The last four years, Texas quarterback Todd Dodge has held it down on the bus ride to Dallas and the Cotton Bowl for the Longhorns' game with Oklahoma. He says he doesn't do much talking because it is necessary for him to picture what he wants to happen in the game long before he ever gets on the field.
To win, he says, you have to envision yourself throwing strikes on the long ball a thousand times. And you need quiet for that kind of thinking.
Something else: you see only the good that can happen because you don't want to live the rest of your life turning away from those ancient hearkeners who want to know how it went against OU. Nothing they like better than to see you hang your lip and say you lost.
"I visualize only the nice things," Dodge said, "because if I let everything bother me, I'd be in a mental hospital wearing a straitjacket."
The Oklahoma game is all the local boys have talked about this week in Austin, and rightly so. Texas leads the series, 47-28-4, and has won five of the last eight games. But what most folks continue to rail about is last year's controversial 15-15 tie, a result that has been hard and ugly for both sides to take.
Since 1929, the meeting between the Southwest and Big Eight conference schools has been the featured event of the Texas State Fair and held at the Cotton Bowl, a site 200 miles from both Norman, Okla., and Austin. This year, both Texas (3-0) and Oklahoma (2-0) are undefeated and highly ranked, meaning "it's a big pride thing again, all pride," Texas linebacker Ty Allert said.
"To start the game, it feels like there's not much wind out on that field," Allert said. "You come down and see a bowl dressed half orange and half red and all those wild people are hollering something. They're all hollering something at the same time and you can't make out a word of it. Your adrenaline's going so much, you're so intense and worked up, it drains you. Sometimes it seems you can hardly breathe."
The game, scheduled to start at 1:05 p.m. EDT, will be the 100th for Texas Coach Fred Akers, who was heard delivering a spirited speech after almost every practice this week. As happens this time of year, Akers is the most talked about man in the state. On Thursday, the local paper featured his wife Diane in its food section and described her as a "biscuit-baking, ice cream-making woman, as comfortable in the kitchen as in the spotlight being the wife of the University of Texas football coach." She was shown smiling before bowls of guacamole, chili con queso and leche quemada, and stuffing a tomato wedge into a bucket of cheese dip. "The Cook Behind the Coach," is what they called her.
Akers, who sometimes comes across as a humorless coaching automaton, went for a rare laugh after the Thursday afternoon practice when he said his favorite recipe was "no penalties, few mistakes, goal-line stands and six touchdowns."
Some of the Texas people, however, have been short on laughs all week. Center Gene Chilton, for example, cannot get his mind off Tony Casillas, the Sooners' all-America nose guard. Both can bench press in the neighborhood of 500 pounds and weigh about 270 pounds. Chilton, who has been the focus of much media attention since Texas did away with Rice, 44-16, last week, came to Austin as a defensive lineman but was later switched to offense. He's made several preseason all-America teams at center and is one of only a few players in the country who possesses the strength to overcome Casillas, rated by several scouting services as the best down lineman in college football.
Chilton said, "I met Casillas this summer and thought he was a pretty nice guy. But he didn't say a whole lot. Even in the games he doesn't say a whole lot."
As seniors, both Chilton and Allert couldn't tell enough stories about the Oklahoma rivalry. After one practice this week, they stayed out on the field after the rest of the team had turned in and swapped good memories until dusk fell across Memorial Stadium.
"The day before the game," Chilton said, "all these people go out on Commerce Street in Dallas and get drunk. The police set up this extra big tent to accommodate all the people they arrest."
Said Allert, "It gets crazy, all right. On the day of the game, you do something right, and the whole sky gets crowded with hands making that hook 'em horns sign. Then the band plays 'The Eyes of Texas' and you can feel the brass ringing in your ears."
More than 40 years ago, a local boy named William E. (Rooster) Andrews played against Oklahoma, and knew some of the same glory enjoyed now by players such as Allert and Chilton. Although he stood only 5 feet tall and first found a place on the team as a manager, it was discovered by Coach Dana X. Bible that Andrews possessed considerable talent as a drop-kicker. You saw him everyday out in some open pasture, kicking the ball through the goal posts to alleviate the boredom of his travail as a manager.
Rooster Andrews' brightest memory of his days as the kicker for the wartime Texas football teams came against Oklahoma. He remembers taking the train to Dallas and staying at the old Jefferson Hotel, across town from the Cotton Bowl where, in 1945, he enjoyed his greatest theatrical moment of his life, the one he relives over and over this time of year. To put his team ahead, 13-7, he faked a drop kick and passed to his best friend and quarterback, the great Bobby Layne, for the conversion. Said Andrews, "You'd'a thought that one point was worth a thousand the way I carried on."
Andrews said he wouldn't be able to make the OU-Texas game this week because he's got to baby-sit his grandchildren. His wife told him to watch the game on pay TV and make believe he was there. He says that's impossible, says this will be only the fifth time since 1932 that he's missed the game. Only those grandkids, he said, "are worth staying away for. And if they were just a little bit older I'd put on my orange outfit and leave them home."
Andrews owns three sporting goods stores in town. The walls of his oldest building are dressed with pictures of giant cartoon roosters in burnt orange football uniforms drop-kicking the Longhorn nation to glory. He said he sees little difference between OU people and Texas people, although it was a little different in the old days.
Said Andrews, "Back when I was in school, all those OU people drank was 3.2 beer and moonshine whiskey. But they'd come across the Red River and drink that good Texas whiskey and they'd get right goofy. You get used to seeing goofy Texas people, but what was scary was seeing those OU people goofy and drunk. There was all kinds of fights, as I expect there will be this weekend. It was mostly friendly fighting that went on, but tell you the truth, OU and Texas people never much got along."