TOMMY MCDONALD 1934-2018
Oklahoma 15, Texas 15
October 13, 1984 | at Dallas | Attendance 75,587
For the first time since 1965, the Texas Longhorns (3-0) entered the Red River Rivalry game in Dallas as the top-ranked team in the country. Under eighth-year head coach Fred Akers, they were the defending Southwestern Conference champions, but a disappointing 10-9 loss to Georgia in the Cotton Bowl had ruined their undefeated season and cost them a possible national championship, which would likely have been theirs after the Nebraska loss to Miami later that evening.
Despite an all-time record 17 Longhorns being selected in the '84 NFL draft, Texas began the '84 season ranked sixth and moved up two notches before even playing a game. But a win over preseason favorite and #11 Auburn was followed by an impressive win over #4 Penn State, allowing the Horns to claim the AP's top spot in the October 2nd poll. It was the first time in three years they had been #1, since beating Oklahoma 34-14 to claim the spot, only to lose it a week later after an Arkansas loss.
The Texas offense was averaging 33.7 points per game and was very experienced. It was under the capable direction of senior quarterback Todd Dodge, and among his many weapons were a pair of seniors, tailback Terry Orr and wide receiver Bill Boy Bryant. The Longhorn defense had permitted 14.3 points per game and featured a pair of senior past all-conference performers, tackle Tony Degrate and All-American cornerback Jerry Gray.
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Sooners, coming off three consecutive four-loss seasons, the first ever under Barry Switzer, began the year ranked #16 in the preseason. They were off to their first 4-0 start in five years, via wins over Stanford, #17 Pittsburgh, Baylor, and Kansas State, and entered the game ranked third, their highest entering the contest in five years. But they were still carrying a seven-game winless streak against top-ranked teams during the last 20 years.
Oklahoma came into the game with the nation's second-ranked defense, having allowed an average of 9.5 points per game. Under the guidance of fourth-year coordinator Gary Gibbs, it was a young, quick and menacing group that featured junior nose tackle Tony Casillas, sophomore tackle Steve Bryan, a pair of freshman ends in Troy Johnson and Darrell Reed, and a tough pair of linebackers, sophomore Paul Migliazzo and a freshman named Brian Bosworth, who hailed from Irving, TX. The offense was averaging 29.8 points per game and was an experienced group that featured senior quarterback Danny Bradley, senior back Steve Sewell, and senior end Buster Rhymes. A hamstring injury to sophomore running back Spencer Tillman would put a damper on the Oklahoma attack.
Switzer had earlier predicted that neither team would be able to dominate by running the ball. Amid rainy conditions, and to the roar of 75,587 bundled-up fans, the players stormed onto the soggy, but storied, Cotton Bowl field. There was electricity in the air, the kind of energy that always seems to separate the Texas-Oklahoma rivalry of bordering states.
In the first quarter, Oklahoma punter Mike Winchester bobbled a perfect snap and Texas took over with the first chance to cash in at the Sooners' 20-yard line. Against Oklahoma's aggressive man-to-man defense, the Longhorns placed two wide receivers to the same side. The outside receiver ran a short post route over the middle, while the inside receiver, Bryant, ran a short out and then took off down the field as a Sooner bit on the fake. Dodge almost fell on the wet turf, but he was able to stabilize himself, find Bryant, who had darted wide open past senior defensive back Keith Stanberry, and heaved a 25-yard touchdown pass. Jeff Ward added the extra point, and it was 7-0.
The punting of Texas' John Teltschik kept the Sooners backed up in the second quarter until tailback Oklahoma's Tillman, playing in his first game of the season, fumbled a pitchout at the Sooner 26. Gray jumped on the ball, and four plays later, Ward added a field goal to give Texas a 10-0 lead, which the pumped Longhorns took to the locker room despite having gained just one first down.
But at halftime, Oklahoma first-year offensive coordinator Mack Brown made some adjustments and decided to get more physical and run straight ahead, instead of east and west. Outside, it started raining pretty heavily, and the strategy seemed to bode well for the physical Sooners.
Bosworth collided with Orr and jarred the ball loose. The Sooners recovered on the Texas six, and were staring at the end zone. Sewell quickly capitalized, scampering in on a five-yard run, and the Longhorn lead was down to three points.
