Red River Rivalry History

The year was 1900, and both Texas and Oklahoma were set to meet for what would end up being one of the best and significant rivalries in the history of sports. The game of football was in a transition, and a far cry from what it's like today.

Rules stated that players were allowed to hold and trip on offense. Plus, the forward pass was not part of the game at the time. In the late 19th Century and into the early 20th Century, football was a very violent game as it saw the death of quite a few players. The game was played mostly under rugby-type rules in the early years that was brought over by the English in the mid-19th Century. In response to the series of deaths on the field in 1906, then-U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt threatened to ban the sport if something wasn't done to stop it. The response to the actions of Roosevelt prompted college football to form what would later become known as the National Collegiate Athletic Association. They immediately governed rules that allowed the forward pass to be part of the game, as well as eliminating "momentum plays" that caused most of the deaths on the field. One of the plays called the "Flying Wedge" had been the play that caused most of the deaths on the field. Also, Oklahoma was not officially a U.S. state during this time, and wouldn't become one until seven years later.

Texas won the first meeting between the two schools in 1900 at Austin, 28-2, while Oklahoma was still a territory. Oklahoma players caught a train ride to Austin, and arrived just a few hours before the first game was played. Texas dominated the series in the early going as they won eight of the first ten games. The two teams played each other twice in the same season in 1901 and 1903. It was during that 1901 season that Oklahoma played Texas in the middle of a ten day gauntlet that saw the Sooners(then known as the Boomers but briefly called the Rough Riders after Teddy Roosevelt's heroes in the Spanish-American War) play four teams in that span.

They played each other at their respective home fields during this period of time. In the second game in 1903 at Norman, Texas halfback Don "Mogul" Robinson recovered a ball that was far beyond the goal-line for a touchdown as Texas won the game, 11-5. It should be noted that in those days that there was no end zone in place at games.

In 1905, Oklahoma brought in Bennie Owen to coach the football team and later the basketball team. It was also in 1905 that the teams played in Oklahoma City as it marked the first time they played a game other than at their home field. It was during that game in 1905 that saw the first controversial finish between the two schools. With a minute left in the game, Texas halfback Mogul Robinson took the ball on a running play and thought the play was over when he was stopped. But, according to legend, Oklahoma's Bob Severin picked up Robinson, when he offered little resistance, and carried him across the goal-line for a safety. Fans swarmed the field, and the game did not resume with Oklahoma winning for the first time against Texas, 2-0.

The game in 1907 saw the Longhorns win 29-10 in Austin. Future Olympic sprinter Fred Ramsdell scored on a 55-yard TD run, and QB Bill Krahl threw for two TD's in the win for Texas. Oklahoma got major revenge the next year as they beat Texas in what was the largest margin of victory for the Sooners over Texas in the series winning, 50-0, until 2003. Texas then returned the favor the next year with a shutout of their own against Oklahoma winning, 30-0. None of the two teams won more than three games in a row against one another until 1929 when Texas won their fourth straight against Oklahoma in 1929.

In 1911, both teams played in Dallas for the first time as the Sooners won, 6-3. Coincidentally, Dallas was the site for the first game that Texas ever played as they beat a rough bunch called the Dallas Football Club in 1893 by the score of 18-16. The next year in 1912, Oklahoma was back to being a Division 1-A school, and has been one ever since. Also, both Texas and Oklahoma were independent schools with no conference ties to anyone at the time. In 1913, they played in Houston, Texas as the Longhorns won, 14-6.

Both teams joined six other schools(Arkansas, Baylor, Oklahoma A&M, Rice, Southwestern, Texas A&M) as charter members in the newly formed Southwest Conference in 1914. This was their first conference game against one another in Dallas at Gaston Field because the State Fair Grounds was used strictly for horse racing at the time. Quarterbacks Clyde Littlefield of Texas and Forrest "Spot" Geyer of Oklahoma were set to face off in what was supposed to be a solid game. However, Geyer was injured during the game as Littlefield threw three touchdowns of 51, 33, and 30 yards respectively in a 32-7 win for Texas. It was only two years earlier that rules restricted teams from throwing 20 yards or more on a play.

