Rivals begin week with distinct goals
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas fans ushered in the unofficial kickoff to Red River Rivalry week with chants of "Beat OU" moments after Texas' 38-14, closer-than-expected victory over Colorado on Saturday.
Longhorns coach Mack Brown had a case of déjà vu, recalling that last season Texas beat Colorado by the same score before defeating No. 1 Oklahoma the following weekend.
But Texas was up 28-0 in that game. No such luck Saturday. In fact, it took some big plays by the defense and special teams to pull away in what was a 10-point game early in the fourth quarter. Still, Texas stays undefeated and faces an Oklahoma team that defeated Baylor, 33-7, in quarterback Sam Bradford's return from a shoulder injury.
"It's Texas-OU. It's what we all grew up watching on TV," Texas safety Blake Gideon said. "Whether you're a Texas fan or an OU fan, everybody is going to be tuned in to that game. It's a game with a lot of tradition in it and two great teams every year. So Saturday should be fun, and this whole week will be fun in preparation."
Yes, Texas-OU week (or OU-Texas, depending on your rooting interest) is upon us.
Can you smell the fried butter wafting from the State Fair of Texas?
The Longhorns, the Sooners and their fans head to the Cotton Bowl with more than clogged arteries, Big Tex and the Midway on their minds.
There's plenty at stake for both teams.
For Texas, which moved down a spot Sunday to No. 3 in the AP poll, it's a chance to continue its march toward an undefeated season and a shot at a national championship. The Sooners, with two nonconference losses, still have dreams of a seventh Big 12 Conference championship since 2000. A win over the Longhorns would give them the inside track to the Big 12 South title, not to mention ruining Texas' bid for a perfect season.
"It's big, it's real big," Oklahoma sophomore wide receiver Dejuan Miller said. "That's why I came here, to play in games like this. Texas is on a roll. They have a lot of talent in the secondary and have a lot of guys that can make plays. They have a lot of game-breakers. It's OU-Texas, that's all you have to say about it."
But there's no denying that the buildup for this year's edition doesn't quite compare with 2008's meeting of undefeated teams.
The No. 5 Longhorns won a wild one that day over the No. 1 Sooners, 45-35, and jumped to the top spot in the rankings. But a late-season loss to Texas Tech in Lubbock eventually created Big 12 South controversy. The three-way tie in the division, and the rules governing it, allowed Oklahoma to claim a spot in the league championship game and eventually the national title game.
It left Texas to play -- and beat -- Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, despite the head-to-head win over the Sooners. Oklahoma won another off-the-field contest, as Bradford beat out Texas quarterback Colt McCoy for the Heisman Trophy.
McCoy and Bradford are back, though under different circumstances. Bradford returned to the field on Saturday for the first time since spraining a shoulder against BYU in the season opener. He threw 49 times on Saturday, passing for 389 yards and a touchdown. His performance pleased Sooners coach Bob Stoops and sent a message to the Longhorns that he appears ready to go.
McCoy heads to Dallas after throwing for 265 yards on 32-of-39 passing with a touchdown and an interception against Colorado.
Both quarterbacks took advantage of the bright lights at the Cotton Bowl last year. Bradford threw for 387 yards and five touchdowns but also had two interceptions. McCoy added 277 yards (on an impressive 28-of-35 passing) and had one touchdown but no interceptions.
The head coaches for both teams know a thing or two about the magnitude of the rivalry, with each winning in convincing fashion against the other on the way to a national championship. This will be the 11th time Stoops and Brown have faced each other in the rivalry.
Stoops dominated early, winning five straight from 2000-2004, including the 2003 game by a 65-13 score. That prompted a public apology to all Texas fans from Brown. But the trend has gone the Longhorns' way recently, with Texas claiming three of the last four games.
"Everyone that's played in that game knows how special it is," said former Texas quarterback James Brown, who was 2-1-1 against the Sooners in the mid-1990s and plans on being on the sidelines Saturday. "You've got the state fair, half the fans are wearing burnt orange and the other half red, and two good teams. It's a kid's dream. That game has it all."
Richard Durrett covers colleges for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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