An Ugly Day

It was exactly as forecast. A steady mist was falling; the air was cold. The thing about football is, nobody worth a damn ever ran out on the field believing he couldn’t win.

  1. Terrence Murphy, a junior receiver for Texas A&M, believed with utter certainty that the 4-5 Aggies were destined for the biggest upset in college football since they had defeated an unbeaten and No. 1–ranked Oklahoma team the year before, spoiling the Sooners’ national title hopes. Murphy, who’d caught two touchdown passes in that game, was sure that history was going to repeat itself on this day, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2003. All week long, in practice and in meetings, players had vowed to shock the world with another upset of the Sooners. Their coaches, on the other hand, were experienced enough to avoid such grandiose predictions. They said instead that the Aggies would surprise some people, which is the most optimistic assessment of his chances that any coach with half a mind is ever likely to give.

    Each day leading up to the game, the Aggies watched tape of the 9-0 Oklahoma team, whose offense averaged 45 points a game, the best in the nation, and whose defense looked as tough as any ever assembled. They saw a squad loaded with All-Americas on both sides of the ball—and with a quarterback, Jason White, who was a virtual lock to win the Heisman Trophy. Yet they came away from these sessions convinced that they could get the better of the Sooners.

    Beat Oklahoma and the Aggies would improve their record to 5-5. Win the last two games of the year, against Big 12 opponents Missouri and Texas, and they’d be 7-5 and invited to a bowl game. Saturday’s game would be the biggest of...

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