Oklahoma vs. Texas is one of the greatest spectacles in college football. Since 1929, the rivalry has been played every year in Dallas, halfway between Norman and Austin, and at the Cotton Bowl Stadium, smack dab in the middle of the State Fair of Texas.
Last year’s matchup was weird in a strange year. The Coronavirus disease spread throughout the world, forcing a change in lifestyles, including the sports world. In March, all sports were canceled or postponed. College football was included as spring practices were shut down. No one was certain that college football would even resume in the fall of 2020.
By summer, colleges decided to go ahead with an altered schedule—the Big 12, SEC, and ACC conferences gave the green light on a modified 10-game season. The Big Ten was late to the foray with an eight-game schedule, and the Pac-12 was limited to six or seven games.
Oklahoma limited its home game capacity to 25 percent; Texas around 20 percent. The Red River Showdown was still played on the second Saturday in October last year, but at a capacity of 25 percent, and no marching bands allowed. Just a video of the Pride of Oklahoma and the Showband of the Southwest on the jumbotron.
The State Fair of Texas, which annually witnesses a sea of crimson and burnt orange, resembled a ghost town. Fair officials announced in July that the fair would be canceled due to Covid-19. Exhibit buildings were shuttered. No carnies barking at you to play their games. No shrieks from the thrill of rides. A few concessions were open for game attendees—including the famous Fletcher’s Corny Dogs. And, of course, fair officials erected Big Tex. The 55-foot-tall mannequin was donned with a mask covering his mug, promoting Coronavirus safety.
While the fair lacked excitement, the game packed a punch of energy never before seen in its history—four overtimes in four hours and 43 minutes—the longest game in OU and UT history.
Both teams battled to a 31-31 tie in regulation. Texas scored a touchdown in the first overtime when quarterback Sam Ehlinger carried across the goal line for the TD. Texas 38-31.
Oklahoma answered with an 11-yard pass from Spencer Rattler to Austin Stogner to notch the game at 38-all.
The Sooners got the first crack in the second OT, and Rattler scored on a one-yard run. OU, 45-38. The Longhorns responded when Ehlinger scored on a 25-yard run. The game was tied again, 45-45.
Then, the third overtime got weird. Oklahoma forced the Steers to a field goal, but OU noseguard Perion Winfrey blocked Cameron Dicker’s 33-yard attempt. A field goal or touchdown would win it for Oklahoma. The Sooners got into position for a field goal at the 14-yard line, and although it was only second down, Lincoln Riley ordered a field goal to end the game there. Gabe Brkic’s 31-yard try sailed left of the uprights.
The Sooners got the first possession in the next overtime. Rattler hurled a 25-yard scoring strike to Drake Stoops for the lead, and Rattler then connected with a two-point pass to Theo Wease for a 53-45 lead.
Texas’ turn to respond. OU cornerback Tre Brown intercepted Ehlinger’s pass in the end zone to end the greatest rivalry with a terrific result for Sooner fans.
While everything will be back to normal in 2021: The Texas State Fair is currently in full operation, and the game is expected to be at full capacity this Saturday, my 51st Red River rivalry will be buzzing again this weekend with College GameDay also in town.
But as I get set to walk into the Cotton Bowl this weekend, the normalcy of it all will feel weird, given the state of last year’s match up. But heck, if we get a game like 2020, that I sure wouldn’t mind.