Oklahoma Football: Six Bowl Losses Sooner Fans Would Like to Forget

BY Fansided and Chip Rouse/FanSided via Stormin in Norman • December 21, 2016

This year is the Golden Anniversary of Oklahoma football as far as postseason bowl appearances are concerned.

Oklahoma’s first appearance in a postseason bowl game was in 1939. The Sooners, unbeaten and untied in the 1938 season under second-year head coach Tom Stidham, were matched up in the Orange Bowl with another unbeaten and untied team in the Tennessee Volunteers. OU came into the game ranked fourth in the nation, according to the Associated Press; Tennessee was the country’s No. 2 team that season.

The Sooners’ 10 regular-season victories in 1938 included a remarkable eight shutouts.

In a bit of an ironic twist, OU’s first bowl appearance ended up a shutout itself, only on this occasion it was the Sooners who registered the goose egg on the scoreboard. Tennessee prevailed in the 1939 Sugar Bowl by a count of 17-0.

That was long before most Sooner fans today are able to remember. You would have to be 78 years or older today to have even been alive at the time of that first Oklahoma bowl game.

Oklahoma has made 48 more bowl appearances since 1939, and the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 will mark No. 50 all-time.

The Sooners are 28-20-1 in their 49 postseason bowl games. OU has gone bowling for 17 consecutive seasons under head coach Bob Stoops.

Although Stoops has done exceptionally well at Oklahoma in the win column, his record in bowl games is a sub-par 8-9. Four of those bowl games, however, have been for the national championship and one was a College Football Playoff game. Stoops’ Sooners are just 1-4 in those contests. The one victory is their 13-2 win over Florida State in the 2000 BCS National Championship in the Orange Bowl.

In Oklahoma’s 49 previous bowl games, there have been some outstanding games – 28 of them ending up with trophies for the good guys from Norman – but there also have been ones that fall into the category of “games Sooner fans would like to forget but likely will never get over.”

We’ve dusted off and called out five of the latter, certain to bring out the bah humbug in you ahead of the Sooner’s Golden Anniversary bowl game with Auburn:

Sep 17, 2016; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners fans during the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

1963 Orange Bowl, No. 5 Alabama vs. No. 8 Oklahoma

The 1962 season was the last of 14 conference championships won by Oklahoma in 17 seasons under legendary head coach Bud Wilkinson. Although he would coach one more season, the 1963 Orange Bowl would be Wilkinson’s final bowl game of the six he took the Sooners to.

Under Wilkinson, the Sooners were 4-1 in bowl appearances heading into the 1963 Orange Bowl, and two of those bowl victories were in the Orange Bowl.

Oklahoma, which ended the regular season with an 8-2 record but was a perfect 7-0 in the Big Eight and conference champion, was paired against No. 5-ranked Alabama, coached by Paul “Bear” Bryant. Twelve years before that, Bryant had beaten the Sooners and Wilkinson as the coach of the Kentucky Wildcats in the 1951 Sugar Bowl.

The No. 8 Sooners managed only 260 yards of total offense against a stingy Bama defense – the Tide haven’t changed much, have they? Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide, behind a pretty good quarterback named Joe Namath, tallied 17 points in the game, more than enough to beat the Sooners, 17-0.

About the only thing that went right for Oklahoma that day was a visit paid to the Sooners locker room after the game by President John F. Kennedy.

Dec 31, 2015; Miami Gardens, FL, USA;A general view of Oklahoma Sooners helmets in the third quarter of the 2015 CFP Semifinal at the Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

1968 Bluebonnet Bowl – No. 10 Oklahoma vs. No. 20 Southern Methodist University

The beginning of the 1968 season, the second under head coach Chuck Fairbanks, was strikingly similar to the 2016 season for the Oklahoma Sooners.

OU opened the season at No. 3-ranked Notre Dame, where they were soundly beaten, 45-21. On the fourth weekend of that season, the Sooners faced longtime archrival Texas and lost for the 10th time in the previous 11 games against the Longhorns.

