Experiencing OU-Texas for the First Time

Sure it's history by almost a week and time to think about Missouri, but it's never too old to talk OU-Texas, especially when the Sooners add the 'Horns to their victims list. In this column, Sooners Illustrated's Michael Swisher talks about his first trip to the Cotton Bowl.

I've been on this planet for more than three decades now and have bled the Sooner crimson every year of my life.

And during that time, I've witnessed a lot of great Sooner moments in the Red River Rivalry.

I watched Patrick Collins take the pitch from Troy Aikman in 1985 and scoot 45 yards for a memorable touchdown.

I remember Jarrail Jackson's punt return for a TD in 1996 when OU beat the Horns in overtime.

And who will ever forget the five consecutive years of glory at the turn of the millennium?

Take your pick: Q's six touchdowns, Superman "The Real" Roy Williams, Q's 248 yards, Jason White's four TD passes or OU shutting out Vince Young.

I saw it all…on TV.

I know what you're thinking. How can I claim to be a true Sooner for more than 30 years and never have gone to this classic?

Well, I've got my reasons. When I was younger, let's just say it wasn't economically feasible for the family.

Then, in the teen years and early 20s, yours truly lived in Alabama.

When I migrated back to the Sooner State, the game conflicted with my paycheck.

In other words, it was either work that weekend covering the small school state baseball tournaments or take advantage of numerous opportunities to go to the game and lose my job.

I went with fiscal responsibility though my heart did its best to tell me to do otherwise.

All that changed this year.

Yours truly was hired around a month ago to serve as the new recruiting expert (I always use that term loosely) and basketball beat writer for Sooners Illustrated.

As many of you know, a football beat writer has yet to be hired.

That prompted the reception of this email about three weeks ago:

"Would you be interested in going down to cover the OU-Texas game?"

My initial response can't be printed, but it was something along the lines of, "Not yes, but hell yes."

So the gears were set in motion and soon I received the approval of my credential request, complete with a parking pass (yes, I'm special).

Of course, nothing in my life is ever that easy.

Before taking on the Sooners Illustrated position, I'd agreed to go back to my old stomping grounds - Kingfisher – and help the town's newspaper with its football coverage.

So, instead of traveling to Dallas last Friday to take in the full OU-Texas experience, I was in Kingfisher, America, watching the Yellowjackets dismantle Blanchard, 36-0.

After writing that story and a handful of others, yours truly and his better half of a girlfriend left Kingfisher at about 2 a.m. Saturday, destined for her sister's house in Dallas, located near the I-35 and I-635 junctions.

The good news about that? Traffic and cops were non-existent.

The bad news? It's 2, 3, 4 5 and 6 in the morning and you're on the road instead of bed.

Finally I made it to Dallas and just in time to watch the sun come up before falling asleep.

Having put in a full 24 straight hours the day before, I, of course, slept through my alarm, putting me on the road to the Cotton Bowl well behind schedule.

I don't have to tell you what the traffic was like. You were there. Snails riding on the backs of turtles snickered as they passed by.

Needless to say, once I made it to my prime parking spot and walked in 90 percent humidity to the stadium, I was drenched in sweat and a quarter late.

That's right. My first OU-Texas game and I miss the first quarter.

After making it through several checkpoints, I finally make my way up to the sixth floor, which was the second level of the press box.

I look over the chart for my seat number, walk down to it only to find someone else sitting there.

I feel bad, but this is my spot. There's my name, printed in bold on a piece of paper.

Just as I'm about to say something, I notice a couple of empty chairs a few spots down. No names, no bodies.

So, instead of sitting in air-conditioned comfort at the 45 on OU's side of the field, I take at seat in air-conditioned comfort at the 50.

Perfect. The man in my seat was spared my considerable wrath.

You know the rest. It's Thursday for goodness sake and most of the Sooner Nation has its mind on Missouri and Gameday. The Texas game is all but a memory.

Computer problems (ie. The computer user) kept me from posting stories and thoughts earlier in the week. After finally figuring things out, I thought it might be too late to post something on a game that's five days old.

Well forget that. It's Texas and we won, so we're going to offer them now.

So before we put the ‘Horns completely behind us, let me offer a few observations. Try to stay awake:

1. Ryan Reynolds looked like he was 45-years-old with all his braces, bandages and limps out there trying to cover Jermichael Finley in the first half. I wondered why he was still in the game as I watched him get burned in pass coverage time after time. Then I wondered if it was really him getting burned or if he was trying to make up for someone else's mistake. Turns out, Curtis Lofton had a couple of lapses in coverage. Sorry, Ryan. Pick it up Curtis.

