FORT WORTH, Texas – Texas and TCU fans shared tailgates just as they have in the past. Divided households from as far away as Indiana showed up.
While the first Big 12 road game for the Longhorns since they accepted an invitation to join the Southeastern Conference wasn't much different from the previous 39 meetings in Fort Worth, the SEC backdrop wasn't ignored.
“We’re sitting right in front of the student section, so you know we’re getting the whole SEC talk,” Texas linebacker DeMarvion Overshown said after a 32-27 victory over the Horned Frogs on Saturday.
“It might be our last time playing them, might not be. Wherever we go, we know that we’ve got that target on our back, that people don’t feel like we belong in the SEC or we can play with them. So they’re going to talk.”
Liliana Ogden, part of a leadership group in charge of getting fellow TCU students fired up from the first row of the section behind the Texas bench, enjoyed the parts when the Texas players responded.
“They’ve been engaging, which gets us pretty fueled,” said Ogden, who refrains from trash-talking herself because she's a member of the TCU Dutchmen. “I can’t repeat the words they said that made me laugh.”
No. 6 Oklahoma, which is going to the SEC with Texas by 2025 if not earlier, also played its first road Big 12 game at Kansas State.
The OU jeering by the home fans was similar to years past, with a play on a derogatory term. The public address announcer made a point to mention that Missouri is a former Big 12 member when giving the score in the Tigers' 62-24 SEC loss to Tennessee on Saturday.
Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte said he wasn't worried about the reception the Longhorns would receive. There were no major incidents, and plenty of pleasant exchanges between players and coaches on the field after the game.
“It was awesome,” said Del Conte, the AD who brought TCU into the Big 12 in 2012 and is now taking Texas out of it. “Fort Worth people are great. TCU people are great. Glad to be here.”
Texas fan David Gladbach, attending the game with a TCU-clad friend from his Little League coaching days near Fort Worth, had a feeling the first conference road game for the Longhorns wouldn't be a big deal.
“There won't be any difference,” Gladbach said before the game. “The animosity that’s there is there regardless of what conference you play in.”
There were a few signs in the student section, but most had messages that would have fit any year. The exception was one that read, “Can't beat the Hogs, won't beat the Frogs,” a reference to Texas' 40-21 loss to Arkansas three weeks ago when the Longhorns were No. 15 and the Razorbacks were unranked.
Brothers Jairus and Jaydon Boyer traveled from Indiana with their dad, not in anticipation of any Big 12-SEC chatter but because one grew up rooting for Texas and the other for TCU.
Jaydon Boyer, now 19, got hooked on the Horned Frogs a decade ago when they were dominating the Mountain West Conference and going undefeated while winning the Rose Bowl. Jairus Boyer, three years older, fell in love with the Colt McCoy-led Longhorns.
The younger Boyer didn't get mad at his older brother when Texas bolted for the SEC.
“I think they’re leaving because they’re scared to play us,” Jaydon Boyer said as his dad and brother laughed. “That’s what it is.”
In two years, TCU will have four new Big 12 opponents in BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and Central Florida. The question is, will Texas and Oklahoma still be members when expansion hits. The Longhorns and Sooners could leave before 2025.
“I do still feel like it’s going to fuel the fire and the game’s probably going to be amazing,” said Rachel Bertelson, a Texas fan attending with a TCU alum. “In people mind’s, this is maybe the last TCU-Texas game.”
Texas running back Bijan Robinson, a sophomore who had a career-high 216 yards rushing in his first meeting with TCU, heard the chatter just as Overshown did. And Robinson wasn't among those responding.
“I can hear it in the back, constant bad stuff,” Robinson said. “I don’t care. I just keep a smile on myself and keep worrying about what’s at task, what’s ahead. It’s just fun to see the team come together and block that stuff out.”