So, just like this season, OU got off to a 1-2 start before heading into the Big Eight Conference season. The Sooners rebounded to win six of their seven conference game and capture their second consecutive league title.

Oklahoma actually tied with Kansas that season for the conference crown, both with identical 6-1 records. The league had a policy at the time that prohibited the conference champion from going to the Orange Bowl in back-to-back seasons.

Because of that rule, Kansas represented the Big Eight in the Orange Bowl (where the Jayhawks lost to Penn State in the game that will always be remembered for Kansas’ ineligible 12th man, which allowed Penn State a second chance to score a game-winning two-point conversion). Oklahoma went bowling that season in Houston for the Bluebonnet Bowl.

The Sooners’ opponent in the 1968 Bluebonnet Bowl was the SMU Mustangs. OU came into the game ranked 10th in the country. SMU was 10 back at No. 20 in the Associated Press rankings.

Oklahoma led 7-0 at the half and scored two third-quarter touchdowns to take a 21-6 lead after three quarters.

The Mustangs came storming back, though, scoring 22 unanswered points in the final quarter to flip the scoreboard to 28-21 in SMU’s favor.

Oklahoma, without the services of starting quarterback Bob Warmack, who was injured earlier in the game, managed a late score to pull within one at 28-27. The Sooners went for a two-point conversion in an attempt to win the game, but were unsuccessful.

OU successfully executed an onside kick and was afforded one more chance to win the game in the closing seconds, but a field-goal try by Bruce Derr from inside the SMU 30-yard line was off the mark, preserving the SMU upset win and turn what looked every bit like a Sooner victory as the final quarter began into a crushing defeat.

Dec 31, 2015; Miami Gardens, FL, USA;A general view of Oklahoma Sooners helmets in the third quarter of the 2015 CFP Semifinal at the Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

1978 Orange Bowl – No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 6 Arkansas

Oklahoma entered its 1978 New Year’s night Orange Bowl game with Arkansas as the No. 2 team in the country and as a heavy favorite to beat coach Lou Holtz’s Razorbacks, primarily because Holtz had suspended three Arkansas players for the bowl game, including two running backs who had accounted for nearly 80 percent of the team’s rushing yardage that season.

The table was set for coach Barry Switzer’s fifth straight Big 12 championship team. Top-ranked Texas had lost earlier in the day, soundly beaten 38-10 in the Cotton Bowl by the Joe Montana-led Notre Dame Fighting Irish. All the Sooners had to do was beat an undermanned and heavy underdog Arkansas team and a third national championship in four seasons was likely theirs for the taking.

Realists will tell you that’s why they play the games. As fate would have it, Oklahoma fumbled inside its own 10-yard line on the third play of the game. Moments later, Arkansas cashed in the Sooner turnover with its first of two first-quarter touchdowns.

That’s the way the first half ended, with the Razorbacks owning a 14-0 lead over the thoroughly frustrated Sooners. Arkansas would tack on 10 more points in the third quarter. The Razorbacks were gaining confidence with every possession and clearly had Oklahoma on its heels.

The Sooners finally scored in the fourth quarter, but a failed extra-point kick pretty much summed up OU’s performance on this particular night.

Arkansas added another touchdown to close out the scoring and give Lou Holtz and the Razorbacks a 31-6 win one of the biggest upset victories in college bowl history.

Switzer later referred to this game as “the most disappointing loss of my career.”

Dec 31, 2015; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; The Oklahoma Sooners mascot prior to the 2015 CFP semifinal at the Orange Bowl against the Clemson Tigers at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports

2005 Orange Bowl – No. 1 USC vs. No. 2 Oklahoma

Oklahoma played out the entire 2004 season – from preseason through championship week – as the nation’s No. 2 team. The Sooners finished the regular season with a perfect 12-0 record behind 2003 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jason White.

Their reward for ending the regular season undefeated was a date in the 2005 BCS National Championship game in the Orange Bowl against top-ranked USC and the reigning Heisman winner, quarterback Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and the fully loaded and nearly invincible Trojans.

This game marked the first time in college football history that the two past Heisman winners opposed each other in the same game.