In 1915, the two quarterbacks faced each other again with the Sooners getting the better end of it this time winning, 14-13. Texas head coach Dave Allerdice called the game the most thrilling exhibition of passing ever seen in the West at the time. This was one of the first games in football, both college and pro, that saw two teams facing each other relying heavily on a passing attack. This game also set a then-Texas state record for attendance at a sporting event after 11,000 fans watched the game.

The two teams split the games in 1916-17, but they did not play in 1918 because of an influenza epidemic that was wide-spread in that area of the country. The 1919 game, in Dallas, saw the two teams meet each other for what turned out to be the last time in conference play until 1996 as Texas won, 12-7. The next year, Oklahoma joined the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association that would later become known as the Big Six in 1928. The two teams played a home-and-home series in 1922-23 with Texas winning on both occasions after not playing each other in 1920-21. They did not play between 1924-28 either because the MVIAA prohibited teams within the conference of playing on neutral ground.

After the 1928 season, the MVIAA became the Big Six, and they changed the rule to allow the conference to play games on neutral ground. Realizing that a game between the two at the State Fair Grounds in Dallas was huge, both Sooners athletic director Bennie Owen and Longhorns athletic director Theo Bellmont agreed to resume the rivalry. So they met each other again in 1929 at the Fair Grounds in Dallas that would later be known as the Cotton Bowl in 1938. The game was a financial success as 18,000 fans saw Texas beat Oklahoma, 21-0, after scoring all of their points in the second half of the game. They have played each other in Dallas every year since despite the fact they would not play in the same conference until 1996. During the 1930's, the midwest was hit hard with a severe drought and caused that area of the country to lose over a million in population at the time. This significantly effected both programs, and more specifically Oklahoma. Oklahoma was a tough place to live because of the lack of labor and the drought that had forced many to flee their homes for the West Coast as they had their homes forclosed on. Texas won the majority of the games during this period of time.

Texas took a commanding lead in the all-time series through 1947 with a 29-11-2 mark against Oklahoma. That 1947 game was a significant one and also had some controversy. This was the first year for legendary Sooners coach Bud Wilkinson as he faced off against Blair Cherry's Longhorns team. Time had run out at the end of the first half, and Texas was one yard short of a touchdown. But, a ruling on the field that a timeout was called by referee Jack Sisco gave the Longhorns one more play. Texas legendary quarterback and future NFL Hall of Famer, Bobby Layne, lateralled to Dall Clay, who ran the ball in for a touchdown on that next play. Wilkinson charged on the field to say that Layne's knee was down, and that they should not have gotten another play. Wilkinson's protest led to a third quarter penalty for the Sooners, and another Longhorns touchdown. Texas won, 34-14. The starting running back for Oklahoma was future Texas coaching legend Darrell Royal, who was in the center of the field after the game that saw bottles and other objects being thrown onto the field, and in particular at some of the officials. Royal was mentored by Wilkinson, and the two would meet on the field in the near future. The rivalry between the two was getting very heated and emotional after this contest.

The Sooners won nine of the next ten in the series as Bud Wilkinson had transformed the Sooners squad into a powerhouse that saw them win three national championships, and have a record-breaking 47-game win streak between 1953-57. Wilkinson would step down as coach after the 1963 season after establishing many Sooner coaching records. Texas hired Darrell Royal to become their head coach in 1956, and the Longhorns would start to control the series again. Starting in 1958, Texas won eight straight against Oklahoma as Royal had completely turned around a Longhorns team that won only one game in 1955. Royal had built a powerhouse in his own right as Texas won three national championships in his tenure with one of those in 1970 being shared with Nebraska. Royal retired from coaching in 1976, but stayed on to be the athletic director until 1980. He is given most credit to the innovation of the wishbone formation that Oklahoma would later use against them.

