The Red River Rivalry is as significant of a game to Texas and Oklahoma as they come, causing a slew coaches to lose their jobs while immortalizing others throughout the game’s storied history.
Mack Brown was hired at the University of Texas on Dec. 4, 1997, and started his own Red River legacy in style. Led by eventual Heisman winner Ricky Williams and a freckle-faced freshman Major Applewhite, the Longhorns routed the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl that Saturday in 1998, 34-3. The Longhorns would go on to finish the season 8-3, and appeared to be a program on the rise.
While Brown was busy trying to resurrect the Texas program that year, Bob Stoops was coaching the defense for the “Ol’ Ball Coach” (Steve Spurrier) at Florida, helping lead the Gators to a victory in the 1998 Orange Bowl over Syracuse.
Stoops was hired to replace John Black as the Sooners head coach on Dec. 1, 1998, and immediately began to turn things around.
Stoops didn’t have an ideal start to his own Red River legacy, but his impact was felt. Facing a Longhorns team that would eventually go on to play for the Big 12 championship game in 1999, his Sooners jumped out to a 17-0 lead with the first quarter winding down. The Longhorns would eventually find their footing and come back for the victory, but the first quarter of that game in ‘99 was a serious act of foreshadowing for Texas.
Brown’s honeymoon with the Longhorns faithful came to an abrupt end in 2000, when Bob Stoops and the Sooners provided the first of four WWE-style beat downs on the Longhorns in the their time coaching against each other. Quentin Griffin ran roughshod on the Longhorns defense, scoring six touchdowns en route to a 63-14 shellacking.
The next four years didn’t go any better.
Stoops would continue to own Brown, highlighted by another massive victory over the Longhorns in 2003 when they drummed the Longhorns to the tune of 65-13.
Brown seemed to have no answer to his Sooners problem in Dallas, and it cost him dearly. The road to Big 12 titles and the national championship went squarely through the Cotton Bowl, and the Longhorne fan base was beginning to turn on their head coach, referring to him as “Mr. February” for his prized recruiting classes but inability to win big games.
After five consecutive demolitions in Dallas, the sun started to shine on Brown again. Vince Young led the Longhorns to their first Rose Bowl victory in 2004, and finally snapped the losing streak to the Sooners in 2005, giving the Sooners a bit of their own medicine with a resounding 45-12 victory. Mack would fight back the next five years, going 4-1 against Stoops and leading the Longhorns to their highest highs since Darrell Royal was roaming the sidelines.
And then it all unraveled.
The debacle that was 2010 happened, and the Longhorns haven’t seen a victory in the Cotton Bowl since, getting trounced by a combined score 118-38 in the latest two meetings.
Mack’s record against Bob Stoops in the Red River Rivalry is 5-9, and with an impending loss looming Saturday. In what could be Brown’s final season, the Red River Rivalry will
always be a blemish on what has been an otherwise impressive tenure in Austin.
For all the good that Brown has brought to Texas, his inability to consistently keep up with Stoops will forever be mentioned as to why he couldn’t reach even greater heights.