Liking and respecting are two very different things – you don’t have to like someone to respect them. Texas rugby head coach Christopher Hopps makes that very clear.
“We have tremendous respect for OU,” Hopps stated. “They have had some great results, but we don’t like them. I don’t like any of them.”
Distain for the Oklahoma Sooners is not uncommon on UT’s campus. If you’re on the E-bus heading to 6th Street on a Friday night, it’s likely you’ll hear the famous chant, “O-U…SUCKS!” And around this time of year, Red River Rivalry season, any clock is an opportunity for Longhorn students and fans to proclaim, “It’s ____ o’clock and OU still sucks.”
But the emotions are intensified in the athletes themselves. Stakes are especially high this year, especially for seniors, like Taylor Hayes, Tommy Gilmore and captain John Boudreaux who will never get another chance at redemption.
“I can’t tell you how badly guys like Taylor, Tommy and I want to go out on top,” Boudreaux said. “I haven’t been able to sleep all week because of how badly I want this game to happen.”
On March 1, 2014, the last meeting of the two teams, Oklahoma shut out Texas rugby, 39-0.
“It was humiliating,” Hopps recalls.
In the 223 days since then, the Longhorns have been hungry for revenge.
“The redemption aspect of this game is huge for everyone that was there last year,” Boudreaux added. “I think this is definitely compounded by the fact that this is the last time that our seniors who have been here all four years get to play OU.”
The cold, dreary weather on that day in March reflected the mood around the Texas sideline. Frustration was building and disappointment growing. Hopps encouraged the team to play on with integrity and to try to make the best of a bleak situation, but a shut-out is always demeaning no matter who the team is that dishes it out. However, it stings all the more worse when it comes from a longtime rival like Oklahoma.
“It’s OU,” Hopps stated simply. “There’s nothing like it. You could slap UT and OU T-shirts on kids playing chess and they are going to want to come out and smack each other around. “
OU head coach Jason Horowitz acknowledges this fact but doesn’t give it too much weight.
“Its just another rugby game. We prepare the same, play the same,” he said. “The other team wants to win as much as we do. It simply comes down to who is more prepared and who can execute on both sides of the ball.”
Perhaps a reason why Horowitz doesn’t devote too much interest in emotions is because of his confidence in his team. Even Hopps notes that, “they look ten times better this year than last year.”
Execution comes down to strengths- who’s faster, stronger, more technical, works better as a unit, etc. But thus far in the season, Hopps hasn’t been able to pin point a specific advantage that Texas can rely on.
“Our tempo could be a strength, our defense could be a strength, but we aren’t consistently doing any of those things well enough yet,” he said.
Hopps hopes his team will develop as the game goes on and a strength strong enough to carry Texas to a win will emerge, but similar to the Texas vs. OU football game that will be going on Saturday, the Longhorns are underdogs. Texas will need to rely on their passions and their eight returning seniors to pull out a victory tonight.
“Win lose or draw I can speak for every one of our guys in saying we are excited that we get to line up run as hard as we can into some Sooners, give them our best shot, take their best shot and see where we end up at the end of the night,” Hopps said.