OU football: Red River Rivalry is a new beast for newcomers
The Oklahoma-Texas rivalry showcased between the brick mortars of the Cotton Bowl on national networks is the reason freshmen like wide receiver Durron Neal come to OU.
Playing in a big game that means so much to the teams, the fans and the standings of the Big 12 Conference is something only the Red River Rivalry can provide during this time when long-standing rivalries — like Texas-Texas A&M and OU-Nebraska — have disappeared due to conference realignments.
"I've heard (this game) is crazy, but that's why I chose to come here: to play in games like this," Neal said. "Practice has been so intense because you can see the older guys paying attention to the small things, and (co-offensive coordinator Jay) Norvell has been stressing how important this rivalry is."
OU could debut several newcomers on offense to the rivalry game Saturday, including Neal and his roommate, freshman wide receiver Sterling Shepard. It also will be junior running back Damien Williams and senior wide receiver Justin Brown's first time to experience the gauntlet at the Cotton Bowl.
"I've heard there's going to be a lot of people and a lot of noise, so I'm just going to have to be ready for it," Brown said. "Even people in class have been asking me if I'm ready for this game."
The historic tunnel that gives both teams a chance to talk smack and jabber at each other before running out onto the field where the stadium is divided evenly among OU and Texas fans who never run out of breath conceives a unique atmosphere that just can't be found anywhere else.
The Sooners deal with the noise factor on game day by playing the Texas fight songs during practice while the team also spends the week talking to the newcomers about what to expect once they step off the bus in Dallas.
"This game is always exciting, regardless of what either team has done before that point," senior defensive end R.J. Washington said. "It's a neutral site. Half their crowd, half our crowd. You can't help but be excited about it."
And even the bus ride to the stadium becomes an adventure.
"I've seen guys actually punch our bus," junior corner back Aaron Colvin said. "I just don't know how you can walk around with your hand like that."