Texas, Oklahoma have blood rivalry unlike any other in college football
Whether it’s “horns down,” Darrell Royal accusing Barry Switzer of spying or Brian Bosworth’s critique of vomit-inducing burnt orange, a rivalry that dates to 1900 has more than its share of antics and lore. And the 114th meeting Saturday — the second this season and with the Big 12 championship at stake — is well on its way to producing its own.
Dial back to Oct. 6, when No. 9 Texas beat No. 4 Oklahoma 48-45, a game that showcased two stellar performances from the opposing quarterbacks. Sam Ehlinger passed for 314 yards, ran for 72 yards and accounted for five touchdowns for the Longhorns while Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray passed for 304 yards, ran for 92 and had five total TDs.
It was their meeting on the field after the game that added a chapter to the simmering rivalry and brings a new wrinkle to the rematch. Video clips showed the two players appearing to exchange some unfriendly words, and Ehlinger patted Murray on the top of his helmet.
Oklahoma is undefeated since that game and Murray is a top Heisman Trophy contender. He is also clearly still upset about whatever was said between the two. Asked Monday if he respects Ehlinger’s game, Murray said, “I have no comment.” A few hours later, Ehlinger tweeted “Ok. Cool. Hook’em.”
Ehlinger insisted Tuesday it wasn’t a message intended for Murray. But did he tell Murray to “take your loss” after the first game?
“I don’t remember what I said,” Ehlinger said with a shrug.
As for the “no comment” from Murray, “I’d absolutely love to comment on that. I absolutely respect his game,” Ehlinger said.
Some of his Texas teammates were happy to jump in.
“I guess ol’ boy don’t like losing,” defensive end Charles Omenihu said of Murray. “But he lost, so it is what it is.”
Omenihu has taken shots at Murray before. After sacking Murray in the first meeting, Omenihu mimicked a baseball swing for a home run. Murray has already signed a professional baseball contract and he’s expected to leave football after this season to start his career with the Oakland A’s.
Omenihu tweeted a photo of the swing on Monday. “I told y’all when I swung it was 450 feet,” he said.
Texas defensive tackle Chris Nelson said packing the rivalry and the Big 12 title into one game is bound to be wild.
“It’s gonna be a dirty game. It’s gonna be a dogfight. But I love it, man,” Nelson said. “You’ll probably see hitting after the whistle. You’re probably see a lot of stuff if you keep your eyes open. But that’s what we came here for.”
So here we go.
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said he asked for some guidance from the Big 12 whether his players will be penalized if they flash the “horns down” hand signal on Saturday. The gesture drew flags for West Virginia when the Mountaineers played Texas.
“I will make sure it’s fully clear to our guys what they can and can’t do,” Riley said.
Of course, telling Oklahoma players they can’t do it in the game against Texas might be the same as asking them to play while handcuffed. The Big 12 on Wednesday reiterated its position that unsportsmanlike conduct calls are made at the discretion of game officials.
The animosity goes back generations.
Royal was a Sooners player in 1947 when the Longhorns won the Red River Showdown 34-14, the last year in an eight-year Texas winning streak. Sooners fans were so incensed by the officiating they were throwing soda bottles and seat cushions on the field. A car was brought on the field to get the officials safely out of the stadium.
The series was never hotter than the dust-up between Royal and Switzer in ’76.
Royal was winding down a national-championship coaching career at Texas and his on-field success was waning while the Sooners were on a tear.
Royal accused Switzer of sending spies to scout the Longhorns, and challenged Switzer, his assistant coach and the alleged spy to take a polygraph test with a $10,000 reward if they could pass it. Royal also referred to the Sooners as “sorry bastards.” That prompted Oklahoma fans to chant the slogan outside Royal’s Dallas hotel and during the game, which ended in a tie.
President Gerald Ford was at the game for the coin toss but even he couldn’t get the coaches to speak to each other before the game.
Things were still going strong in the 80s when Bosworth came on the scene. He was a freshman who hadn’t even played Texas yet when he unleashed on the Longhorns before the 1984 game: “I hate Texas, I hate (Texas coach) Freddie Akers and I hate that burnt orange color. It reminds me of people’s vomit.”
The Longhorns and Sooners played to a 15-15 tie that left everyone mad.
Two weeks ago, the Big 12 reprimanded Texas senior defensive end Breckyn Hager and made him apologize for disparaging the Sooners with a popular Texas chant in postgame interviews after the Longhorns beat Iowa State for sole position of second place in the conference standings. Hager, whose father also played at Texas, had to swallow his burnt-orange pride.
“I had no ill intentions when I made my comments about Oklahoma, which included a phrase that’s used by fans, but I have to realize that it’s different coming from me.,” Hager wrote. “My thought process was that it would put a fun and light-hearted charge into the greatest rivalry in college football that my family has been involved in playing for many years, but I can see now that was not the way to do it.”
Just the sort of statement that might make Bosworth vomit.
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