Oklahoma 16, Texas 28

October 8, 1983 | at Dallas | Attendance 75,587

Oklahoma (3-1) had bounced back from the Ohio State loss a few weeks earlier with two unimpressive wins over unranked teams, and entered the Red River Rivalry ranked #8.

Meanwhile in Austin, football was once again on the ascent, and Fred Akers deserved all the credit. Ever since becoming head coach in 1977 and finishing undefeated before a disappointing Cotton Bowl loss to Notre Dame cost Texas a national title, he had worked to improve on an already highly successful program. There was a time when he was chafed in the terribly long shadow of his legendary predecessor, Darrell Royal, but that was no longer as big a problem, and the turning point came January 1, 1982 when Akers' sixth-ranked Longhorns upset #3 Alabama, 14-12, in the Cotton Bowl, jumping to #2 in the final rankings.

Texas began the '83 season ranked third behind Nebraska and Oklahoma, and they now came in as the second-ranked team in the country and with a 3-0 record. They were a typical Texas-style team, composed of a hard-nosed, ornery defense led by middle linebacker Jeff Leiding that was the best in the land against the run and had allowed an average of only 6.7 points per game in their first three contests. On the other side, they had an offense that seemed rather ordinary, but somehow managed to put points up on the scoreboard. And calling the shots from the sidelines was Akers, who came in with a 58-16-1 record, but more importantly, having won four of the six games against Switzer.

One of the main reasons for Akers' success was his ability to get his message across to his players. During a meeting the night before the Oklahoma game, he told his players, "You win championships with hard-hitting defense. If you don't win that game, you don't win the game." In the locker room, he continued his motivation with, "We like the slashing and banging and blows delivered in a tough football game. This is your kind of game. You're going to love it." The emotion flowed almost visibly from the players, and you could see it in their eyes that they believed in their coach, and in themselves. Akers had also scribbled a tag line across a chalkboard that read, "Tough times never last but tough people do." Fully armed psychologically, his players charged out onto the Cotton Bowl field.

Late in the opening period, Texas' freshman tailback Edwin Simmons, the most sought after high school player in Texas last year, fumbled early and the Sooners recovered. Oklahoma quarterback Danny Bradley hit tailback Steve Sewell with an eight-yard scoring pass that put the Sooners ahead, 7-0. However, Simmons himself swept around the left end from eight yards out to knot the score, 7-7. Texas played a generally crummy first half, but a perfectly marvelous second half.

In the third period, Oklahoma's Tim Lashar kicked a 28-yard field goal following another Longhorn fumble to again put the Sooners ahead, 10-7. It was at this point that Texas put together a critical span.

First came an 80-yard Longhorn drive on 11 plays. It was highlighted by a spectacular 32-yard, third-and-one pass from quarterback Rob Moerschell to tailback Mike Luck, who snagged the ball one-handed, which put Texas in business at the Oklahoma 39-yard line. Eight plays later, fullback Ronnie Robinson ran inside for two yards and the go-ahead score, 14-10.

Then, just 20 seconds after that, Bradley intended a pass for split end Buster Rhyme, but cornerback Mossy Cade intercepted the pass at Oklahoma 30 and returned it to the 20. If Rhymes had made the grab, the play would probably have been an 83-yard touchdown and would have given the game a different flavor. As it turned out, another fullback, Ervin Davis, one of 11 Texas backs who played, crashed, bashed and smashed his way over from the two with the help of fine blocking from Luck. Abruptly, the Longhorns were ahead, 21-10.

With Texas backed on it 33 and late in the quarter, the Longhorn coaches decided to be very careful. They ran one of football's oldest plays, straight ahead and off tackle. On this occasion though, Simmons, thanks to a block from yet another fullback, Terry Orr, stepped through the hole and breezed into the clear. With long and glorious strides, the 6' 4", 226-pound Simmons ran for a 67-yard touchdown, reminiscent of Dupree's 63-yard burst a year earlier. It was the Longhorns' third touchdown in a span of six minutes and 59 seconds, to put them up, 28-10.

Apparently, it had taken a while for Akers' words to sink in. Oklahoma scored later on Bradley's 36-yard run to close the gap, but the two-point run failed and Texas came away with an impressive 28-16 victory. Moments after the game ended, Akers jumped on two chairs in the dressing room and shouted, "Congratulations on believing in yourselves. You can't roll up anybody better than you did Oklahoma in the second half."

Simmons' big day resulted in his second straight 100-yard game, the first Longhorn frosh to attain the mark against the Sooners in the long rivalry. "I hope all games with Oklahoma are like this," he said afterwards. Leiding led the Longhorns' defense with ten tackles, a unit that limited the Sooners to 197 yards in total offense, 39 through the air and 158 on the ground, and denied them a first down on 12 of 13 third down plays.

For Oklahoma, Dupree wasn't really a factor at all, and in fact, he remained an enigma after a dazzling freshman campaign. His poorest performances this season have been in the Sooners' biggest games, against Ohio State and Texas. In the loss to the Buckeyes, he gained only 30 yards on six carries before sitting out the second half with a bruised nerve in his left leg, and he just followed that with a 50-yard effort on 14 carries in the Texas loss, also reportedly sustaining a concussion.

Said Switzer, "We were lucky they didn't score more points than they did." But he may have been a little hard on himself, for his Sooners got out there and mixed it up, but a better team just whipped them, and there's little shame in that. After all, the Longhorns, now 4-0, may well be better than everybody else in the country, too, with the exception of Nebraska.

Source: Jeff Linkowski

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