An incredible comeback, an unbelievable catch and the wildest Red River Showdown ever

Leave it to the Red River Showdown to create the most glorious moment since cameras began being inserted into orange foam blocks.

Just a few blades of grass between Oklahoma wide receiver Marvin Mims‘ foot and the sideline, captured in exquisite detail by the pylon cam, were the difference between glory and despondence on Saturday at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

Mims’ 52-yard acrobatic touchdown grab, on third-and-19 with 7:25 left in the game, thrown by a backup quarterback who had previously been used mostly as a runner, is the perfect encapsulation of the unpredictability when Texas and Oklahoma meet.

It was also the greatest play in perhaps the greatest game between the two bitter rivals in 117 meetings, as No. 6 Oklahoma mounted a furious rally to beat No. 21 Texas 55-48.

All the clichés are true when it comes to Texas playing Oklahoma. Nothing that you can expect to matter usually matters. Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising. It’s the only game played in a 91-year-old stadium in the middle of thousands of people eating corn dogs and balls of fried seafood gumbo.

But that didn’t matter in 2020, when it was in the middle of an empty fairgrounds after the fair itself was canceled, with just 24,000 fans in the 92,000 seats. In the eerie setting, the two teams played for nearly five hours, a four-overtime slugfest featuring what was until Saturday’s 103-point affair the most points in the history of the rivalry as the Sooners pulled out a 53-45 win.

This year, in the first meeting since both schools announced an as-yet-to-be-determined departure for the SEC, a true Big 12 brouhaha erupted, with Oklahoma stunning Texas by coming back from a 28-7 first-quarter deficit. It was the first time in the history of football at the University of Texas that it lost a game that the Longhorns led by 21 points.

“I’m trying to think of the moments in my career that I’ve been prouder of a team,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “If there’s any, there’s not many.”

This year’s edition of the rivalry wasn’t just notable for the comeback itself. It was notable for how it all happened.

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Oklahoma QB Caleb Williams airs it out to Marvin Mims, who makes a leaping catch for a touchdown to tie the game.

A year after most fans were shut out from being able to attend the game, they didn’t miss their opportunity to be vocal. As chants of “Texas Fight” roared from the north end of the stadium, “Boomer Sooner” offset them from the south side. While the rides kept spinning outside the stadium walls, the drama kept building on the field.

There was Casey Thompson, whose father, Charles, played for Barry Switzer at Oklahoma, a junior who spurned the Sooners’ crimson and cream for UT’s burnt orange and finally got his turn to start after waiting behind four-year starter Sam Ehlinger for his chance on this stage.

But on Saturday, he was outshined not by Spencer Rattler, the preseason Heisman favorite, but by Caleb Williams, a true freshman from all the way up in Washington, D.C., that came off the bench after two early Rattler turnovers.

All Williams did was throw for 211 yards and rush for 88 more to run up the most total offense by an Oklahoma true freshman against Texas. And on that key third down, with the pocket breaking down, he rolled to his right and lofted a pass to Mims to tie the game up for the first time since kickoff.

“Gosh darn, what a play,” Riley said. “They threw a couple of them today. My man went and got ’em. He was very special today.”

Like Williams, Texas had its own freshman breakout star, Xavier Worthy, who had the second-best receiving performance in school history in just his sixth game, catching nine passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns, including a 75-yarder on the Longhorns’ first play of the game.

Yet he will be remembered as much in this game for a fumble in an ill-fated attempt to take a kickoff out of his own endzone with 7:17 left, leading to an Oklahoma touchdown in one play for its first lead of the game.

Bijan Robinson came into the game gaining some Heisman steam on the heels of a 216-yard, two-touchdown performance against TCU. But it was Oklahoma’s Kennedy Brooks, who had been splitting time with Eric Gray, who stole the show on Saturday, running for 217 yards and two touchdowns.

Even the special teamers put on a show. Texas blocked a punt in the first quarter and recovered it on the 2-yard line, leading to a touchdown run by Robinson. Oklahoma’s Michael Turk later had an 85-yard punt. Texas’ Cameron Dicker launched one 78.

“Those of us that have been in this game know how hard it is to win it — for both sides,” Riley said. “That’s why it’s the best rivalry in college football, the best setting.”

Steve Sarkisian. You might be new around here, but none of all this is. Even the seemingly predictable games are always unpredictable in this rivalry.

Like in 1996, when the 0-4 Sooners under first-year head coach John Blake pulled off a 30-27 upset and shocked a Texas team that featured Ricky Williams and Priest Holmes and came into the season ranked No. 6.

Or in 2018, when Heisman winner Kyler Murray threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 92 yards but lost, 48-45, when Dicker, then a freshman, kicked a game-winning field goal with nine seconds left.

This was the eighth straight matchup — tops in the country between any two teams — decided by one score. It’s the fourth time since 2016 that Texas and OU have combined for at least 85 points, the most between any two FBS schools over that span.

And there’s always a chance the two teams could battle again in the Big 12 championship game.

“I would love to get another crack at these guys, hopefully in December,” Sarkisian said after the game.

The only thing that’s certain is that if he does, there’s no telling what will happen.

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