The Red River Shootout (we won’t call it the Rivalry, though we are open to the Red River Roughhousin’) occupies an interesting spot on the emotional calendar of college football. It’s not early enough to completely set the tone for either team’s season; certain goals may already be out of reach if the first month hasn’t gone well. But it’s not late enough for the stakes to be fully visible; #5 Texas beat #1 Oklahoma in 2008, but the Sooners still made the BCS Championship while the Longhorns played in the Fiesta Bowl. It’s a rivalry reminiscent of those blood pressure machines they have at the grocery store – nothing close to a full checkup, but it’ll give you some information.
Except for the 1995 edition, a deep-fried tiramisu layered with questionable decisions and inconsistent play that resulted in a 24-24 tie. Here are the four things I love most about this very silly contest:
1. HEY, IT’S 1995 HOWARD SCHNELLENBERGER
If your brain is like mine, it refuses to remember that Schnellenberger coached Oklahoma for one season. Schnellenberger already had a reputation as a program-builder, breathing life into desiccated Miami and Louisville programs. Oklahoma, on the other hand, already had six national titles, and this is what Schnellenberger said when he took the job in December 1994:
“Maybe it’s time I got on the elevator halfway up the mountain. Now I can focus in on the summit.”
The ascent proved to be a bit bumpier than that. The Sooners failed to win six games for the first time since 1965, lost to Oklahoma State for the first time since 1976, and ended the year with a 37-0 loss to Nebraska. Almost a year to the day after his hiring, Schnellenberger resigned abruptly and spent the next five years out of coaching.
But he coached this game! There are pictures and everything!
2. MUCH LIKE PAT BUCHANAN, ‘95 TEXAS BLEW AN EARLY LEAD
The Longhorns led this game 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, and while Oklahoma counterpunched a bit in the second, Texas still entered halftime ahead 24-10. As you can tell by that screenshot, they didn’t score at all in the second half, while the Sooners clawed back to tie things up.
I would submit this is the worst way to watch your team lose (or, in this case, fail to win). It is the football version of building a house on a beachside cliff and then watching the waves slowly pull at the foundation’s structural integrity.
What a lovely day we’re having here by the sea.
[LAP, LAP, LAP]
Tide’s coming in a bit, but we’ve got time to build in some extra support. No worries!
[LAP, LAP, LAP]
Say, did the contractor say creaking noises were bad or good? It was definitely one of those.
[LAP, LAP, CRASH]
3. ONCE THINGS WERE TIED, EVERYTHING GOT STUPID
Oklahoma erased the Texas lead with 6:13 left to play … in the third quarter. Here are some of the delightful events that transpired afterwards, in sequential order:
- Texas had a first down with the ball on the Oklahoma 34. That drive ended with the Longhorns punting from the Sooner 40.
- Oklahoma followed with a drive that put them on the Texas 36, facing first and ten to gain. That turned into a blocked field goal.
- Texas punted from the Oklahoma 41.
- Oklahoma punted from the Texas 49.
- Texas drove to the Oklahoma 20 and wound up going for it on fourth and short from the 11. They ran a speed option to the short side; the Sooners picked it up with enough ease to have three defenders ready to tackle Ricky Williams at the 14.
- Oklahoma’s final drive got to the Texas 25, where they also faced a fourth and short with less than a minute to play. Schnellenberger decided to attempt a field goal, which sailed wide, because Football Ra demanded that neither team leave this game with a victory.
That’s three possessions for each team, in the last 20 minutes of the game, that went into enemy territory and yielded zero points.
4. THE LAST BROADCAST SHOT OF THE ‘95 RED RIVER SHOOTOUT IS A TREASURE
John Mackovic took a Texas team that finished below .500 in three of his predecessor’s last four years and turned them into a program that won the Southwest Conference title in 1995 and upset third-ranked Nebraska in 1996 to win the first Big 12 Championship. He brought Ricky Williams to Austin, and he finished with a winning record against Oklahoma.
He also did this, after his team blew a three-touchdown lead and got shut out in the second half.
Hook ‘em indeed, Coach. Hook ‘em indeed.