ARLINGTON, Texas – The Aggies remember the Sooners. The Aggies remember the Sooners well.
A year in the Southeastern Conference hasn't wiped out Texas A&M's memory of a rivalry that blossomed with the advent of the Big 12 in 1996 and became one-sided with the arrival of Bob Stoops at OU in 1999.
Gridiron providence has extended the series with a bonus game, a Cotton Bowl that Friday night offers one of the few bowl showdowns: ninth-ranked A&M against the 11th-ranked Sooners.
And here's what the Aggies like to remember: 2010. Their only victory over OU since 2002.
“My best memory is when we beat ‘em in Kyle Field,” said A&M tight end Michael Lamothe. “I guess the best memory was the first snap. They snapped it over the head of Landry Jones for a safety. That was fun.”
The Aggies won that game 33-19 and eventually tied OU and OSU atop the Big 12 South Division. The Sooners won the tiebreaker and went on to win the Big 12 championship.
Since Stoops' arrival, OU won seven titles in a Big 12 that included A&M. The Aggies won none.
“Obviously, OU, they had so much history,” said A&M flanker Ryan Swope. “They've been to so many bowl games, done so many great things. The history of OU, just a great football team. Well coached. Great athletes. They get recruits. Just a great program itself. It's a privilege to play a prestigious program like that.”
A privilege to play, and a rush to beat.
“We came out and played,” said offensive tackle and Outland Trophy winner Luke Joeckel. “We really didn't mistakes. We didn't turn the ball over. The team that plays smart usually wins the game.”
Actually, the Sooners played a cleaner game in 2010 than did the Aggies. A&M had two turnovers to the Sooners' one, and A&M had 83 penalty yards to the Sooners' 29.
But A&M traditionally has played much more sloppily than has OU. In the previous five OU-A&M games, the Aggies have committed 16 turnovers to OU's three and have averaged 71 penalty yards. That's losing football.
“Just shooting ourselves in the foot,” Lamothe said. “Turnovers, penalties. Whatever games we lose, it's usually turnovers and penalties. Luckily, we've been able to take advantage of that in a few games. This year, the games we did win, like Alabama, we didn't have a lot of turnovers and penalties.”
Said Swope, “What it comes down to, just not beating yourself. Penalties. Taking care of the ball. No turnovers. Doing the little things that win football games. That's going to be crucial for us on Friday.”
A&M almost always has been led by a talented quarterback. Ryan Tannehill, Jerrod Johnson, Reggie McNeal, Stephen McGee. But now the Aggies have Johnny Manziel, the redshirt freshman phenom who won the Heisman Trophy.
“We're looking forward to trying it out with this new offense we've got and how much success we've had with it,” said A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews. “They're a great team. That's for sure. They have a lot of great athletes. Guys that can rush the pass and get all around the field.”
The Aggies, despite their avowed affinity for the SEC, still talk glowingly about their old adversary.
“They're an athletic bunch,” Joeckel said. “They get a lot of athletes at every position. They're a lot like an SEC defense.
“They've got a lot of confidence in the Big 12. They're a very confident group. They've won for a long time. They kind of bring that intimidation factor, because they've won for so long.”