Carlson: Why the gory is every bit as likely as the glory for Sooners, Longhorns in Red River Showdown
The Red River Rivalry can cement a legacy.
Joe Washington’s halfback-pass for a touchdown
Adrian Peterson's galloping cross-country touchdown run.
Roy Williams’ Superman strip sack.
There's a long list of stars who had that glorious moment in this game. But what about the legacies that were cemented for the wrong reasons? Because of gaffes? Or mistakes? Or for being the guy who misses the kick or whiffs on the runner or gets jumped over by a superhero?
Superman, turns out, had a Robin.
Brett Robin was the Texas back who went low to take out Williams’ legs. The idea was sound, the form solid. Only trouble was, Williams wasn’t where Robin thought he would be.
Now, Robin is part of a group of players, both Longhorns and Sooners, whose legacy isn't glorious but gorious because of OU-Texas.
In this upside-down house-of-horrors year, more players could join their ranks Saturday. Both teams have some serious talent and some fatal flaws. Mix those ingredients on a big stage like the Cotton Bowl, and memorable plays could happen.
And when someone makes a memory, there’s always someone on the other side having a moment they’d just as soon forget.
“You learn to live with it,” said a man who would know, “but you don’t ever get past it.”
R.D. Lashar missed a 46-yard field-goal attempt in the final seconds of the OU-Texas game in 1990. Even though he hit two field goals earlier in the game and helped the Sooners build a 13-7 lead, no one remembers that.
After the Longhorns took the lead with a late touchdown, the Sooners again called on Lashar to save the day.
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The field-goal unit rushed onto the field with time winding down, and even though everything was hurried, Lashar hit a textbook kick. He thought it was good. So did his brother, Tim, who’d been the Sooners’ kicker before him.
But the wind, strong that day at the Cotton Bowl, pushed the kick left.
Will we have another such moment Saturday?
Anything seems possible in 2020.
But here’s something to keep an eye on — this series has been something of a nightmare already for Sam Ehlinger.
The Texas quarterback will make his fifth start in this series Saturday, something no other quarterback has ever been able to say. But if he loses Saturday, it will be his fourth loss to his Red River rival.
No other quarterback has ever had to say that.
Bret Stafford (1985-87) and Marty Akins (1973-75) have the dubious distinction of losing all three games they started against the Sooners, but still, no quarterback, Longhorn or Sooner, has ever lost four games to the cross-border rival.
Ehlinger does have a win to his credit, a victory in the 2018 regular season, which interestingly caused another participant to have his own Red River nightmare. That game cost Mike Stoops his job as OU defensive coordinator.
Think about it — Stoops had plenty of marks against him before that October afternoon, but the 48-45 loss to Texas was the last straw. It ended his time at OU and punctuated his legacy in Norman.
That’s the power of OU-Texas. It is career-defining. It is legacy-determining.
Ehlinger will be defined at least in part by his record against the Sooners, and losses in the regular season in 2017 and 2019 and in the 2018 Big 12 Championship Game will not be kind to him.
“The biggest thing is winning,” Ehlinger said earlier this week when asked about his checklist. “That’s what I’m focused on.”
That is magnified, of course, by the Horns’ struggles this season.
“With self-inflicting wounds in general, that’s probably the toughest thing to deal with when you know that you’re getting in your own way,” Ehlinger said. “It’s one thing if the other team just flat-out beats you, but it’s another if you beat yourself.
“I think there’s a sense of urgency to get out of our own way.”
But if Ehlinger and Texas lose to OU again, I’m not sure anyone will remember how it happened. They’ll just know Sammy E lost again. It won’t be a missed field goal at the end of the game. It won’t be a blown assignment on the rivalry’s most iconic play. But it will drive a stake in the heart all the same.
It’s the stuff of nightmares.
In a series where glory is available, gore is every bit as plentiful.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.