NORMAN — Oklahoma's Josh Heupel and Texas' Major Applewhite meet Saturday morning for the fifth time as direct counterparts in the annual Red River Rivalry game.
The two former quarterbacks — who split their two clashes in the Cotton Bowl as players — now serve as their respective school's co-offensive coordinator and play caller.
“We've been through these two programs for a long time,” Heupel said.
In 1999, Applewhite and Texas rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat Oklahoma 38-28. The next year, Heupel's Sooners routed the Longhorns 63-14 in a blowout that sparked OU's national-title run.
“You have to go in understanding that it's going to be loud; it's going to be physical; there's going to be ups and downs,” Applewhite said. “By understanding that, accepting that, you're not shocked when it happens and you're able to put it in its own place and compartmentalize it and move through it, fight through it.
“If it's bad adversity or if you're up 14-0, that doesn't mean anything. I remember in '99, we were down 17-0, and we won that game.”
So far, the Applewhite-Heupel coordinator clashes have been much more similar to that 2000 game, with the Sooners winning 58-17 and 63-21 in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
“I think it's all on the line when you play Oklahoma, every year,” Applewhite said. “I don't think these kids or coaches or anybody else feel any differently. It's the Oklahoma game, it's what you come to Texas to play for, same thing on the other side.
“It's extremely important. It's bragging rights. It's what you get to talk about when you're old and retired.”
Although Heupel and Applewhite have followed relatively similar career paths as coaches, their playing careers and relationships with their head coaches stand in stark contrast.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and Heupel have never had any public issues with one another. After Stoops signed Heupel out of junior college, they went 7-5, and then 13-0 with a national championship over their two years together as coach and player.
Heupel's coaching career began when he joined Stoops' staff as a graduate assistant in 2004. He spent one year on Mike Stoops' Arizona staff, then returned to Norman as quarterbacks coach and was promoted to his current position in 2011.
Texas coach Mack Brown and Applewhite, though, didn't have as smooth a relationship.
Applewhite was the Big 12's Offensive Player of the Year in 1999, but eventually lost his job to Chris Simms in a controversial decision by Brown in 2001.
Simms started the entire year — including a 14-3 loss to the Sooners — but was replaced by Applewhite in the Big 12 Championship game after four first-half turnovers against Colorado.
Applewhite, then a senior, nearly led the Longhorns to an incredible comeback, and then helped Texas win the Holiday Bowl later that month.
Brown and Applewhite buried the hatchet quickly, though; the former quarterback joined Brown's staff as a graduate assistant coach in 2003, then as a full-time assistant in 2008 after stints at Syracuse, Rice and Alabama.
Interestingly, while Applewhite works to help Brown save his job at Texas through a difficult season, Simms recently joined the chorus of critics.
“I really don't think so,” Simms said in a recent Fox Sports 1 interview when asked if Brown would coach Texas next year. “Unless they went on some miracle run here, but I don't see it. I don't think the talent is there. They have a tough schedule with a lot of tough games. I don't think he will be back.”
A third Big 12 quarterback from that era is also coaching at his alma mater. Texas Tech hired Kliff Kingsbury as its head coach last December.
“It's been fun to watch,” Kingsbury said at Big 12 Media Days in July. “Those guys were obviously great players and great football minds. To watch them come up in the fashion they have has been really impressive.
“I know Josh really well. Josh is one of the smartest football guys I've ever been around. I'm sure Major is the same.”