It’s been 10 years since Oklahoma lost to LSU in the Superdome, but the Sooners’ history with the Sugar Bowl is deep and meaningful
Oklahoma’s tracks are all over the Sugar Bowl record book with six appearances — most of any school outside of the Southeastern Conference — and four victories in the Crescent City’s big game.
In the seven decades since they first set foot in the Crescent City under 33-year-old whiz kid coach Bud Wilkinson, Sooners games have been memorable.
National champion OU teams have played here, and No. 1 contenders have played here. Even their defeats are remembered, and they had national repercussions.
Wilkinson’s Sooners, named No. 1 at the end of the regular season in 1950, were upended 13-7 by the Kentucky Wildcats — who were led by another coaching wunderkind, Paul “Bear’’ Bryant.
And there’s the 21-14 showdown against LSU for the BCS national championship in the 2004 game with Heisman winner Jason White at quarterback for OU and Nick Saban prowling the Tigers’ sideline.
But what is very hard to escape is that two of the most unbreakable records in the almost-80-year Sugar Bowl history are held by the Sooners: the largest margin of victory, 35-0 over LSU in 1950, and the longest time a final Sugar Bowl score became official, three months in the ultimately final 14-0 win over Penn State in 1972.
Neither are likely to be broken anytime soon.
The first LSU matchup
The 1950 Sugar Bowl was an intriguing pairing. Second-ranked Oklahoma was on a 20-game victory streak. The Tigers, in the days when SEC champions were not tied to the Sugar, were portrayed as America’s “David’’ that season.
They had not only gone 8-2, but had beaten three conference champions (Rice of the Southwest, North Carolina of the Atlantic Coast and Tulane of the SEC).
The game took on a sinister light when two figures with ties to LSU — a former lineman then playing for the Philadelphia Eagles named Walter “Piggy’’ Barnes and fan Adolthus “Goober’’ Morse — were caught spying on Oklahoma’s practices in Biloxi, Miss.
They insisted to their dying days they were innocent of spying, but Wilkinson used the incident for all it was worth.
“The coaches were furious,’’ he recalled decades later, “really angry. That gave us additional impetus.’’
Morse said afterward: “Later on, the Atlanta Touchdown Club gave coach Wilkinson the Walter Barnes-Goober Morse Award, which was a pair of binoculars. Every time I see coach Wilkinson, we laugh about it now.’’
But Wilkinson wasn’t laughing Jan. 2, 1950.
Scoring 14 points in the second quarter, Oklahoma never let up.
Wilkinson said afterward: “If we played LSU a dozen times we’d never play that well again, or score that many points. They’re too good a team.’’
That was probably why the Sooners coach didn’t take out his regulars until approximately three minutes remained in the game and the score stood at its final 35-0.
After further review
Oklahoma was part of a Sugar Bowl experiment at the end of 1972 season. The Sooners, who beat Auburn 40-22 in the Jan. 1 game, were invited back — but for the first time, the Sugar was played on New Year’s Eve.
It had been 28 years since an SEC had not played in the Sugar Bowl. These were the days before the tie-in with the SEC, and the Sugar ultimately saw its best game as the fourth-ranked Sooners, who had upset No. 1-ranked Nebraska in their season finale, against fifth-ranked Penn State in a matchup of two 10-1 teams.
The Sooners, under coach Chuck Fairbanks, beat the Nittany Lions.
But three months later, there was a question of having to change the score — and the winner.
An investigation revealed that the high school transcripts of a couple OU players had been tampered with. As a result, OU voluntarily forfeited every game in which the pair participated — including the Sugar Bowl.
Penn State coach Joe Paterno refused to change the outcome.
“Irrespective of what action Oklahoma or the Sugar Bowl would take in regards to the forfeit, our players and the Oklahoma players know who won the game,” he said.
Sooners in the Sugar
Jan. 1, 1949: Oklahoma 14, North Carolina 6
Jan. 2, 1950: Oklahoma 35, LSU 0
Jan. 1, 1951: Kentucky 13, Oklahoma 7
Jan. 1, 1972: Oklahoma 40, Auburn 22
Dec. 31, 1972: Oklahoma 14, Penn State 0
Jan. 4, 2004: LSU 21, Oklahoma 14