It’s time again for the Red River Showdown, the annual rivalry game between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns, one of the biggest games on the college football schedule.
The game will be televised nationally this morning from the Cotton Bowl in Texas.
Normally, we don’t cover college games that don’t include an Arizona component. But this one has a significant tie to our state.
The starting quarterback today for Oklahoma is Spencer Rattler, one of the most high-profile high school athletes to come out of Arizona. He got offers from both Arizona State and University of Arizona in his freshman year at Pinnacle High School, and then hit the national radar as a junior. When he entered his senior year at the north Phoenix school, he was the No. 1 high school quarterback prospect in the Class of 2019.
Netflix had even sent their cameras to Arizona to follow every move of his final prep season, with plans to produce a documentary about the phenom. He lived up to the hype, breaking the Arizona high school passing record early in the season.
But, as it turned out, he didn’t make it through his senior season. Rattler was declared ineligible for the final game of the 2019 season after reportedly violating a district code of conduct policy. Details of the violation were never made pubic.
It was a surprising turn of events since the 5-star recruit with the big arm was generally regarded as a well-grounded youngster who carried a 3.8 GPA.
The district’s ruling removed the best player from a team that had a legitimate shot at a state title. Instead, the Pioneers lost by 38 points to Salpointe Catholic in the first round of the state playoffs.
Rattler, who had been the team’s starter for all four years, apologized to his teammates and then reached out to Oklahoma to see whether his scholarship had been compromised by his misstep.
The Sooners welcomed him to Norman and he quickly proved his worth to the storied football program, becoming the first freshman in almost 30 years to start a game for the Sooners.
But the bloom is off the rose. Oklahoma won its first game, a 48-0 blowout of Missouri State, but has lost the last two — essentially eliminating the Sooners from the national title conversation.
Rattler has been putting up the points, but has succumbed to the pressures that come with learning the college game, taking his lumps while learning.
He threw for 387 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-35 loss to Kansas State in the second game, but threw three interceptions — including one on the opening drive of the game. Last week, in a 37-30 loss to Iowa State, he completed 25 of 36 passes for 300 yards and a couple of TDs — but added a fourth interception to his short record.
The memory of that one pick in the Iowa State game won’t fade soon since it came in the end zone with 1:02 left to play.
The Iowa State loss was especially difficult to swallow, for a number of reasons.
It was the first time since 1999 that Oklahoma has suffered back-to-back regular-season losses. And the last time the Sooners lost a game to the Cyclones in Ames was 1960.
The Sooners have lost just one game overall against Iowa State over the last two decades. Thirteen of the 14 Sooner wins during that time were by double-digit margins.
And now Spencer Rattler, with just three college games under his belt, must try to rebound and find a way to beat No. 22 Texas in perhaps the biggest game on the schedule. They’re going to let 23,000 fans into the Cotton Bowl to watch this one, which will just ramp up the intensity.
That’s a lot of pressure — even for a kid that came into this season as the best QB recruit in the nation.
(Photo: Oklahoma Athletics)