Today Oklahoma and Auburn will play in the 83rd installment of the Sugar Bowl. Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn says “The Sugar Bowl is the best bowl in all of college football.” Most Sooner fans still have an affinity for the Orange, Michigan menare all in on the Rose, and Texas fans of a certain vintage still get misty eyed about Cotton Bowls of a bygone era.
While you may disagree with Malzahn’s statement, you can’t argue that getting to see OU play in one of the sport’s most historic settings is pretty darn cool. Today marks the eighth appearance for the Crimson and Cream; which is the most for any school who is not in the SEC. The Sooners are also the only team to win Sugar Bowl twice in the same year, pulling Off that feat in 1972. If you’re not lucky enough to remember all of these moments, we now ask you to get in the way back machine for a brief primer of Oklahoma’s best (and not so best) memories in the Big Easy.
1949 was the first of three straight trips to New Orleans for Bud Wilkinson. OU’s 14-6 win over North Carolina was Bud’s first bowl win as the Sooners CEO. The Tarheels will swear that Lemony Snicket wrote the screenplay for this one. All American “Choo Choo” Charlie Justice got sick three days before the game. Justice still played but threw a pick at the Oklahoma seven and Myrle Greathouse took the interception for a 69-yard return that lead to OU’s first score. Darell Royal played exactly one snap at quarterback but had his pass bounce off the hands of Carolina defender Dick Bunting into the hands of Frankie Anderson that put OU on the UNC 10. The Sooners punched it in for the touchdown and the win.
Oklahoma came back to the scene of the crime in 1950, ripping LSU 35-0. But in 1951, despite being crowned National Champions, WIlkinson’s bunch wouldn’t go three for three. Bear Bryant’s Kentucky Wildcats snapped a 31 game OU win streak dealing the Sooners a 13-7 loss.
1972 was a grand year for Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. Just weeks after losing a heartbreaker to Nebraska, the Sooners pummeled Heisman winner Pat Sullivan and Auburn in a 40-22 victory. Jack Mildren rushed149-yards three touchdowns in the win. The Huskers triumph in the Orange Bowl and Colorado’s victory in the Bluebonnet gave the Big 8 the top three spots in the AP poll.
Just 364 days later OU’s defense held Penn State to 196 yards of total offense en route to 14-0 shutout. Tinker Owens’s over the shoulder catch between two Nittany Lions that served as OU’s first score was the highlight of the contest. Oklahoma would later forfeit this game for using players who had doctored high school transcripts. The NCAA never forced the Sooners to vacate any of the wins from the ’72 season. Thus, according to Oklahoma’s media guide, OU is the Big 8 and Sugar Bowl champions for 1972.
In 2004, Bob Stoops could have claimed his second BCS title but fell short to Nick Saban’s LSU Tigers 21-14. All anyone seems to remember is Justin Vincent’s 64-yard run on the Bayou Bengals opening drive. The rumor is that LSU dominated Oklahoma. The truth is Jason White had the offense on the Tiger’s twelve late in the game but never got it into the end zone.
Revenge would be Stoops ten years later when Trevor Knight torched Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide for 348 yards and four touchdowns. No National Championship, but, in the last year of BCS, OU became the only school to win all four of the BCS bowl games.
Maybe today we see Baker Mayfield, Samaje Perine, or Dede Westbrook join the likes of Knight, Owens, and Royal. Let’s just hope the Sooners are on the right side of history this time.