The first Oklahoma-Texas football game I attended was in 1970 at the tender age of 18. Being from Westville, Okla., the biggest event I think I had been to until that point was the annual Strawberry Festival in Stilwell.
I went to Dallas with two older, as in early 20's, college friends and had no clue as to what to expect on what turned out to be quite an adventure. After getting into a couple of scuffles, getting hit on by a gentleman who obviously practiced an "alternative lifestyle," mixing "hard liquor" with cold beer, and finally getting ill, I started to get the drift of the festivities. And that was just Friday night on Commerce Street.
There were three of us on this excursion and we had no tickets when we left Tahlequah, but bought two tickets from a stranger who was holding them up as in "these tickets are for sale" while he was driving south down I-35. We got him to pull over, threatened him with his life if the tickets were counterfeit, and even took down his tag number in case we had to track him down and "retaliate".
Obviously my friends were really serious about attending the Red River Rivalry, which should have enlightened me as to the weekend we had in store.
The 1970 OU-Texas game was the first game that the Sooners ran the wishbone, and we lost. It was a feeling that I will never forget. We did not lose too many after that for a while or so as Coach Switzer soon became the head man and the wishbone became virtually unstoppable.
I have been to more OU-Steers games in the past 36 years than I can count. I would love to write about them all some day, but I don't want to embarrass my family, especially now that I have two granddaughters.
Point is, after attending more major sporting and entertainment events around the world than I would have ever dreamed after growing up in the hills of eastern Oklahoma, nothing compares to being in Dallas for this college football classic.
My wife can't understand why we have to leave on Thursday when the game isn't until Saturday. I simply tell her I don't want to miss anything.
No one outside of Oklahoma seems to be giving the Sooners much of a chance of winning this one. Highly-paid analysts are paid to, well, analyze but I refuse to agree with their logic. Sometimes logic just doesn't work when such strong emotions are factored into the equation. "Emotion" is a reoccurring theme of my thoughts of this game and this series.
This football game is about the players on the field and the emotions they can manifest over four quarters of play. I believe in my heart that the Oklahoma Sooners are hungry to play a great game in all phases of this contest and to do it for the entire 60 minutes. That's my story and, yes, I shall stick to it.
Football-wise this game may simply come down to who controls the line of scrimmage, as has been said this week by many. Texas has an outstanding offensive line that averages 315 pounds across the board, and at times OU's D-Line has had issues stopping the run right up the gut.
Texas will go there early and often to see if the Sooners can stop the Longhorns' basic offensive running plays. If we stop UT from running between the tackles, we take a giant step to winning the ball game. Our rotating defensive tackles must play with emotion and the toughness of a $2 steak. I believe they will.
Running back Jamaal Charles and his back up, Selvin Young, are both averaging over six yards a carry and each has breakaway speed. Sure, tackling against Texas is a MUST for OU. We can't tackle well in alternate quarters as we have to tackle well the entire ball game. All-American offensive tackle Justin Blalock, a sure-fire first round draft pick in the 2007 NFL draft, will try to manhandle C.J. Ah You. If Blalock does and OU's defensive ends don't have a great afternoon, the "Eyes of Texas" or whatever it is they play will be heard more than we want.
OU's defensive front has to play with pure passion and forget that they are outsized. The intangible called "emotion" comes in to play here again.
Texas will test our cornerbacks no matter who plays. D.J. Wolfe, Lendy Holmes, and Marcus Walker will all get their manhood tested by some excellent receivers — namely Limas Sweed and Billy Pittman. Sweed is UT's Malcolm Kelly at 6'5", 220 pounds. Reggie Smith, although not 100 percent in practice this week, will be ready on Saturday as we need our secondary to have the best game, as a unit, in their careers in the Cotton Bowl.
If not, Texas is not above exploiting any weakness, who can blame them, and putting as many points on the board as possible. The challenge is there for all to see. The OU defense must play under control, not allow the big play, and come with "passion" on every single down. We all saw flashes of this defensive potential at times at Oregon. Other teams have had success throwing on OU at times and Texas will be no different in their game planning.
Can the Sooner defensive ends and linebackers make the Steers' QB Colt McCoy uncomfortable? This is McCoy's first OU-Texas game just two years removed from playing high school football. No matter what any one says about the coolness of this talented young man, he is human and he will be nervous Saturday, especially early. If the Sooners can get in McCoy's head and face early, that will help our cause greatly.
Texas' defense has 17 sacks this season. OU has one senior in the starting offensive line. You do the math. The analysts say OU can't block Texas' defensive front and linebackers. How can the Lee Corso's of the world be sure? I know OU's offensive line vs. Texas' defensive line is another key to the game.
Protecting Paul Thompson so he can stretch the defense with the deep ball and make UT pay for having 8-9 men in the box and to block for AD, are huge elements to the Sooners success. After watching OU practice, there is not a single offensive linemen, or anyone else for that matter, afraid or intimidated about going to Dallas this weekend. They know it will be a fist fight and all seem to be ready to "knuckle up".
This will be Adrian Peterson's last OU-Texas game. That's really no revelation. AD will have the chance to make too much money in the 2007 NFL draft to not declare for it. Can you blame him? If he were my son I would encourage it. So with that said, this is it for No. 28 against the OU's biggest football rival.
I look for something special from Peterson on Saturday, even though it may not come until the second half. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a big money game for AD as it relates to our team winning a championship this year, Adrian winning the Heisman and the added motivation that AD's Dad will be waiting on him in Oklahoma City when the team returns from Big D.
I look for the 101st edition of the Red River Rivalry to be low-scoring. I think three scores can win this game. As I have said before, don't discount the importance of the special teams in this game. We must cover punts and kickoffs like crazy people. Plus, Garrett Hartley is due to win a HUGE game with his leg.
That all may sound "old school" but in blood games such as this Slobber-Knocker, the little things are what gets it done. No turnovers, no silly penalties, and not allowing the clock to become our enemy are imperative.
So let's not concede a damn thing. Let's support this team with the passion and emotion that we want them to play with this Saturday. This is THE weekend in college football, as far as we Sooner fans are concerned, and this could well be for the Big 12 South Championship when it is all said and done.
Editor's note: Check out www.jrsbarbq.com for all of J.R.'s delicious sauces and Sooner Slobber-Knocker merchandise.
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