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Texas coach Fred Akers gathered his Longhorns in their locker room at the Cotton Bowl last Saturday afternoon and tried to kick their emotional level up another notch as they prepared to face archrival Oklahoma. "You'll take whatever is dealt and play it better than them," said Akers. "Our determination will make the difference. If you see you like I see you, you are the most determined bunch of people in the country. They write books about people like you. You have already given more than any team I've ever been associated with. But today is one of those days when I'm going to ask you for an extra measure from yourself. Can I count on you, Gene, for one percent more today than you've ever given before?"
"John, one percent more from you?"
And so it went around the room; not a "no, sir" was uttered. When Akers finished, he directed the players' attention to the blackboard, where he'd scrawled ATTACK. At which time the Longhorns all but ignored the doors and ran through the walls to get out onto the field.
It was a rainy, dank day in Dallas, and when the slipping and sliding and splashing was all over, three hours and eight minutes later, the score was tied 15-15, leaving both teams still undefeated (the Horns are 3-0-1; the Sooners are 4-0-1) but dissatisfied.
Still, there was no doubt in any logical mind that Oklahoma hadn't tied Texas, but that Texas had—well, almost triumphantly—tied Oklahoma. That realization came shortly after there had been no doubt in any logical mind that the Sooners had won the game, for they'd had a 15-10 lead with less than three minutes left.
The deciding factor was the Longhorns' determination, just as Akers had promised it would be. Although no Sooner fan wants to hear it, the difference was that Texas, desperately trying to hold on to its No. 1 ranking in both wire service polls and its No. 2 SI rating, appeared to want the game more. Certainly Oklahoma is enormously improved in comparison with the dissension-ridden team of 1983 that finished an unhappy 8-4 for the second year in a row. This season's Sooners are more disciplined and are sounder fundamentally. Perhaps most important, under the direction of their new offensive coordinator, Mack Brown, they've returned to a wishbone-based offense, and it offers some flair and a lot of potential.
But Oklahoma and its coach, Barry Switzer, do themselves a disservice when, as they did Saturday, they complain bitterly about officiating. Good teams, and the Sooners may well be far better than good, don't alibi. "We got screwed, man," moaned Switzer after he had berated the officials in the tunnel to the dressing room. Could be, of course. There were a number of questionable calls, affecting both teams, but that's the case in a lot of games.
In the OU locker room afterward, Switzer said, "We were the best team and we lost." Across the way, Akers said, "We had the best football team." The fact is, Switzer probably was closer to the truth—if you ignore the determination factor, which you can't.