Images of BYU running up and down the Texas defense are still fresh in everybody’s minds. Watching Ole Miss celebrate on Texas’ home field is still crystal clear.
The 2013 season hasn’t been perfect for Texas. Injuries have hurt, especially at quarterback with David Ash. Coaching changes were deemed necessary with Greg Robinson being named the defensive coordinator following the loss to the Cougars.
The Longhorns aren’t clicking on all cylinders, but make no mistake about it, the rivalry is still there. It’s not just another conference game. It’s the Red River Rivalry.
“This is always a big game,” wide receivers coach Jay Norvell said. “It is the University of Texas, and we are the University of Oklahoma so this game is always big and this year will be no different. Regardless of the records, this will be a hard-fought game.”
A game that not every OU player knew about growing up. Players born and bred in Oklahoma and Texas know all about it. They know the history. They know what it means.
But if you’re from Florida like Eric Striker or from Missouri like wide receiver Durron Neal, the impact might not resonate as much.
At least until you step onto the field.
“Yes, I have gotten into this game,” Neal said. “The atmosphere is just amazing and coming from Missouri where football isn’t as big, coming to a school like this and seeing how Texas football and Oklahoma football is big. I am ready to walk into that stadium.”
Striker didn’t grow up around the rivalry, but he didn’t grow up around any rivalry. Despite being in Florida, games between Florida, Florida State and Miami (Fla.) really didn’t mean that much to him.
He wasn’t even a big college football fan until he started to get into the recruiting process. He got a taste of it last year and now he wants some more.
“I just think of a bunch of guys out there running around trying to kill each other, having fun,” Striker said. “The tradition is great, too. It was everything I thought it would be last year. It’s very exciting and everyone is jumping around.”
Records often don’t matter in games like this. The 2011 edition was built up as another epic showdown between the schools when the OU defense lit up Texas en route to a 55-17 shellacking.
But every now and then the records do reflect what’s going to be seen on the field. Coming into the 2005 game, Texas was a heavy favorite, led by quarterback Vince Young. The Sooners had no answer in a 45-12 loss, the worst margin of defeat for the Sooners in the series.
OU has made a history of taking kids from Texas and making them stars. Names like defensive tackle Tommie Harris, running back Adrian Peterson and defensive back Derrick Strait always come to mind.
Another one to add to that list is redshirt freshman Zack Sanchez, from Keller, Texas. Growing up in Texas didn’t guarantee loving the Longhorns.
“Growing up I never was a Texas fan anyway, and Frank Shannon and Corey Nelson will probably tell the same thing,” Sanchez said. “But it’s great playing in the heart of the city. I never liked orange anyway.”
Offensive guard Adam Shead has vivid memories of the rivalry. From nearby Cedar Hill, Texas, he knows you’re either crimson and cream or you’re burnt orange.
“It was always big,” Shead said. “I remember this weekend and being a student from that area. I remember people would always talk about how “I got Oklahoma” or “I got Texas.”
“It was a big deal and I always remember that. I didn’t really understand it more until I got into middle school and started getting into football, but I always knew about it growing up.”
Familiar with the rivalry or just now getting acquainted with the insanity that comes with it, doesn’t matter at this point. The OU players have a chance to make their own memories Saturday.