December 16, 2003
S0000—the OU Sooners, scourges of the South division of the Big XII football conference, are gearing up for a shot at the national championship when they meet LSU in the Sugar Bowl. Kansas State spoiled a wonderful OU season by upsetting the Oklahoma Big Red, 35-7, in the conference's championship game a few days ago. Perhaps the Sooners were shocked at the imminent departure of Defensive Coordinator Mike Stoops to become head coach at Arizona State University, or they may just have been guilty of believing their pre-game press clippings.
Whatever, they were soundly bushwhacked by the Wildcats, and unless you clearly remember the administration of President John F. Kennedy, you can't imagine how difficult it is to say that. The rise of the 'Cats under Coach Bill Snyder is nothing less than amazing. OU experienced a similar renaissance with Head Coach Bob Stoops in charge, but do you think anyone south of the Kansas state line seriously expected OU to lose to K-State? Of course not.
But, that's not the first time OU has been involved in a major upset at a January bowl game. Remember when, in 1979, one of Barry Switzer's most formidable Oklahoma U. teams was upset and soundly beaten, 31-6, by Arkansas in the Orange Bowl? Another major loss by the Sooners occurred years ago at the Sugar Bowl when the game was played in an outdoor stadium at New Orleans. (The present luxurious, indoor super stadium at the Big Easy, where the next Sugar Bowl game will be played, did not yet exist.)
In that one, played in January of 1951, Kentucky was the OU opponent. The men from the hill country were not favored, but they had a passing quarterback named Vito (Babe) Parilli and a jut jawed young coach named Paul (Bear) Bryant. Although the pre-game prognosticators favored Oklahoma, Kentucky rode the Babe's slingshot arm to a 13-7 upset win over the Sooners.
The Sooners played North Carolina in the 1949 Sugar Bowl. In that one, Oklahoma University was just beginning to assert its dominance with a handsome young coach named Bud Wilkinson. North Carolina had a hotshot running back named Choo-Choo Charlie Justice and the team was the dreadnought of the Atlantic Coast area. The Carolinians were expected to impale OU with the yardage accumulated by Choo-Choo Charlie, but that didn't happen. OU won, 14-6, and the Sooners have been hard to whip ever since. And let us not forget the 1946 Sugar Bowl in which Oklahoma State University (then known as Oklahoma A.&M.) defeated Heiman Wedemeyer and his St. Mary's of California team, 33-13.
I remember the 1949 and 1950 Sugar Bowl games particularly because I was among several Perry fans who attended those thrilling contests in New Orleans. In the 1949 games, Boyd Norman of The Journal advertising staff volunteered to drive the two of us to the game, and the tickets were actually reasonably priced. We left here the night before the game and arrived in New Orleans with just enough time to shave at the bus station before going to the stadium. After the game, we headed straight for Perry and went back to work the next day. In the 1951 game with Kentucky, we boarded a special Santa Fe train in Perry and relaxed the whole time, both en route to the stadium and coming home. We did not go to the 1950 game in which OSU soundly thrashed LSU, 35-0.
So much for memories of games of yore. Let's hope OU, OSU and Tulsa all enjoy convincing wins in the round coming up. All three schools have certainly given us a lot to cheer about this season.