The offseason is winding down, as there are now 55 days remaining in our Countdown to Kickoff! For today’s installation of the series, we’re going to highlight the 1955 Oklahoma Sooners, who went 11-0 en route to winning the program’s second national championship.
Pictured below from left to right are University of Oklahoma President George Lynn Cross, All-American running back Tommy McDonald, and head coach Bud Wilkinson ahead of the Orange Bowl against the Maryland Terrapins.
The Sooners came into the 1955 season on a nation-leading 19-game winning streak. Led by quarterback Jimmy Harris and tailback Tommy McDonald on offense, as well as dual-role athletes like All-American center/linebacker Jerry Tubbs and halfback/defensive back Clendon Thomas, this Oklahoma team had star-power in spades. With Wilkinson being in his ninth year at the helm, the streaking Sooners were the cream of the college football crop.
In nine of Oklahoma’s 11 wins, the Sooners held the opposition to seven points or fewer, including five shutouts. The Crimson & Cream weren’t just shutting teams down, they were also running them off the field, eclipsing the 40-point mark on six separate occasions. In fact, Oklahoma defeated its three rivals (Texas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma A&M) by a combined score of 114-0. Talk about a good year for bragging rights...
After winning the Big Seven Conference outright, the No. 1 Sooners earned a national championship and a berth to the 1956 Orange Bowl, where they would square off against former OU head coach Jim Tatum (who brought Wilkinson to Oklahoma as an assistant and left after one season) and the undefeated Maryland Terrapins.
By the end of the first half, Maryland held a 6-0 lead over Oklahoma. With some masterful adjustments by the legendary Wilkinson, Oklahoma scored the game’s final 20 points to secure the 20-6 victory.
Now let’s cover the days we missed since our last countdown post:
56 days! - Ronnell Lewis
We could talk about the dominant 1956 team, but let’s talk about this guy instead.
Ronnell ‘The Hammer’ Lewis earned his nickname after becoming known for his bone-crushing style of play. In high school, the Dewar, OK native played eight-man football, so there was a bit of a transition period for the linebacker into the standard 11-man game. Lewis lettered from 2009-2011, and by the end of his Sooner career, he was named to the All-Big 12 First Team at DE by the Big 12 coaches.
In the 2012 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions selected Ronnell Lewis in the fourth round. Lewis remained in Detroit for a season before being released. While his professional career didn’t pan out, his remarkable talent for laying the wood was on full display during his college days. Check out these monster hits ‘The Hammer’ put on some Stanford players in the 2009 Sun Bowl:
57 days! - The end of the longest winning streak in college football history.
In 1957, Bud Wilkinson and the Oklahoma Sooners were on a tear that will likely never be matched again. It’s one of those unbreakable records in sports, like UCLA Basketball’s 88-game winning streak or Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game — it just isn’t in the cards in this day and age. The Sooners’ 47-game winning streak was not only unprecedented, it was unreal. Unfortunately, reality eventually caught up with the Sooners.
On November 16th, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish came to Norman and shut down Oklahoma’s offense entirely. ND’s lone touchdown was all they needed to put an end to the most prolific winning streak the sport has ever seen. Oklahoma would go on to win out the rest of the way, but the damage from the Notre Dame loss was already done, meaning the Sooners would not become the first college football team to three-peat as national champions.
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