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Oklahoma Sooners Football: Looking back at past games with the service academies

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Oklahoma is 4-2 all-time against Army, Navy and Air Force.

B-2 Bomber fly over at the Rose Bowl Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

On Saturday, players, fans and everyone else in attendance will be treated to something truly special, as the Army Black Knights (formerly the Cadets) will play a football game in Norman for the first time since 1959. We can all expect plenty of pageantry for this one, and it’s an experience we should all savor.

In the program’s history, the Oklahoma Sooners have played only six combined games against the United States Military Academy (Army), Naval Academy and Air Force Academy. These matchups provide a unique experience for everyone involved, and that’s particularly true when Oklahoma has the privilege of traveling to the campus of one of the academies (which will happen for only the second time in 2020). Here’s a quick look back at OU’s past games against Army, Navy and Air Force.

1946 vs. Army (Yankee Stadium)

The Army Cadets were a gridiron force during WWII and the post-war era under Earl Blaik, and the Oklahoma Sooners faced one of their best teams in 1946. With President Harry Truman in attendance, Jim Tatum’s OU squad hung tough (7-7 at halftime) before ultimately suffering a 21-7 defeat inside “The House That Ruth Built”.

Oklahoma’s performance against the eventual three-peat national champions — headlined by Mr. Inside (Doc Blanchard) and Mr. Outside (Glenn Davis) — earned the program newfound national respect and catapulted the Sooners into an era of dominance.

1959 vs. Army (Norman)

By 1959, the Academy’s football dominance had begun to fade. Unfortunately, the same could be said of Bud Wilkinson’s program at that point, but the Sooners were able to prevail by a score of 28-20.

1961 vs. Army (Yankee Stadium)

Wilkinson’s 1961 squad opened the season with five straight losses, but what ensued was arguably the most impressive in-season turnaround in the program’s history. Following a pair of victories over Kansas State and No. 10 Missouri, OU traveled to The Bronx as a heavy underdog for the nationally-televised matchup. OU came out on top, 14-8, and went on to finish 5-5.

1965 vs. Navy (Norman)

Following a 13-9 defeat at Pitt to open the season, OU suffered a 10-0 loss to Navy in its home opener. The Sooners went on to finish 3-7 in what would be Gomer Jones’ final campaign.

2001 vs. Air Force (U.S. Air Force Academy)

Months after winning its seventh national championship, OU headed to Colorado to play on the campus of a service academy for the first time. Due to the low stadium capacity and high demand, many Oklahoma fans resorted to buying Air Force season tickets in order to catch this one in person — something we might also encounter when the Sooners head to West Point in two years. Those fans were treated to a fantastic performance by Quentin Griffin, who rushed for 201 yards on 26 carries en route to a 44-3 OU victory.

2010 vs. Air Force (Norman)

Air Force ended up giving Oklahoma a bit more than it bargained for that afternoon, as the Falcons stormed back from a 27-10 deficit to make it 27-24 with 3:39 remaining. Oklahoma escaped with the 27-24 victory, but the Sooners had allowed 351 rushing yards (not that weird against a service academy, but still far from what Brent Venables wanted late in the game) and were outgained by a count of 458-367 after the fourth-quarter push. In proper context, this one never really felt as close as the score indicated, but the result just goes to show how dangerous and disciplined these service academy teams can be, as well as how their offensive styles can keep things close.