Oklahoma would bounce back after they had academic probation that resulted in a two year probation at the time in 1973-74 when ineligible players were used in games in 1972. In 1973, Barry Switzer came aboard for Oklahoma after being the offensive coordinator under Chuck Fairbanks. It didn't take long for Switzer to bring Oklahoma back to a powerhouse as the Sooners won two championships in his first three years at the helm. Oklahoma also started to take back control of the series against Texas. Oklahoma won five straight between 1971-75 against the Longhorns. Fred Akers took over for Texas in 1977 and the Longhorns, on the heels of Heisman trophy winning running back Earl Campbell, began to take over the series again. Akers would end up going 5-4-1 against Oklahoma in his career, but was let go as Longhorns coach after the 1986 season. He received alot of criticism for not living up to the standards set by Royal.

Oklahoma would win another national championship in 1985, and four straight games against Texas between 1985-88. After the Sooners were put on probation for the program getting out of control in 1988, the Longhorns under coach David McWilliams, beat the Sooners every year from 1989-92. McWilliams had three losing seasons in five years between 1987-91, and was let go in favor of John Mackovic. Meanwhile, the Sooners program was falling off at a rapid rate after they were put on probation.

Switzer had stepped down as Gary Gibbs took over the team in 1989. Gibbs did have a 44-23-2 in his time as coach, but could not keep the same standards as Switzer. The 1994 game between the two schools saw a dramatic finish. Sooners running back James Allen had been stopped short of a game-tying touchdown as Texas noseguard Stonie Clark stuffed him a yard short in the closing minute as Texas won, 17-10. In 1995, Oklahoma hired Howard Schnellenberger and that was thought to be a move in the right direction for the team. The game that year in 1995 ended in a tie between the two schools as Texas looked like they would turn the corner on their program as they finished 10-2-1 on the season. The rivalry began to suffer a bit because the Sooners program was in bad shape, and Texas would fall back as well.

After the 1995-96 academic year, the Southwest Conference folded as Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor joined the Big Eight and became the Big 12. So the 1996 game marked the first time since 1919 that both teams played each other within the conference. It was a great matchup as the Sooners beat the Longhorns in a close game, 30-27. Oklahoma had John Blake as their coach, and the Longhorns would win the next year, 27-24. Both teams had bad years in 1996-97, but Texas would rebound very quickly as they hired North Carolina head coach, Mack Brown, in 1998. Brown brought Texas back, and his team dominated the Sooners in the 1998 meeting, 34-3. Oklahoma had three straight losing seasons for the first time since the 1920's, and also had their worst season in the program's history in 1997 going 4-8. So the Sooners made a coaching change by hiring Bob Stoops to run the team in 1999. The Sooners started to turn the corner in 1999, and were winning the game in the third quarter against Texas in the 1999 Red River Shootout. But the Longhorns came back after holding Oklahoma scoreless in the fourth quarter to win, 38-28.

Both teams were ranked in the preseason polls for the first time since 1993 when they met in 2000. In what was expected to be a great test for Oklahoma against a Texas team thought to challenge for the National Championship turned out to be a blowout. Oklahoma took advantage of mistakes by Texas and pounded the Longhorns on the heels of six touchdowns by Sooners running back, Quentin Griffin, as they won by the score of 63-14. Oklahoma then beat two more Top 10 teams in route to their first National Title since 1985 after beating Florida State in the Orange Bowl, 13-2. Oklahoma would beat Texas in five straight contests, including the largest margin of victory between the schools in 2003 when the Sooners beat the Longhorns, 65-13. Texas, led by quarterback Vince Young, would rebound in 2005 by blowing out Oklahoma, 45-12. They went on to beat USC in the Rose Bowl for the National Title, 41-38, in what many call the greatest college football game ever.

The Longhorns forced five turnovers in their 2006 meeting as Texas won 28-10 behind quarterback Colt McCoy. The Sooners got revenge last year as first-year starting quarterback Sam Bradford led them to 28-21 win. Cornerback Reggie Smith intercepted a late pass from McCoy to secure the win for the Sooners.

