Oklahoma Sooners offensive lineman Marquis Hayes (54) and Texas Longhorns defensive lineman Ta’Quon Graham (49) are split apart by an official during the second half of play in the Red River Showdown at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Saturday, October 12, 2019. Oklahoma Sooners defeated Texas Longhorns 34-27.((Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News) (custom credit))
The Red River rivalry between Oklahoma and Texas is a bitter one, so a pregame skirmish at midfield – really, more like a heated conversation – wasn’t unexpected. It would have been a surprise if there weren’t any tempers flaring before the game.
So no big deal, right? It seemed the kind of situation that could have been let go. But referee Mike Defee’s decision to issue every player on both teams an unsportsmanlike conduct foul seemed a bit much.
Defee put every player on the knife’s edge half an hour before the game even started, since a second unsportsmanlike foul results in ejection.
At the coin toss, Defee told the team captains that “unfortunately” the unsportsmanlike fouls had been issued, and said:
“This is the greatest rivalry in college football. I expect the game to be hard-fought and well-played. We’re going to play this game with sportsmanship – is that clear?”
During that pregame melee, several Oklahoma players were seen flashing the “horns down” symbol, which has generated controversy in the Big 12 over whether Texas’ opponents would be flagged for showing it.
Here’s what happened at midfield just over a half-hour before kickoff that earned a flag. Will someone get tossed for the Horns Down? pic.twitter.com/IulOonjOBx
— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) October 12, 2019
SOURCE: USA Today, George Schroeder