NORMAN — Oklahoma defensive end Jeremy Beal didn't hesitate with his answer.
Does losing to Texas feel different than losing to any other team?
"Of course," he said. "Any time you lose to a big rival — your archrival — it's going to feel different."
While Sooner fans have long known as much — they all die a little on the inside whenever OU loses to Texas — Bob Stoops has always dismissed the idea. Sure, the OU-Texas game is big and grand, but the Sooner coach has never admitted to the outcome being any different than any other game.
Losing to Texas, he contends, is the same as losing to Texas Tech or Colorado or Oklahoma State.
With apologies to Stoops, his players aren't buying that. After back-to-back losses to the Longhorns, they have a good perspective on this — or a bad one, depending on how you see those losses — and they say it feels different.
"It does," senior running back Mossis Madu said. "It hurts."
It's the bragging rights forfeited. It's the inside track to the Big 12 title squandered. It's even little things like the trek back to the locker room at the end of the game.
"Whenever we lose, our fans are all gone ... except for a couple, and they're all mad," Madu said. "All you see is orange everywhere and Texas running onto the field to celebrate.
"It really is difficult."
This is a game, after all, that the Sooners point to throughout the year.
A couple weeks ago after a so-so season opener against Utah State, Travis Lewis was talking about OU needing to bring intensity and passion to the field regardless of who they were playing. Doesn't matter if it's Utah State. Doesn't matter if it's Texas.
The Red River Rivalry was a month away, but still, the Longhorns were in the back of Sooner linebacker's mind.
"This is a game we look forward to in the summer and when you're working in spring ball," Beal said.
You can't put that much thought, that much energy into a game and not have the outcome be magnified.
"At the end, a loss is a loss," Sooner defensive back DeMontre Hurst said. "But I guess you could say this is our biggest rivalry, so it does mean something more."
He's right, of course, that losing to Texas only adds one to the loss column. In that way, it's the same as any other game.
But the Red River Rivalry is not just any other game.
Adrian Taylor looks at it as degrees of pain. No loss is worse than one in the national championship game. The OU defensive tackle experienced that agony a couple years ago, and it still stings.
Losing to Texas is second-worst.
Losing to everyone else is just bad.
"Losing hurts in general," Taylor said. "You prepare all week. You feel like you're ready to go. Then sometimes, you just come up a little short."
Doing that against Texas adds a little extra salt in the wound.
"We take the bus; we don't fly," Madu said of the Sooners' trips to Dallas. "When you lose, that bus ride home is a long bus ride home. Everybody's quiet."
Everybody inside the bus, that is.
"Fans honk at you," Madu said, "flip you off."
Listen, some folks might say it's bad for the players to look at this game differently. It adds pressure. It builds expectations.
But here's the truth of the matter — this game is different, with its divided stadium and its neutral site and its storied history. Losing it feels different than losing other games.
The good news is, so does winning it.
"I haven't really been a vital part of a win against Texas yet, so I want to be a part of a win," Beal said.
Again, he didn't hesitate with his answer.
"I think it'll feel a lot different."