CNHI News Services
They occur like lighting strikes, but the effects last longer. These are the unforeseen changes in momentum that shift football games.
They are the interceptions, fumbles and muffed kicks that regularly occur in every football game. When they happen in early to mid October at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, the fortunes of Oklahoma and Texas are tossed around like debris in a tornado.
Look back on any Red River Rivalry game, and odds are there was a turnover that changed the complexion of the game. During Bob Stoops’ tenure with the Sooners, these games have swung violently — good or bad — based on them.
“Always in this game, turnovers are a big factor. I’m sure they will be again this year,” Stoops said.
Just look back 12 months, OU bullied its way to a 55-17 victory. The deciding factor was three touchdowns scored by OU’s defense, turning a relatively close game into one of the most lopsided routs in the series’ history.
In 2010, the Sooners’ ability to hold on to the ball was the difference in the 28-20 victory.
Since 1999, the first year Stoops and Texas coach Mack Brown both led their teams down the Cotton Bowl ramp, the team that turns it over the least is 12-1. The winning teams in those games is an amazing plus-33 in turnovers gained vs. lost.
Why is it that the turnovers tend to come in bunches in the Red River Rivalry?
“This game is so emotional, and both teams will play like it is the most important game of the year, whether it is or not in anybody’s minds because of the buildup and the history of this game and the two schools and the way the fans feel about this and the nature of the (Texas) State Fair,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “They came to the schools, and one of the reasons is they came for this game. The hype in this game you have to handle, especially a younger team. Secondly, you have to handle the momentum change in this game; for whatever reason, it goes back and forth, and it’s crazy, and it’s always been that way.
“And the other thing, usually the team that wins handles the ball the best. When we’ve lost and when we’ve lost badly, it’s been because we’ve turned the ball over, and last year was no different.”
The Sooners know how turnovers have impacted this season. The three they committed against Kansas State on Sept. 22 is the difference between being ranked in the top five instead of trying to work their way back into the top 10.
Holding onto the ball and coming up with three interceptions were the reasons OU coasted to an easy — and unexpected — road victory at Texas Tech Saturday.
Turnovers are going to play a factor when these teams meet again on Saturday in Dallas.
There hasn’t been a turnover-free game in the Stoops-Brown era. They are as big a part of the game as the 50-50 split in seating.