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Wild Momentum Swings A Big Part Of Red River Rivalry

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

Momentum is a huge part of every sport.

There are certain sports where it has more of an impact than others, such as volleyball where every play results in a point.

Momentum in football hinges on individual plays—long passes, huge hits, turnovers, even penalties—that invigorate or deflate a fan base and their team.

Saturday in the Cotton Bowl, Oklahoma and Texas will face the ultimate momentum vortex: a stadium split right down the middle, a place where every play's impact is multiplied tenfold.

In the traditional stadium set-up, only one team is generating momentum from the crowd. Visitors normally gain momentum strictly from their play on the field, not the small cluster of fans that travel to road games.

Related Story: OU-Texas Boasts Most Unique Setting In College Football

However, with half the crowd at the Cotton Bowl burnt orange and the other half crimson, every play has the potential to give momentum to one team or the other.

"It's pretty crazy," OU center Gabe Ikard said about the atmosphere. "You're riding high and all of a sudden the other team makes a big play and it's like they punched you in the gut.

"It's hard to explain to the freshmen how fun it is, how intense it is until they go experience it. It's going to be a great game; it always is. The fans always bring a ridiculous amount of energy."

For the players not on the field during a play, it can be hard to determine who's actually making a big play given the equal split of the crowd.

"There's that aspect that sometimes you hear a cheer and you don't know," OU fullback Trey Millard said. "You have to look at the jumbotron if it's the defense because you don't know who's cheering. That stuff is definitely fun and makes it special."

The past two years have seen no shortage of big, momentum-turning plays, particularly on defense. In 2011, the Sooners forced five turnovers, three of which were returned for touchdowns. Last season, the Sooners forced three more. Both games ended in blowouts in favor of OU, making it very clear that turnovers do more than anything to change momentum in this game.

"Coach (Mike) Stoops always preaches that turnover margin is a huge battle," OU cornerback Aaron Colvin said. "We've done a great job of getting turnovers and limiting turnovers as a team. It's definitely paid off and I feel like that's been a vital part of this OU-Texas series."

Last year, OU running back Damien Williams broke off a 95-yard touchdown run on a routine off-tackle play and Millard had a 73-yard catch and run where he hurdled one Texas defender and stiff-armed another at the same time. OU coach Bob Stoops said those plays weren't drawn up to have that end result, but neither are most home run plays.

"You never know when you're going to pop it," Stoops said. "We didn't intentionally say, ‘Oh, we're going to hit a 95-yarder' last year when Damien (Williams) took off. The only time you intentionally know you're going for something is when you've got a go-ball, you feel you've got somebody beat, and you're trying to run past him."

Despite the temptation to go for the jugular to swing momentum in their favor, the Sooners don't game plan any differently for Texas than they do for any other opponent, preferring to execute the same, everyday plays in hopes one will turn into a massive momentum boost.

"I'd say you put together similar plans every week," Ikard said about the game plan. "If you see something that you think you can take advantage of, you're going to try to exploit that but other than that, you prepare the same way. You have a plan and you stick to it."

The impact of those plays doesn't differentiate either.

"They mean a lot in any game," Stoops said. "Those kinds of big plays, you know, you're grinding and all the sudden you pop something. Just like the other night (against TCU), they generally make big differences in games, no matter which game it is."

Momentum turns at the drop of a hat in this game, something both teams are acutely aware of. Big plays may mean the same to the players and coaches as they do in any other game, but they steer momentum more in this game.

The Sooners have controlled the past two games against Texas with turnovers, and they'll be looking to do the same on Saturday.

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