NORMAN — Lubbock, Texas, may just be the worst place with the worst fans for the Oklahoma Sooners.
The Sooners haven't won in Lubbock since 2003. And to make the nightmare worse for OU fans, Texas Tech was the first opponent to expose the Sooners' 2011 flaws — and the Red Raiders did it in Norman, a place where Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops rarely gets beaten.
Back in August at Big 12 Media Days, The Oklahoman asked players from around the Big 12 what the most difficult stadium was to play in besides their own. A few players said Texas A&M — even though A&M is longer a part of the Big 12, they said nothing compared to Kyle Field. Other players mentioned Texas Tech, and not just the most difficult stadium to play in. Some said it also had the worst fans.
So what's so difficult about Lubbock and a football team that finished second-to-last in the Big 12 last season?
Former Oklahoma offensive lineman Eric Mensik shared his stories about just how bad it gets in Lubbock, Texas.
“The fans at Texas Tech were the absolute worst that I ever experienced,” Mensik said in an email to The Oklahoman. “In 2007, we had to keep our helmets on the whole game because they were throwing coins and batteries at us. I remember hearing the ding of coins hitting helmets.”
More things happened in 2009 during warm-ups.
“Coach (Cale) Gundy got hit in the face with something thrown out of the stands,” Mensik said. “Gundy was so mad he found a cop and had one of their fans kicked out.”
Former OU tight end Trent Ratterree remembered the same incident in 2009, saying that a fan threw a hot dog at one of the coaches' faces. He called Lubbock a place with “the most outrageous actions from fans that I ever saw in my career.”
But Oklahoma's complaints about Lubbock weren't just on the field. Ratterree said the pregame meal at the hotel was so bad that some of the players couldn't even eat the breakfast before heading to the stadium.
Sometimes, when you're far from the field and from the unprintable sentences that come out of some fans' mouths, it's easy to overlook what isn't happening on the playing field. Stories like these show just how much this game means to people and how sometimes, they forget that these are just 18- to 23-year-olds playing college ball.
Still, next Saturday, Stoops will ask Oklahoma to come ready to play. Players, most likely, won't talk about what fans did — although they'll be asked. They'll mainly talk about their on-field performance, never mentioning the fans or the pregame meal.
Ratterree said there is a way for Oklahoma to overcome the woes of Lubbock.
“ ... you have to minimize mistakes throughout the game and keep the momentum on your side,” Ratterree said. “That place is specifically hard to tilt the momentum back in your favor once you've lost it. That sort of environment makes it especially hard to focus.”
That, and keep the helmets on.
Staff writer Trent Shadid contributed to this report.