AUSTIN, TEXAS (AP) - Texas is taking a ghost from Oklahoma’s past into this weekend’s Red River Rivalry game.
The Longhorns’ new offensive coordinator is Bryan Harsin, the same guy whose aggressive and creative play calling led Boise State to a stunning Fiesta Bowl upset of the Sooners in 2007. No one who saw that game will forget one of the wildest finishes in bowl history, and one that launched the career of an audacious young assistant.
“There’s no question it got everyone’s attention,” Texas coach Mack Brown said with the No. 11 Longhorns (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) getting ready to play No. 3 Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0) in Dallas on Saturday. “Bryan was 29 when he was calling plays in that game … Some people have a knack for calling plays.”
For more than a decade, the Sooners knew pretty much what to expect from the Texas offense. Players like Vince Young and Colt McCoy came and went, but offensive coordinator Greg Davis was the guy in the booth calling the plays for 13 years.
Now he’s got THE guy.
Boise State had already grabbed national attention with a team good enough to get to the Bowl Championship Series game. Harsin then established himself as a true gunslinger with the three biggest plays of his career.
The first was a 50-yard hook-and-ladder pass dubbed “Circus” on fourth down with 18 seconds left for a touchdown that sent the game into overtime. The second was a halfback pass for a TD and he followed that with a behind-the-back handoff “Statue of Liberty” play for a 2-point conversion that won the game.
“I remember the Statue of Liberty play like the back of my hand,” said Texas wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, who was a high school sophomore when he watched the game on TV.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, whose team was caught flat-footed by the trickery, likely remembers it all too well. And he has seen some familiar things watching the Longhorns’ early-season trick plays — including wide receiver passes and flea-flicker throws for touchdowns.
“There’s some things that are similar, some aren’t. It’s been a while now. Everybody has a track record of what they do. You see similarities,” Stoops said.
Heading into his first Texas-Oklahoma matchup, Harsin deflects much of the praise for a game played almost five years ago.
“Really, we just put the ball in our playmakers’ hands and they made the plays. It was more credit to our players than play selection. They made it happen,” Harsin said. “That was a long time ago and a different scenario, different time, different game, and it was fun … But we are focused on this one now.”
Davis designed some of the most prolific offenses in Texas history, won a national championship in 2005 and played for another in 2009. But he also was a regular target of Texas fans who complained he was too predictable. Davis resigned after the Longhorns’ first losing season since 1997.
The long partnership with Davis severed, Brown wanted new blood and hired Harsin away from Boise State. It started a buzz among Texas players and fans who knew only that he had beaten the Sooners with imagination and guts.