On the way to the game, we passed a Raising Cain's Chicken Fingers franchise on University Avenue which had the following on the store sign: "WE'RE OPEN ‘TILL 2 AM THIS MORNING." That information came about sixteen hours too late, as it turns out, much like OU's offense during the game.
But I digress. The animosity started early on the clear, spookily windless, unseasonably warm Lubbock night. The Tech student body, sensing chaos in the air (or perhaps driven nuts from the smell of Dirt Burglar sweat) classlessly performed their stadium yell during OU's alma mater, a favor OU returned to the best of their ability with their little pep band, which has to be one of the worst ideas of all time. There weren't enough marching Sooners to raise a ruckus or perform a halftime show, but that damn song of theirs can still be extremely annoying, even at very low volumes, much like the "Head On: Apply directly to the forehead!" television ads.
Then I had to deal with the failed science experiments sitting around us. On my right was Happy, the Red Raider Eeyore, a clinically depressed jackass so nihilistic, cynical, critical, and ignorant he could make the most unreasonable Hater on the Inside Texas message boards look like the sunny, bubbly little girl lead in a Shirley Temple movie. My buddy Bill warned me about this guy before the game, and suddenly my "free" ticket came with a price: I was expected to run interference for Bill and his family, sitting strategically between them and Happy's cursing, completely unsolicited, made-to-no-one-in-particular, inane comments.
Just behind me were the ignorant, cursing female OU students who kept asking asinine questions all night like "Why don't they show the play that's being reviewed on the stadium video screen?" Oh, I don't know, perhaps Big XII rules? Why does it not surprise me that the Sooner student body is completely bereft of such information? In the fourth quarter, one of these Mother Teresas wished out loud on a punt return that a Tech player would "get a concussion." The same play, #80 on OU's put team was escorted off the field with what looked like a bad knee injury. I guess karma can be a bitch, you hateful Okie bitches.
Things started out poorly for the Red Raiders. On their first possession, Danny Amendola, Tech's senior receiver, zigged when he should have zagged, and OU intercepted and returned the turnover for a pick six. Tech has been known to crater under the weight of early turnovers (last year's Tech/Mizzou game in Lubbock), but kept their heads up and kept dinking and dunking, using so little time off the clock that Tech eventually had five offensive possessions in the first quarter alone.
OU rapidly returned the favor of Harrell's early interception, fumbling on their first play from scrimmage. Things improved significantly for the Raiders after starting OU QB Sam Bradford was concussed trying to tackle the guy who recovered the fumble for Tech. Bradford's backup, Halzle, missed high and to the right on a significant number of his throws, limiting the Sooner's passing attack. Tech's defense rose to the opportunity, playing a surprisingly strong three and one-half quarters of football.
Happy Eeyore, when he wasn't sitting with his head in his hands like an indicted Enron executive, kept yelling for Tech to try some "trick plays," which is like asking for a ride with fast, moving parts and lots of lights and noise at the carnival – they're pretty much all that way. In the second quarter, Tech faced a third and long in Sooner territory, and Happy muttered, "Well, let's just run it up the middle and get it over with so we can kick another field goal." Literally seconds after Happy's whine, Harrell hit Tech's amazing freshman Michael Crabtree for a TD on the arching, back-corner-of-the-end-zone catch shown prominently on ESPN's highlight reel. The irony was lost on Happy; I haven't seen someone so consistently wrong about so many things since the last Rudy Guliani speech.
I know some of you think I'm exaggerating Happy for dramatic purposes, but geez-Louise, I can't make this stuff up. You know the Big XII good sportsmanship ad, the one where the old man is trimming his hedges? Somebody drives by off-camera, insulting the old man's gardening skills, and the voice says, "You don't do it real life. Why do it in the stadium? Let's be good sports!" (or something to that effect). Happy was the only person I ever heard who actually BOOED that ad, laughing disdainfully, "That's bullshit!"
Happy's giving me absolute gold for my rant, so I'm madly scribbling all this down on a folded paper I customarily take to games for just such a purpose. After a while, Happy sensed I was writing shortly after he berated, so he asked me, "What, do you write for a newspaper or something?"
"I write a weekly sports column for an internet site."
I thought Happy's articulate response was the end of spreading his misery, then OU started moving the ball late in the fourth quarter. After one of OU's big, strong, physical receivers scored on a deep go route, Happy blurted to no one in particular that Tech had no defense and needed a new defensive coordinator. Considering Tech's defense had played an amazing game up to that point, I just nodded. Then Happy sternly told me, "You can put THAT in your newspaper!"
"What I'll write," I said, biting my tongue, silently wondering if Clendon Ross would let me use the word "douche-bag" in a rant, if it was one word or hyphenated, and what my computer's spellchecker would do with the word if allowed, "is that Tech kept OU's offense out of the end zone until eight minutes left in the game."
Like OU's botched fake punt, the whole game had the air of a slapstick comedy. Tech hung on to win the game, significantly improving my beloved, mighty, fighting Texas Longhorns' BCS chances. Happy informed me this was "the worst game I have ever seen." I puzzled how an underdog beating the #4 team in the country on nationwide television was terrible, then Happy anticipated my question, noting "We should have put this game away! Tech should have won by three touchdowns!"
I swear, can't make this stuff up.
But I most certainly can write it down.
Jeff Conner's political and pop culture-infused Longhorn commentary appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at InsideTexas.com.