-0 Sooner win, during which it rained throughout but was never in doubt because of a stinging Oklahoma defense and Peterson’s 225 rushing yards. …
* Sam Bradford’s 35-yard fourth-quarter touchdown throw to Malcolm Kelly in the 2007 game, a 28-21 OU victory that also included DeMarco Murray’s magnificent hurdle of downed tight end Joe Jon Finley on his way to a 65-yard touchdown streak, Curtis Lofton’s goalline strip of Jamal Charles from behind to save a Texas TD, and Auston English’s two sacks of McCoy on Texas’ last-gasp possession. …
* In 2010, Murray’s tip-toe somersault touchdown, followed later by Landry Jones’ desperate slap out of bounds of his own fumble and James Winchester’s recovery of a fumbled punt to preserve a 28-20 victory. …
* Alex Ross’ 91-yard kickoff return touchdown to spark things in last year’s 31-26 Sooner triumph.
And of course, the blowouts all had their unforgettable moments as well:
* In 2000, Griffin’s six TDs and Rocky Calmus’ one-handed pick-six powered the Sooners to a 63-14 victory that, as much as anything, signified a new day had arrived in Oklahoma. …
* Six Texas turnovers and the official start of Jason White’s 2003 Heisman campaign (he was 17-of-21 for 290 yards and four TDs), supplemented by 190 yards receiving from Mark Clayton, led to a 65-13 blowout in 2003. …
* Sandwich artist-turned-walk-on running back Dominique Whaley’s 64-yard touchdown run got things going, and three defensive touchdowns — a 55-yard interception runback by Demontre Hurst, a 19-yard fumble recovery by David King and a strip and 56-yard runback by Jamell Fleming — turned the 2011 game into a 55-17 Sooner party.
* The 2012 game featured Damien Williams’ 95-yard touchdown run sprung by Kenny Stills’ bone-jarring sideline block, fullback Trey Millard’s hurdle over Mykkele Thompson on his way to a 73-yard reception (he had 119 receiving yards on the day), and Blake Bell’s four Belldozing touchdown runs.
It is one of college football’s most cherished and revered rivalries, two oil-enriched powers meeting halfway at the Texas State Fair and filling the Cotton Bowl with half crimson and half burnt orange, neatly divided by the 50-yard line.
It is pageantry at the game’s highest level.
But in 16 memorable seasons, in 16 classic clashes, Stoops and his troops have turned the Red River Rivalry into an enduring gallery of both grace under pressure and sheer brutality.
Stoops says it all the time: beating Texas isn’t the end-all, be-all of coaching the Sooners. OU fans would not be satisfied if his teams beat the Longhorns every year but then also failed to compete for championships.
He’s right, of course.
But beating Texas at the unprecedented pace and ferocity with which Stoops has? Well, it does grant him grace for whatever shortcomings the Sooners might have experienced during the last 17 years.
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