Every October, one of the greatest rivalries in college football is renewed as Texas and Oklahoma meet at the Cotton Bowl — with the Golden Hat at stake. One component that helps make this rivalry truly unique is the crowd. With half the stadium wearing burnt orange and half in crimson, a good portion of the fans are always cheering, no matter the score.
“It’s kind of really loud the whole time,” sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes said. “So nothing really gets quiet or nothing really settles down. It’s kind of always electric and going the whole time.”
Because of the 50-50 split, momentum tends to play an even bigger role than usual in determining the outcome of the game. When things are going well for a team, they can feed off of the crowd; but when a team is struggling the energy from the other side can be detrimental.
“It’s all based on momentum and who comes to play, and so, if you don’t come to play, you can get points put up on you, and you can get points put up on you real quick,” senior receiver John Harris said.
With emotions running high between the two teams, whichever team sets the tone early and lands the first punch can often times ride that momentum to victory.
“This games is definitely built up with a whole lot of emotion,” senior running back Malcolm Brown said. “A whole lot of ups and downs — momentum is definitely big in this game. I feel like the past couple of years that’s what this game has been built off of — just emotion and who strikes first.”
Last season, the Longhorns took their first lead in this series since their 16-13 victory in 2009. Texas struck first and set the tone with 23 first-half points, one more point than it had scored in the first half of the four previous Red River Rivalry games combined.
“We had a mindset that day, we weren’t going to come out there and get beat down like we had for the past two years,” Harris said. “And we were going to bring it to them before they brought it to us and we wanted to be the more physical team than we had been in the past two years.”
That physicality was evident, as the Longhorns pounded the Sooners in the trenches on both sides of the ball. No play was bigger than the first quarter pick-six by defensive tackle Chris Whaley.
“It did something to the crowd and to us as well,” senior safety Mykkele Thompson recalled of the play’s impact. “I really don’t how to explain that. But it was just I guess the aura — the whole atmosphere of the Longhorn side. It just it changed us, and it gave us all the motivation to go out there and execute and do everything better.”
After being outscored in the first half 70-12 during the 2011 and 2012 games, the defensive touchdown sent a message that the 2013 Longhorns weren’t going to lie down, despite the Sooners being heavily favored.
The Longhorns will likely enter this year’s matchup as even bigger underdogs, with the line likely to fall around 14.5 points in favor of Oklahoma. Given its extreme offensive woes, Texas will likely need some points from its defense or special teams to pull of another upset in Dallas.
“Our job is to help the offense [in] anyway possible,” Thompson said. “[The] majority of us defensive players are on special teams, so we have two phases that we need to take care of. So, if we dominate those two phases, [the] offense can do the bare minimum if anything, and we’ll still come out with the win.”
Even if Texas’ defense can’t score, if the unit forces turnover, the Longhorns should be in good shape. Eight of Texas’ nine interceptions this season have come en route to Longhorn victories.