On the next series, a pumped up Oklahoma defense stuffed Texas, and punter John Teltschik had to kick from the Longhorns' goal line. The center, Terry Steelhammer, snapped the ball way over Teltschik's head and it rolled through the end zone for a safety, cutting the Texas lead to just 10-9. In addition, Oklahoma would get the ball back on the free kick.
Bradley marched the Sooners downfield with the spectacular play of Sewell. Included were two crucial third down connections between the two, one a 24-yarder, moving the ball to the Texas 12. On the next play, Sewell then sliced around the left end for a touchdown, and Oklahoma had its first lead of the day, 15-10, with only three minutes left in the third quarter. Ahead by only five points, and with Texas within a touchdown, Switzer opted to go for two points, but the attempt failed.
The tough Oklahoma defense continued to dominate, and Texas sputtered until about only six minutes remained in the game. One play that seemed to have worked was a double-screen tight end delay. On the play, Dodge faked a screen to one back, and then another, before hitting sure-handed tight end William Harris over the middle for a 20-yard gain. Freshman tailback Kevin Nelson then broke off a 58-yard splashing run down to the Oklahoma two, caught from behind by freshman defensive back Andre Johnson, and Texas prepared to take the lead.
However, three times Orr tried to penetrate the Sooners' front line, but led by Casillas and Bosworth, all three times Oklahoma's defense held firm. On fourth down, Texas tried another route and pitched to Nelson on a sweep, but the rain and wet field combined to take his feet out from under him before the Sooners and Johnson could, and Oklahoma took over on downs at the three-yard line after the impressive goal-line stand.
Backed up against its own end zone, it was now Oklahoma's turn to try to move the ball. Unable to gain ground, and with a punter who already had a bobble and a couple of shanks under his belt, Switzer opted to entrust his defense and had Oklahoma deliberately do what Texas had accidentally done. Center Kevin Adkins snapped the ball over Winchester's head to take a safety, and the Sooners still led the Horns, 15-12.
After the free kick, the Longhorns got the ball back on their 44-yard line with just 2:04 left. Switzer's defense was living up to expectations, and Texas was quickly looking at second-and-ten. On Dodge's pass attempt, which fell incomplete, Sooners' defensive back Keith Stanberrry was flagged for interference, despite his argument that it was un-catchable ball.
With new life, and helped by an Oklahoma off-sides penalty, Dodge directed the offense down the field by completing a 15-yard pass and an 11-yard pass, and with ten seconds left, the ball was sitting on the Oklahoma 15-yard line. Ward was about to run onto the field, but Akers pulled him back. Dodge dropped back to pass to Bryant and the ball was tipped, and then appeared intercepted in the end zone by Stanberry. But among a mixed officiating crew representing both conferences, an official ruled he had been juggling the ball as he stepped out of bounds. Despite repeated jawing by the Sooners, Ward came in and lined up for a 32-yard field goal. He connected and sailed the wet ball through the uprights as time expired, salvaging a 15-15 tie, but both teams left the field with their fans shouting "We're Number One, We're Number One!"
It was only the fourth tie game in the long history of the rivalry, but certainly one of the most memorable. For Texas and their fans, they felt fortunate and relieved. Meanwhile, for Oklahoma and their fans, it was a heartbreaker. Afterwards, an irate Switzer tripped over his headset wires and chased after the referees. Television replays clearly showed that Stanberry had indeed made a clean interception, had possession, and was in bounds. It should have secured a Sooners' victory.
Switzer threw a towel to the floor in their locker room and said, "I can't get a call. All the calls made against us there at the last were by Southwest Conference officials. We thought we had the game won when the Texas tight end fumbled and we recovered early on the last drive. It was right in front of me and I saw the ball come flying out when the Texas player was hit. But a Southwest Conference official took it away from us. He's the referee and he controls the game."
"The footing was bad and it was treacherous out there," said Akers. "I want to give Oklahoma credit for the great goal-line stand late in the game. We had a back try to cut back on fourth down and he fell down, but it was still a good stand."
"Oklahoma is obviously a better team," said Bradley. Remembering Nebraska and their near miss in the Orange Bowl, he continued, "If you're the Number One team in the country you go for the win, not a tie. We would have gone for it."
Source: Jeff Linkowski