2. There was a play in the first half where I saw Limas Sweed grab his hand after trying to make a block. I thought maybe he jammed a finger. He never was the same after that and now we know why.

3. Phil Loadholt is big.

4. Everyone in the press box thought Curtis Lofton tackled Jamaal Charles into the end zone for a Texas TD on its opening drive of the second half. Of course that wasn't he case as Lofton forced the fumble in what Bob Stoops later called the biggest play of the game. "Shoot, I had to do something," he said on the field directly after the game, obviously referring to his first-half miscues.

5. DeMarco Murray's TD run. What can you say? It will go down with some of those moments I listed above as one of the most memorable plays for OU in this rivalry. All I know is once Murray's feet hit the ground after hurdling Joe Jon Finley, Marcus Griffin might have thought he had an angle, but in reality didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of catching Murray. Murray had a gear nobody else on the field had on that play. It reminded me of Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France. After playing possum in the mountains for a while, Armstrong passed his opponents, turned around and gave them a look that said "your pansies are about to see what a man can do" before promptly blowing them away. Murray did turn around and give a look, but his speed said enough.

6. Murray proved in this game he's more than a big-play speed demon. With Allen Patrick cramping, Murray and Chris Brown picked up some big, tough yards between the tackles. That speaks well for the future.

7. How much better is Sam Bradford now than Rhett Bomar was at this stage in his career? True, it's not fair to compare the talent the two had to work with. Bradford has so many more experienced weapons, but the kid doesn't get rattled. Forget Colorado. It was a bad game. Everyone has them. But was he rattled? I don't think so. Here's what Malcolm Kelly said: "With Sam, you've always got a chance." That's a huge statement for a junior All-American candidate to make about a redshirt freshman.

8. Why would I make the statement above? OU's game-winning 94-yard drive was all Bradford. The kid's got ice in his veins…and he's a home-grown product. How cool is that?

9. Speaking of Kelly, his 41-yard reception to set up OU's first score and his game-winning TD were the ones to make the highlights, but his behind-the-body catch he made to help OU continue to milk the clock late in the game is the reason he'll be making millions next year.

10. I'm sorry, Garrett Hartley, but you're a bit of a disappointment this year. I don't doubt he's one of the country's best kickers, but three missed extra points on the season and then missing what amounts to a chip shot for him in the waning moments of the game – which would have put all fears to rest – amount to disappointment.

11. Speaking of the waning moments. The press was released from its air-conditioned luxury to go onto the field the final few minutes. Talk about a hot box. Don't know how the fans survived it. Oh yeah, it's OU-Texas. It doesn't matter what the weather is like. I absolutely love the netting in the end zones. It's like the fans are caged animals…which is really what we are.

12. In the press conference after the game, Colt McCoy looked like a beaten man (or boy). He looked in a daze as questions were asked of Mack Brown and the other Texas players.

13. I'll give the Texas players credit for taking the loss like men. They answered every question with pretty straightforward answers. Defensive tackle Derek Lokey, without prompting, even added about OU: "They were extremely classy; they were gracious in victory."

14. Back to the press box. Catered food. Barbecue brisket, turkey and polish sausage. They also brought up corn dogs and funnel cakes from the fair. Iced down water, soft drinks and beer. WAIT! Did I just see beer in there? And it was Bud Light. Oh man did I want one, especially after losing five pounds of sweat in my humidity walk to the stadium. But was it professional? True, there were some AT&T folks on one end of the press box and the beer was probably for them, but I saw some press people drinking them too. In the end, I abstained. No need in doing something foolish my first time around, but let me guarantee you that was the hardest decision I made all day.

15. Some of the biggest names in Oklahoma's media were there: BBJ, Eschbach, Traber, Rodgers, Swisher (OK, had to slip that one in there). Anyway, most of the others were seated at the 40 or further down. Yours truly? Closer to the middle. One day on the job and already I've got all the pull I need.

My first time OU-Texas game. It will go down in Swisher history with a lot of other "firsts" in my life (shut up!).

In all – despite the overnight driving, the oversleeping, the traffic, the humidity and all the damn puke orange – it was a great experience.

It sure the hell helps that we won.

Can't wait until next year.


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