Corn dogs, beer, and bubble gum sizzle as they fry in filthy greasers under white tents. “Texas!” one fan, wearing short khaki shorts, a burnt-orange oxford and a visor exclaimed. Other Longhorn faithful met his cry by screaming “fight” while the less classy fans, wearing crimson red, screamed, “Sucks!” to answer him.
I was sweating through my own burnt-orange button down as my father and I walked through the State Fair of Texas towards the Cotton Bowl. The more Oklahoma fans we saw, the more and more my typically mature father devolved into a child, aiding lost Sooners with false directions and muttering curse words under his breath at them.
His childishness let me know it was truly time for the Red River Shootout (my first one, as it happened). I felt a certain buzz in the air—an upset? Possibly. In all honesty, I simply wanted a competitive game.
We had good seats, about ten or so rows back on the 50-yard line. As my dad said, “You don’t even have to move to punch an Oklahoma fan.” He was right.
A few rows in front of me sat some of the Texas recruits: Johnathan Gray (RB, Aledo HS), Cayleb Jones (WR, Austin HS), Malcom Brown (DL, Brenham HS) and their families. To the left of me, on the Oklahoma side, sat a few alums and then about eight rows of Oklahoma fraternity members. Not surprisingly, they were the loudest.
I was ready to experience something I hadn’t experienced live—one of the biggest rivalries in college football—and the pageantry leading up to the event had me pumped. Then, the game kicked off.
55-17. A route. I stayed for every grueling minute of it—even after the third defensive touchdown Oklahoma scored, even after we got stopped on fourth down, in the fourth quarter, down by 31. My father and I watched in horror as our up-and-coming team, loaded with “young talent,” was beaten as thoroughly as I’ve ever seen one of our teams get beat (thankfully, I missed the beat-downs of the early 2000s).
After the Sooners followed up Fozzy Whittaker’s 100-yard kickoff-return TD with their own short scoring drive, leaving about 0:30 left in the first half, the game became a blur to me—a series of players in white jerseys with red helmets flying down the sideline with the football while the group of people to my left exploded into chants of “Texas sucks” and high-fived each other.
The game clock finally hit zero. I stood despondently in my nacho-stained khakis as I halfheartedly mumbled the lyrics to “The Eyes of Texas” and prayed to God that I’d never have to endure a thrashing like this again.
As a sportswriter, I should break down the game with statistical analysis, but unfortunately, I don’t think that a malaise as depressing as mine can be explained in yards-per-carry comparisons and turnover margins.
The sad truth is that we just don’t have it this year. Our offensive line is severely lacking in talent, depth and overall ability, meaning our offense can’t function. Our defense, because of our offense’s ineptitude, has to stay on the field for long periods of time, and tires out as a result.
According to all the recruiting websites, our team has lots of potential. But as Darrell K. Royal used to say, “Potential just means you haven’t done anything yet.” So let’s turn young talent into big wins and respectable losses.