For the first time since 1946, the Red River Shootout between the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns will feature first-year coaches on each respective program’s sideline.
Bob Stoops is no longer coaching in Norman, Okla., having passed the reins to Lincoln Riley, while Mack Brown isn’t boasting burnt orange on the Texas sidelines these days, nor is his successor, Charlie Strong. Rather, it will be Tom Herman who will will square off with Riley with a coveted first victory during a new era of the Red River Shootout at stake.
Ahead of the much-anticipated matchup, Stoops and Brown provided some drastically different takes on the significance of the bitter rivalry, via ESPN’s Jake Trotter.
“Truly, fans make such a big deal about this game,” Stoops said. “And I get it. But if you’re the coach or the player here, you’ve got to win them all. You don’t win them all by caring about this one, and not the next one. Sure, we knew we had to play well to win it. But we didn’t treat it differently than other games.”
Brown, on the other hand, admitted that the Cotton Bowl matchup with Oklahoma is unlike any other on the schedule, and far more hostile than even the yearly Lone Star Showdown with in-state foe, Texas A&M.
“This game is different than all the rest,” Brown said. “Even the A&M game for us was an in-state, friendly rivalry. It was always a stadium full of a mixed crowd [of allegiances] and families and Thanksgiving. The [Red River Showdown] was really hostile.”
All things considered, the Red River Showdown is different than all the rest.
As if the two historical powers serving as a mid-season roadblock for their longstanding bitter rivals isn’t enough, the game is played on a neutral field with the crowd split, equal parts burnt orange and crimson and cream. And although it’s not technically a championship, the winner takes home the golden hat this year, so there’s quite literally some hardware at stake for a regular season showdown; not to mention year-long bragging rights.
Infamous for not placing the importance of any single game over another, though, Stoops simply said he didn’t make much of the pressure that comes with the Red River Shootout and each fan base’s craze to come out on top.
“I remember just really focusing on the game, not worried about all of [the pressure of the game]. I can’t say that I really bothered to make much of it.”
For better or worse, there is a case to be made that that the heightened pressure surrounding this year’s Red River Showdown is apparent. With Riley’s Sooners sitting at 4-1 following an embarrassing loss to Iowa State and the Horns aiming to finally turn the corner at 3-2, the outcome could catapult Oklahoma and Texas into drastically different directions throughout the remainder of the season.
More notably, though, as Brown said, Saturday will set the tone for Riley and Herman’s entire tenures in Norman and Austin.
“This is definitely the most important game for either coach to win,” Brown said. “If you’re going to have a good tenure at Texas or you’re going to have a good tenure at Oklahoma, for these young guys, you’ve got to win this game at least half the time. That’s how important it is, in your first time out.”
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