By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
If 2008 was indeed the greatest so far in Big 12 history, the memories started with an annual rivalry that produced a memorable game.
When top-ranked Oklahoma and fifth-ranked Texas hooked up in the Red River Rivalry in Dallas' Cotton Bowl on Oct. 11, the Longhorns' 45-35 triumph set the tone for a scintillating six weeks.
Texas twice rallied from 11-point deficits as quarterback Colt McCoy completed 28-of-35 for 277 yards with a touchdown. His counterpart, OU sophomore Sam Bradford, was spectacular. He completed 28-of-39 for 387 yards and five touchdowns.
In a game where The Big Play List was long, the Longhorns could highlight two - Jordan Shipley's 96-yard kickoff return for a TD after the Sooners jumped to a 14-3 lead and Chris Ogbonnaya's 62-yard run in the fourth quarter that set up the game's final touchdown.
"It was a game when every time somebody made a play, the other team would get more excited," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "It was one of the greatest football games I've ever seen."
Each time Oklahoma threw what appeared to be a knockout punch, Texas remained standing and answered with a counter punch.
Bradford's fifth touchdown pass, a 14-yarder to Manuel Johnson, gave the Sooners a 35-30 lead with 11:52 remaining.
Texas answered with an eight-play, 74-yard scoring drive. McCoy completed all four of his passes on the drive and his two-point conversion pass to Quan Cosby gave the Longhorns a 38-35 edge with 7:37 remaining.
The Longhorns' defense, which shut down OU's running game with just 48 yards, forced the Sooners into a three-and-out. UT's game-clinching drive covered 80 yards and six plays and was boosted by Ogbonnaya's burst down the right sideline. On the prior play, McCoy evaded the Sooners' rush and found Ogbonnaya for a 10-yard gain on third-and-four.
"They got the better of us," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "You have to give credit to them. They made the plays in the second half."
The Sooners and their fans were left wondering about what might have been. Linebacker Lamont Robinson appeared to have ended a UT drive that ended with a field goal but his interception in the end zone was disallowed when the ball popped loose.
And, early in the second half, OU lost stand-out middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds to a season-ending knee injury. Would his presence have made a difference - especially on Ogbonnaya's long run?
Texas, which left Dallas knowing it faced a challenging schedule (Missouri, Oklahoma State and at Texas Tech), could at least bask in the knowledge that it had stamped itself as a national championship contender.
"Right now, this team would be known for heart and character and toughness and playing together," Brown said. "There are not individuals on the team, not guys who talk about themselves. It's been about `this team' from Day 1."