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College Football Classic Rewind: Blown Call Allows for Horns to Tie Sooners in Soggy Red River Rivalry

Posted on October 03, 2011 by A.J. Foss

The annual Texas-Oklahoma game is almost always one of the most anticipated games of the college football season, but the 1984 edition of the “Red River Rivalry” had even more hype as both teams entered the game in the top three of the AP Poll.

Texas was 3-0 and the #1 team in the country thanks to wins over then #11 Auburn and #4 Penn State.

Despite the fact they had lost 17 players to the NFL from the 1983 team that finished the season with a 11-1 record, the Longhorns were led by a number of seniors including quarterback Todd Dodge, wide receiver Billy Boy Bryant, defensive tackle Tony Degrate and all-American safety Jerry Gray, all under the direction of eighth-year head coach Fred Akers.

Oklahoma entered the game with a 4-0 record and a #3 ranking, but were hoping try to avoid their fourth straight four-loss season under head coach Barry Switzer, who had led the Sooners to at a least a share of the Big Eight championship in his first eight seasons and two national championships.

The Sooners’ rise to the top was due in large part to their defense, which had allowed only 38 points through the first four games, led by all-American defensive tackle Tony Casillas and freshman linebacker Brian Bosworth.

It would be a game dominated by the defenses as torrential rains had the Dallas area and caused players to slip and slide on the Cotton Bowl turf.

The wet conditions were a factor in the first turnover of the game as Oklahoma punter Mike Winchester dropped a perfect snap and could not get the punt off, giving the ball to Texas at the Sooners’ 26-yard-line.

Two plays later, Dodge found Bryant wide open in the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown to give Texas a 7-0 lead with 4:27 left in the first quarter.

The Longhorns would get another turnover in the second quarter when Sooner running back Spencer Tillman dropped a pitch from his quarterback, Danny Bradley, with Gray recovering the ball for Texas at the Oklahoma 26-yard-line and 4:01 to play in the first half.

But the Longhorns, who had only one first down in the first half, could only gain three yards and were forced to kick a field goal.

However, Jeff Ward was able to make a 40-yard field goal in the soggy conditions to give Texas a 10-0 lead at the half.

Texas quarterback Todd Dodge throws a pass with Oklahoma all-American Tony Casillas in pursuit.

After a lackluster first half, things turned around for the Sooners as they would outscore the Longhorns 15-0 in the third quarter.

The Sooners’ rally started with a turnover when Bosworth jarred the ball loose from Texas running back Terry Orr, causing a fumble that was recovered by defensive back Keith Stanberry at the Longhorns’ six-yard-line.

Steve Sewell would punch it in from five yards out to cut the Longhorns’ lead to 10-7 with 9:14 left in the third quarter.

The Sooners’ defense did not allow a first down on the ensuing Texas possession and forced Texas to attempt a punt near their own goal line.

But the snap went over the head of punter John Teltschik and into the back of the end zone to make it a one-point game at 10-9, just 91 seconds after the Sooners’ touchdown.

After the free kick, the Sooners took possession at their own 29-yard-line and made three straight third down conversions, to drive to the Texas 11-yard-line.

That is where Sewell scored his second touchdown of the game as he took a pitch around the left end for the touchdown to put Oklahoma in the lead for the first time of the game.

The Sooners went for the two-point conversion, but failed to convert as Sewell dropped a pass from Bradley to keep Oklahoma’s lead at 15-10 with 3:02 remaining in the third quarter.

The defenses took control of the game until the 6:08 mark of the fourth quarter when the Longhorns traveled from their own 20-yard-line to the Sooners’ two-yard-line in just two plays, with the big play being a 58-yard run by Kevin Nelson.

The Longhorns handed the ball off to Orr three straight times, but could only gain a single yard to be faced with a fourth-and-goal from the one-yard-line.

Akers decided to go for the touchdown and called for an another run by Orr, who took it to the outside only to slip on the wet turf and fall down for a two-yard-loss and giving the ball back to Oklahoma with 3:50 left on the clock.

The Sooners could only move it to their own seven-yard-line before they were faced with a fourth down and punting the ball back to Texas, who were set to have good field position and a chance to win the game.

Switzer decided to take an intentional safety and after center Kevin Adkins snapped the ball over Winchester’s head, the score was now 15-12 in favor of the Sooners.

Oklahoma quarterback Danny Bradley surveying the field.

After the free kick, the Longhorns took over at their own 44-yard-line with 2:04 left in the game and embarked on a drive that featured three controversial calls that went in favor of Texas.

The first questionable call occurred on the very first play when fullback Jerome Johnson caught a screen pass only to hit by linebacker Paul Migliazzo, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Oklahoma.

But the referees ruled that Johnson was down and gave the ball back to Texas, despite the fact that replays showed the ball came loose before Johnson hit the ground.

The next controversy occurred on third-and-seven at the Texas 47-yard-line when Dodge threw an incomplete pass only to have Stanberry be called for pass interference to give Texas a first down at the Sooners’ 41-yard-line.

Stanberry and Switzer protested that the ball was “uncatchable” but to no avail.

After two more incomplete passes, the Longhorns were faced with a third-and-10 when Oklahoma was called for offside, giving Texas five yards and a 3rd-and-5.

That is when Dodge connected with William Harris for a 15-yard gain to the Sooners’ 21-yard-line and a first down, followed by an 11-yard completion to Bryant to the Sooners’ ten-yard-line to set up first-and-goal.

An illegal shift penalty pushed the ball five yards back to set up a first down at the Sooners’ 15-yard-line with 10 seconds to play, from which the drive’s third and most controversial call occurred.

On the play, Dodge fired a pass toward the right corner of the end zone intended for Bryant, who was being covered by Oklahoma cornerback Andre Johnson.

The ball went off the hands of Bryant and was caught by the Sooners’ Stanberry who made the catch, maintained possession, and got both feet in bounds for an apparent interception.

But the officiating crew which consisted of Southwest and Big Eight conference referees ruled the pass incomplete ruling that Stanberry did not control of the ball as he stepped out of bounds.

However, television replays showed that Stanberry made a clean interception and the ball should have been given to Oklahoma.

Nevertheless, with only four seconds left in the game, Akers decided to call on the field goal unit and salvage a tie.

All-SWC kicker Jeff Ward came on to attempt a 32-yard field goal, a relatively easy field goal in perfect conditions, but with the wet football and turf, Ward’s kick was no guarantee.

Holder Rob Moerschell was able to control the high snap and put the ball down in perfect position for Ward to nail the kick through the uprights as time expired and ending the game in a 15-15 tie, the fourth tied game in the Oklahoma-Texas series.

Immediately after the final whistle, Switzer ran down the field to confront the officiating crew and make known his displeasure on the missed interception.

In the days following the game, the Big Eight supervisor of officials admitted the call was missed and that an interception should have called.

The tie dropped the Longhorns from their #1 ranking to #3 in both polls while the Sooners moved ahead to #2.

Texas would jump their record to 6-0-1 before dropping four of their last five games, including a 55-17 rout to the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Freedom Bowl, to finish the season with a 7-4-1 record.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma would go on to win the Big Eight Conference and play in the Orange Bowl, only to lose to Washington 28-17 to finish with a 9-2-1 record.

The following season, the Sooners would win the national championship, the third under Switzer’s reign as head coach.


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