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Texas-OU: THIS is What a Rivalry Looks Like

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For Texas there is only one true rival. There has only been one true rival.

NCAA Football - Oklahoma vs Texas - October 8, 2005 Photo by G. N. Lowrance/Getty Images

“The University of Texas football season begins with the Oklahoma game. All before that is so much throat-clearing.”

Dan Jenkins, Sports Illustrated.

When Bo Schembechler resigned at Michigan, ABC persuaded him to work a few football games as a color analyst. Schembechler never really warmed to the job, but he did have one request: he wanted to work a Texas-OU game. Bo had never even seen the contest on TV, since Michigan played Michigan State on the 2nd Saturday in October as well.

Schembechler came to Austin mid-week to study for the game. He heard from just about everyone how unique the Texas-OU rivalry was. He nodded and smiled a smile that said in essence, “Listen, you’re talking to a man who got his master’s from Ohio State and coached on the Michigan sideline for 20 years -- I know a unique rivalry when I see one.”

Then he got to Dallas.

Schembechler helped call the telecast of Texas’ 34-24 win over the Sooners in 1992, as Peter Gardere solidified his mythic place in UT history by starting in his 4th straight win over the Sooners. In the press elevator on the way down after the game Schembechler made a remarkable statement:

”That was as intense a college football game as I have ever seen.”

Someone brought up Michigan vs. Ohio State and Schembechler quickly stated that the Big 10 contest was as bitter and intense a rivalry as they come.

”The difference,” he said, “is the setting. I mean it’s great to go into Columbus and shut up the home crowd when you walk out a winner, but this, this is amazing with the stadium split in half. Every play creates an emotional frenzy on both sides. And then you have the State Fair going on right outside the stadium.”

This is a blood feud built on 108 years of interstate rivals playing with intrastate recruiting ramifications. It is the men involved in the storied series who really set it apart -- and one individual stands out among all the others.

I am talking about Darrell Royal.

He was uniquely qualified to understand both sides of the equation. Royal spent 24 Saturdays in October walking the sidelines of the Cotton Bowl, four as a player for OU and 20 as head coach at Texas. I can’t think of another rivalry where one individual went from being an All-American for one side to a Hall of Fame coach for the other.

His boyhood home was Hollis, OK, just five miles from the Texas border. Raised during the Dust Bowl Era, Royal was a HS star at Hollis who dreamed of playing at OU. After graduating High School in 1942, he enlisted in the Army Air Force instead.

In 1946, when Royal was leaving the Air Force, he had a buddy of his, Kenny Baker, who had played freshman ball at Texas, write a letter of recommendation to the Longhorn coaches. Royal never heard from Texas.

Royal is one of the best all-around players in OU history. He was 16-1 as a starter at quarterback, leading OU to an 11-0 record in 1949. That same season he was named All-American as a defensive back. That was 70 years ago and his record of 18 career interceptions still stands. Royal was the punter and punt returner. He returned one punt 96 yards against Kansas State and that still the longest punt return in OU history.

He was a Sooner legend the day he graduated – and 8 years later he was on the opposite sideline in the Cotton Bowl as the head coach of their most hated rival.

Royal went 2-2 as a player and 12-7-1 as a coach. Bob Stoops is the only other coach for either team to survive long enough to get double digit wins. Stoops went 11-7. Royal also experienced two of the most controversial contests in the series, the kind of games the heighten the bitter feelings and the stakes in future games.

1947: Bobby Layne and Tom Landry had Texas nationally ranked. Bud Wilkinson was just getting started at OU. Late In the first half with the score tied 7-7, Texas was on the OU 1-yard line. Time apparently ran out but the referee, Jack Sisco, said Texas called timeout with 2 seconds left. Texas scores after Layne picks up a fumble and pitches it to Randall Clay who took it in. OU coaches and fans were livid.

Midway through the third quarter Texas led 21-14 when Clay again was at the center of a controversial call. This time he plunged into the line and appeared to be stopped short of the goal line. He popped out of the pile and raced around end for the score. No whistle had blown. This happened at the OU end of the field and suddenly anything not tied down came flying out of the stands, including glass bottles.

In Lou Maysel’s fantastic book “Here Come The Longhorns” Royal gave this description of the scene”

“My first thought,” said Royal, “Was to keep my headgear on and get right smack in the middle of the field. If anybody was gonna hit me with a coke bottle, he was was going to have to throw it the farthest distance possible.”

Texas won 34-14. The Sooner fans surrounded Sisko on the field until he was loaded into a police car and driven out of the Cotton Bowl.

1976: Nope. Too soon. Later in the week I will (again) review the ugliest, most brutal football game I have ever witnessed. It has been 43 years and yet a 6-6 tie is still among the most talked about games in the series.

Beat The Hell Out of OU.