Book excerpt: Thomas Lott's 'terrible day'

To commemorate OU-Texas week, ESPN.com's SoonerNation is running another excerpt from Jake Trotter's “I Love Oklahoma/I Hate Texas,” the first book to detail the Red River Rivalry from the Oklahoma viewpoint, examining the games, moments and heroes Sooners fans love to remember, and those they hate to remember, too.

“I Love Oklahoma/I Hate Texas” is on sale now in Oklahoma bookstores and online at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. Trotter will also be selling and signing books at the "Bevo Bash" at the Carl's Jr. in Marietta, Okla., from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Friday.

From the chapter, "Red River Moments We Hate," Thomas Lott is stuffed:

After committing seven turnovers against Texas in 1980, Oklahoma quarterback J.C. Watts later said he wished he had “sunglasses and a Panama hat” so he could leave the Cotton Bowl without being noticed. Thomas Lott had the same feeling three years earlier. Except he was not able to escape town incognito.

The man of a hundred bandanas had no love for the Longhorns despite growing up in San Antonio. As a senior at Jay High School, Lott was a Parade All-America quarterback, but didn’t even make all-district. The player who did, Ted Constanzo, was white and headed to Texas. Lott was black and undecided.

Lott already had bad feelings about the Longhorns when he took an official visit to Austin. There, coach Darrell Royal asked how the trip was going, and what other schools he was considering. After Lott mentioned Oklahoma, Royal flew off the handle. “Oklahoma? How the hell are you even going to consider going to the University of Oklahoma?” Royal asked Lott. “How can you think about leaving the state of Texas after all the state of Texas has done for you?” Lott couldn’t recall the state of Texas ever running sprints in sweltering heat or busting through tackles for touchdowns. “The way he talked to me, it really, really pissed me off,” Lott said. “That’s when my animosity for Texas started.”

Lott ended up signing with OU and was inserted into the starting lineup for Texas week in 1976. The game ended in a 6–6 tie, and from there, anticipation for the '77 rematch mounted. After beating Ohio State in Columbus, the Sooners were ranked second; behind Earl Campbell, Texas was fifth. “I feel a lot more confident and a lot more relaxed this time,” Lott would say. “I can’t wait.” But Texas had the best defense in the country, and the Longhorns completely stifled Lott and the wishbone. OU had less than 150 yards rushing midway through the fourth quarter, and trailed 13–6 after Russell Erxleben’s 58-yard field goal. With six minutes left, the Sooners had one final chance to crack the Texas front lines. Lott completed a pass for 10 yards. David Overstreet rushed for 15 on a pitchout. The Sooners, finally, were in overdrive. “We started running the option again, and moved right down the field,” Lott said. “I thought we were going to score and win the game.”

After Kenny King dashed for 14 up the middle, the Sooners were within striking distance of a game-tying touchdown. Then the drive sputtered. After a pair of four-yard runs, Elvis Peacock gained only one on the third-down pitch from Lott, setting up fourth-and-inches from inside the Texas 5.

After faking the dive, Lott went left. With middle linebacker Lance Taylor taking a wide angle, Lott tried to cut back inside. But as he did Taylor just got a piece of Lott’s thigh with his left arm to slightly slow him down. Before he could make another move, Lott was met by All-Americans Brad Shearer and Johnnie Johnson for no gain. “Once I saw the hole, I was getting ready to dive forward,” Lott said. “But as I planted my feet, I couldn’t move. If [Shearer] and I had met, just me and him, there’s no way in the world he would have stopped me. I would have gotten that yard. I was stronger than he was.” Instead, Texas took over possession and prevailed 13–6. “That day was one of the top three worst days of my life,” Lott said. “It was a really upsetting football game for me.”

All Lott wanted to do was get home. Before heading to the bus, he stopped to chat with his family, who had driven up from San Antonio for the game. But when Lott went to where the bus had been waiting, he found it had already departed. “The game is completely eating me up, and now the bus is gone,” Lott said. “My family is gone, they think I’m on my way back to Oklahoma. And the team thinks I’m with my family.”

Security tried to taxi Lott to the airport to meet the team there. But Cotton Bowl traffic prevented him from arriving before the Sooners’ flight left. Instead, Lott had to wait for the next flight to Oklahoma City, which was chock-full of OU fans. Lott tried to hide in the bar. But his patented bandana was a dead giveaway. Gradually, the whole plane came over to talk to the Thomas Lott. “For the next hour, I have to sit there, be cordial, and swallow how I’m really feeling until I get to Norman,” said Lott, who would finish his Red River career with a win in ’78. “All the way around, just a terrible day.”