Red River Rivalry: A History

Ross Burkhart

As Texas and Oklahoma meet in the Red River Rivalry for the 113th time on Saturday, the two programs are both ranked for the first time since 2012, giving this game huge implications for the Big 12 title race. Whichever team leaves Dallas with a victory will undoubtedly sit atop the conference rankings and jump multiple other teams in the AP Top 25 Poll.

Before this week’s game, though, here’s a look at the lengthy history between these two interstate rivals:

1900 — Texas 28, Oklahoma 2

The first meeting between the Longhorns and the Sooners would probably look unrecognizable to anybody watching Saturday’s game at the Cotton Bowl. The Oklahoma players traveled 400 miles by train to Austin the morning of the game, only to register two points in the game as they were steamrolled by the Longhorns, who rested their best players in preparation for an upcoming game against Vanderbilt three days later. Both teams only played six games during the 1900 season with the Sooners finishing 3–1–1 and the Longhorns going 6–0.

1963 — Texas 28, Oklahoma 7

The 1963 meeting between No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 2 Texas was the first game between the two in which the two Southwest Conference teams held the top two spots in the AP Poll. Texas head coach Darrell K Royal led the Longhorns to an easy win over the opposing Sooners, with Texas running back Tommy Ford paving way for the victory with 77 yards and a touchdown. The two elite programs combined for 101 rushing carries and just 13 passes through the air. With a win over Oklahoma, the Longhorns cemented their place among the year’s most talented teams, eventually winning their first national championship over Navy.

1984 — Texas 15, Oklahoma 15

In another highly anticipated meeting, No. 1 Texas and No. 2 Oklahoma battled in front of 75,587 fans in the Cotton Bowl. The Longhorns led at halftime, 10-0, only to watch the Sooners crawl back to take the lead with a 15-point third quarter in which Texas was scoreless. With less than two minutes remaining in the game, Oklahoma decided to take an intentional safety rather than punting from their own endzone. The move would prove to be a poor decision as Texas kicker Jeff Ward kicked a 32-yard field goal to finalize the game in a tie, as the NCAA had not yet adopted overtime rules.

1996 — Oklahoma 30, Texas 27

Although the Longhorns entered the 1996 matchup with just a 3–3 record and the Sooners with only a 1–4 mark, the game would prove to be one of the most memorable between the two. Texas running back Ricky Williams headlined the Longhorn offense as he paired 99 yards and a touchdown on the ground with four catches for 59 receiving yards. A field goal in overtime from kicker Phil Dawson would not be enough to propel the team to a victory, though, as Oklahoma running back Alexander James contributed heavily to a powerful running attack that combined for 276 yards. James ran for a two-yard score to give Oklahoma the win in what eventually turned out to be a difficult season for both programs.

2008 — Texas 45, Oklahoma 35

The 2008 game between No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 5 Texas not only featured two championship contenders, but two Heisman candidates and college football legends in OU quarterback Sam Bradford and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy. Bradford displayed excellence early with three of his five total touchdowns coming in the first half. However, the Longhorns would strike last by dominating the time of possession, which eventually resulted in two touchdowns from running back Cody Johnson in the final 7:37 of play to capture a memorable victory over the Sooners.

2017 — Oklahoma 29, Texas 24

Aside from bragging rights, last year’s matchup didn’t decide much. The No. 12 Sooners quickly jumped out to a 20-0 lead in Tom Herman’s first Texas-OU rivalry game as a head coach at Texas. Led by Heisman-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield, the Sooners entered the game as heavy favorites, but to the surprise of many, Texas’ then-freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger pushed the Longhorns back into the game, recording 278 passing yards and another 110 yards on the ground. Texas scored 24-straight points to seize the lead with just over eight minutes remaining. But a quick touchdown throw from Mayfield and a late questionable throw away from Ehlinger on fourth down sealed Texas’ fate.

2018 — No. 19 Texas vs. No 7 Oklahoma

For the first time in many years, one of the best rivalries in college football has regained relevance on a national stage. The 4–1 Longhorns travel to Dallas with impressive wins over USC and TCU while the undefeated Sooners are led by Heisman Trophy favorite Kyler Murray. Texas fields a tough defense led by coordinator Todd Orlando that only allows 19.8 points per game while an explosive Oklahoma offense filled with playmakers has averaged 48.6 points per game. Much of the game will be determined by Texas’ ability to keep Murray in the pocket and contain running back Trey Sermon. The Sooners have won 27 of their past 28 Big 12 games, dating back to the 2015 season. Although they’ll enter the game as favorites — having won six of the past eight meetings — history shows that underdogs have often played up to the competition. Despite the outcome, the pageantry between the two longtime rivals will certainly be a spectacle for both teams.