Balancing emotions key in Red River Rivalry

Texas coach Mack Brown has seen up close what the Red River Rivalry can do to players, especially if it's their first experience in the Big 12's marquee rivalry game.

Back in 1999, he looked at freshman Bo Scaife, a future NFL draft pick at tight end, who told Brown he was hyperventilating and had never been that excited in his life.

"And I thought, 'I'm not sure that's good,'" Brown told reporters this week.

It's par for the course for players, experienced or not. The atmosphere -- half burnt orange, half crimson, divided at the 50-yard line -- is much like a bowl game.

"I think that's something you have to address early in the week and just lay out the environment. Here's two teams, two very good football teams in a rivalry game with fans and emotion that goes into it," offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin told reporters this week. "Don't hide the fact of what it is; everybody understands that. Now you get that whole side, now it comes down to playing ball."

It's not about suppressing those emotions. It's about controlling them and finding a way to have them help you, not hurt you.

"You want to go in with emotion but you don't want to be geeked out to where you just can't perform," Harsin said. "You've peaked too soon before the game and all that. We don't want that."

The whole day and lead-in to the game are full of opportunities to build emotions, beginning with the famed bus ride in. Even Mack Brown's eyes were opened on his first Red River all the way back in 1984, when he was Oklahoma's offensive coordinator.

"Fans were shaking the bus. I mean, it was scary," Brown said. "Coach [Barry] Switzer kind of looked at me and said, 'Now you see. You get it now.' You understand that."

Oklahoma's a more experienced team, but Brown's focus is on making sure his young squad understands what's at stake while not letting their emotions lead to mistakes.

"This game is so emotional. And both teams will play like it is the most important game of the year, whether it is or not in anybody's minds because of the buildup and the history of this game, and the two schools, and the way the fans feel about this, and the nature of the State Fair," Brown said. "They came to the schools, and one of the reasons they came is for this game. The hype in this game, you have to handle."