Don’t look now, but we’re down to 50 days until the Oklahoma Sooners kick off the 2018 season! In this installment of the Countdown to Kickoff series, our focus will be on Vince Carter and Jon Cooper, two centers that did the position proud during their time as Sooners.
Let’s start with Vince Carter. In 2001, starting center Josh Smith went down with an injury early in the season. It was Carter’s number that was called upon as Smith’s back-up, and 10 starts later, Carter had complete ownership of the job.
The Waco, Texas native helped pave the way for some of program’s most prolific ball carriers. Guys like Quentin Griffin and Adrian Peterson were able to stuff the stat sheet because of road-graters like Carter. Carter also helped protect a guy named Jason White, Oklahoma’s fourth Heisman Trophy winner.
Vince Carter was named to the All-Big 12 First Team in 2003 and 2004, and he even earned All-American status in ‘04. Check out big No. 50 just moving dudes out of the way in the 2004 Big 12 Championship Game.
It didn’t take long for Oklahoma to replace Carter’s immense presence as the keystone of the offensive line. In 2005, a true freshman named Jon Cooper quickly was quickly regarded as one of the fastest rising stars on the team. Unfortunately, Cooper suffered a serious right ankle injury that stunted his rookie season two games short.
By the time the 2006 season rolled around, the Fort Collins, Colo. product had solidified himself as a key cog on the Sooners’ O-line. Cooper went on to start 27 of the next 28 games over his sophomore and junior seasons.
As a senior, Cooper was named Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year, and that’s significant, considering that the ‘08 Sooners fielded arguably the greatest offensive line unit in conference history. With Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford and Oklahoma legend DeMarco Murray both in the backfield, it was Cooper and the ‘08 offensive line who paved the way for one of the most prolific offenses in college football history.
Now let’s cover the days we missed since our last countdown post:
51 days! - Austin Seibert nails a career-long 51 yard field goal against WVU
Placekicker/punter Austin Seibert bounced back from a shaky sophomore season with a very solid junior campaign. In the final regular season game of 2017, Seibert had a chance to make the longest field goal in his career, and he made it count. With his successful kick, the Sooners took a commanding 45-10 lead over the West Virginia Mountaineers after two quarters, and Seibert stood a little taller that day.
52 days! - Dimitri Flowers goes 52 yards to the house against Baylor
In one of the most nail-biting games of the 2017 season, Dimitri Flowers did what he usually did — he balled out. Early in the game, Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma offense were moving the ball at will, and the second score of the game came on this spectacular 52-yard Flowers touchdown reception.
53 days! - The 47-game winning streak began with the 1953 win over UT
The 1953 season started precariously for Bud Wilkinson and the Oklahoma Sooners. The first game resulted in a seven-point loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and OU tied Pitt a week later. After that? History. Oklahoma defeated the Texas Longhorns 19-14. Sure, it was nice to finally get in the win column, but to do it against an arch-rival was even sweeter.
Still, in hindsight, what’s most significant about Oklahoma’s 1953 win over Texas was that it marked the first win of the Sooners’ record 47-straight victories. They didn’t know it at the time, but the 1953 Oklahoma Sooners set in motion one of the most ridiculous winning streaks in all of sports, and it all started at the Cotton Bowl.
54 days! - Sterling Shepard takes it 54 yards in South Bend
In 2012, Notre Dame arrived in Norman undefeated and walked out the same way. In 2013, it was Oklahoma’s turn for a little payback. Quarterback Blake Bell led the way for the Sooners, and in one of the biggest plays of the game, Bell connected with sophomore Sterling Shepard on a crucial third down for a 54-yard score. Shepard would make plenty of crucial plays in his career, but this was one of the sweetest.
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