The national title game began with a bang for Oklahoma. The Sooners took the game’s opening kickoff and marched the length of the field in fairly easy fashion to go out in front 7-0. Little was it known at the time, but that would be one of the few Sooner highlights in this game.

Thanks to five Oklahoma turnovers, including three interceptions thrown by White, USC steamrolled the Sooners for 55 unanswered points following OU’s brief 7-0 advantage.

The Trojans played a nearly flawless game and moved the ball against the Sooner defense virtually at will, piling up 525 yards of total offense. Oklahoma scored nine meaningless points during trash time at the end of the game. Otherwise, the final accounting would have been even worse than it was.

This was the second straight season that the Sooners had appeared in the BCS Championship game. They lost to LSU 21-14 the year before in the Sugar Bowl.

The loss to USC four days into the New Year in 2005 will go down as Oklahoma’s worst bowl loss in terms of the score margin, as well as one of the most devastating defeats in Sooner football history.

Dec 23, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; General view of Boise State Broncos helmets on the sidelines during the 2015 Poinsettia Bowl against the Northern Illinois Huskies at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

2007 Fiesta Bowl – No. 8 Boise State vs. No. 9 Oklahoma

This was the bowl matchup that no team from a major conference wanted: a mid-major team from the Western Athletic Conference with an undefeated 12-0 record going up against one of college football biggest names in the Oklahoma Sooners.

This amounted to a no-win challenge for the Sooners. Everyone expected the big, bad Sooners to exert their will and win the game. So it would be no big deal if OU did win. On the other hand, the vast majority of the population outside of the Sooner State and Big 12 Country were pulling for the ultimate “David vs. Goliath” outcome in this one.

And early on in the game, it appeared that the majority was going to get its wish. Boise State scored the first 14 points as the Broncos took a 14-7 lead after one quarter. Boise State added another seven points in the second quarter and went to the locker room at halftime holding on to a 21-10 advantage.

Things turned from bad to worse for the Sooners in the third quarter, when Boise State intercepted a pass by OU’s Paul Thompson and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown. Upset alert: Boise State 28, Oklahoma 10.

OU got an eight-yard touchdown run by Adrian Peterson late in the third quarter to narrow the Bronco’s advantage to 28-17 entering the final quarter.

That’s when things changed dramatically. The Sooners scored the next 11 points, seven of which came with just 1:26 remaining in the game, to knot the score at 28 and give Oklahoma fans new hope. And it would get even better 20 seconds later, when OU defensive back Marcus Walker picked off a pass by Boise State’s Jared Zabransky and brought it back 33 yards for a go-ahead touchdown to put the Sooners up 35-28 with just over a minute left in the game.

Faced with fourth down and 18 yards to go for a first down and under 30 seconds remaining on the game clock, Boise State pulled off the first of three trick plays that will be shown in college football bowl highlight reels for many years to come.

On what could have been the final play of the game, Zabransky connected with an open Drisan James on a 15-yard completion, still three yards short of the first-down marker, but James lateraled the ball to a trailing Jerard Rabb who caught the OU defenders off guard and took it the final 35 yards for a game-tying score, sending the game into overtime.

And that wasn’t the end of the Boise State trickery.

The Sooners scored on their first overtime possession, as Adrian Peterson took a handoff and took it 25 yards for a touchdown on the Sooners very first play of the extra session.

Down to a another fourth down play and goal-to-go from the five-yard line, the Broncos executed a wide-receiver pass to an open tight end in the back of the end zone, making it 42-41 OU with the extra point coming to force a second overtime.

Instead of going for the tie by kicking the extra point, however, Broncos’ head coach Chris Peterson rolled the dice once more and called for an old-fashioned Statue of Liberty play.

Zabransky took the snap and held the ball behind his back while faking a forward pass. Running back Ian Johnson broke behind Zabransky and, with the hidden ball in hand, ran it inside the left end-zone pylon for the successful two-point conversion.

Game over!

David triumphs over Goliath, and mighty Oklahoma goes down to defeat in the upset heard around the college football world.


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