The annual matchup between Oklahoma and Texas is one of the most eagerly awaited on the college football schedule. On Saturday, it’s been ramped up to a must-win game for both sides.
The 102nd edition of the Red River Rivalry will be played as No. 10 Oklahoma meets No. 19 Texas at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
For the first time since 1999, though, both teams are coming off losses heading into perhaps the most bitter rivalry game, in which Texas is 57-35-9 and looking for its third straight win.
“I know both teams were disappointed Saturday,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “It’s a huge game at midseason and it’s very, very difficult for both teams.”
Defending conference champion Oklahoma (4-1, 0-1 Big 12 South), ranked third a week ago, held a 14-point lead going into the fourth quarter against Colorado, but watched the Buffaloes rally for 17 points—including a 45-yard field goal by Kevin Eberhart on the game’s final play—in a 27-24 loss.
It was the first time Oklahoma hadn’t scored at least 51 points, and coach Bob Stoops said the fourth-quarter meltdown showed his players how quickly things can change during a game.
“Maybe how the first four games went, (the players) were thinking, ‘This is how we do things,’ but it is not that easy to do it, obviously,” he said. “It doesn’t take much for things to go wrong. I think sometimes the general public doesn’t get how small of a margin it can take for things not to be executed properly.”
The Sooners had averaged more than 562 yards of offense in non-conference play, but managed just 230 in their Big 12 opener. Redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Bradford had the worst game of his brief career, completing only 8-of-19 passes for 112 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Stoops, though, expects Bradford to bounce back going into his first Red River Rivalry start.
“Sam was the least of our problems and he knows that,” Stoops said. “He had about four drops on him. He understands everything they are doing whether it is running the ball, throwing it, route selection or what they are playing against us. He understands that he needs to keep on executing like he can. He is fine.”
Texas (4-1, 0-1 South) dropped 12 spots in the rankings after being dominated in a 41-21 home loss to Kansas State. Colt McCoy, who tied an NCAA freshman record with 29 touchdown passes last season, had only one, was picked off a career-high four times and suffered a mild concussion.
“Now we need to regroup,” said McCoy, who already has nine interceptions after throwing only seven last year. “Keep working hard and get ready for Oklahoma. That’s always a huge game and with both of us losing this week, we’re both going to want to want to get back on track.”
McCoy was cleared by doctors on Monday, and will face Oklahoma for the second time. On Oct. 7, he was 11-for-18 for just 108 yards, but tossed two third-quarter scoring passes en route to a 28-10 win over the Sooners.
The Longhorns also will be looking for better special teams play. In the loss to the Wildcats, that unit allowed two returns for touchdowns—Texas hadn’t given up a punt return TD since 1999—to stymie any momentum.
“Those things just killed us. They were momentum grabbers. Two touchdowns to none. That’s unbelievable,” said Brown, whose team is 113th in the nation defending punt returns and 89th in kickoff return yards allowed.