So what started out as a down to the wire train ride for Oklahoma to play Texas in their intial meeting in 1900, turned out to be one of the best rivalries not only in college football, but all of sports. The Texas State Fair and the Red River Shootout remains synonymous in college football. From the legendary players and coaches that have gone against one another throughout their history, this heated but notable rivalry has transcended the game of college football. The rivalry is bitter with emotion that also stems from past border disputes and economic differences. The Red River Shootout in Dallas along with Texas joining the Big 12 Conference has further ignited this rivalry to epic proportions. The game has seen lopsided contests in recent memory, but the two schools and their fans wait in anticipation every year as both crimson and orange brighten up the Cotton Bowl in Dallas every October. Stars are born and dreams are fulfilled or shattered every year as pride between the two schools maybe unmatched by all other rivalries. This is what they play for every October.

Facts and numbers:
-Texas leads the all-time series, 57-40-5.

-Texas leads the all-time series in Dallas, 45-36-4.

-The largest margin of victory for Oklahoma is 52 points in 2003(65-13). The largest margin of victory for Texas is 33 points in 1941(40-7) and 2005(45-12).

-There are three trophies presented based on the outcome of the game. The first was called a "Golden Hat" which is made gold, ten gallon hat that was formerly made of bronze. The winner kept that trophy until the following year. A newer trophy called the Red River Rivalry trophy has been exchanged between the schools since 2003. A Governor's trophy is also used as the governers place a bet on the game with the loser having to present a side of beef to the winning governor, who then donates the beef to charity.

-The average score in all games between the two schools are Texas 16, Oklahoma 16.

-The schools combine for six Heisman trophies(Oklahoma 4, Texas 2):
Oklahoma: RB Billy Vessels, 1952; RB Steve Owens, 1969; RB Billy Sims, 1978; QB Jason White, 2003
Texas: RB Earl Campbell, 1977; RB Ricky Williams, 1998

-Until 2005, it was officially labelled as the SBC Red River Rivalry under the sponsorship of SBC Communications. It is now called the AT&T Red River Rivalry.

-In the last 60 of 65 contests between the two schools, at least one of the teams was ranked going into those games.

-The name of the rivalry gets its name from the Red River, which forms part of a boundary between the two states.

My favorite memories as a Sooners fan in this rivalry happened in 2000 and 2001. In 2000, the win for the Sooners marked the ending of the misfortunes from years earlier as they put themselves back on the national title scene. In 2001, Roy Williams' famous "Superman" play causing Chris Simms' pass to be intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Teddy Lehman at the goal-line was perhaps my favorite play of all-time.

Also, my brother's birthday is today, and we're going to watch the game at local bar on Saturday. His birthday wish is simple: Beat Texas! Check his College Football blog out because he should have a detailed preview of the game by tomorrow. If you get a message that says his blog is violating the policy terms, then just click proceed to get to his page because there's an issue with it right now. In the meantime, my buddy Tim at Broken Facemask has previews for the slate of games this week including the Red River Rivalry game. Give it a look if you haven't done so yet.

For those wondering, the game time Saturday for this historic rivalry is 12pm est/9am pst. So for all Sooners and Longhorns fans as well as fans of college football, what's your favorite memory in this rivalry? Yes, Longhorns can reply here with their thoughts. But please keep it civil, and that goes for Sooners fans, too.

If this entry doesn't satisfy you enough, then there's a full Blog Roll of sites for you to read to the right of this page! They'll appreciate you stopping by!

Photo courtesy of AT&T and shows the logo used in the 2007 matchup.



CK0712 said...

that's an awesome write up david on the rivalry! i am printing it now for a buddy of mine ;0
thanks again for blogging it & for always giving me my history lesson!

David Funk said...

Cindy- No problem girl. I'm glad to hear that you're printing this off. Thanks Cindy!