Welcome back to another edition of our 2019 Countdown to Kickoff series! We’ve finally reached the halfway point of this countdown, and with 50 days left until the Oklahoma Sooners re-take Owen Field, I want to revisit the 1950 season, when OU claimed its first of seven national championships.
In the fourth year of the Bud Wilkinson era, Oklahoma entered the college football season ranked No. 6 in the AP Poll. The Sooners were led on offense by QB Claude Arnold, OT Jim Weatherall, and RB Billy Vessels, who would eventually become the Sooners’ first Heisman Trophy winner in 1952.
This 1950 OU squad was one of the best under Wilkinson, which is saying a lot considering he coached the teams that won a D-I record 47 consecutive games. The Sooners shut out three of their first five opponents (Boston College, Kansas State and Iowa State) by a combined score of 134-0, and in the middle of that stretch defeated the Texas Longhorns, 14-13 in a contest between top four teams.
From there, Oklahoma continued to cruise through the rest of its schedule with virtually no serious threat or challenge, including a 49-35 win over No. 16 Nebraska. Following a 41-14 Bedlam beatdown, the top-ranked Sooners finished the regular season 10-0, 6-0 in the Big 7, and were named national champions.
For all intents and purposes, OU’s subsequent bowl game was a glorified consolation prize, as the national championship had already been awarded to them. As a result, the team played like it had already wrapped up the season, and the No. 7 Kentucky Wildcats upset Oklahoma, 13-7 in the Sugar Bowl. Still, it was a campaign that will forever be treasured in the annals of Sooner Football, as it brought home the school’s first national title.
Now let’s cover any days we missed since our last countdown post:
51 Days! - Trey Sermon’s 51-yard catch and run
On Sept. 29, 2018, Kyler Murray swung a pass over to then-sophomore running back Trey Sermon, and with his elite vision, some fancy footwork, and the help of some key blocking, the Marietta, Georgia native did the rest. Well, almost.
Besides Sermon’s 51-yard scamper down to the one-yard line, what I enjoyed most about the final play of the third quarter versus the Baylor Bears was the blocking from offensive linemen Creed Humphrey and Cody Ford. Go back and watch both No. 56 and No. 74 during the run and you’ll see what I mean. It’s only a small shame that Sermon was unable to reach the end zone, but fortunately Kyler Murray sealed the deal with his legs on the next play.
Not only does this catch and run go down as the longest of Sermon’s collegiate career, it’s the longest reception by any Oklahoma running back since Joe Mixon hauled in a 60-yard pass from Baker Mayfield against Houston in 2016. With that in mind, I know I’ll be on the lookout for another 50-yard reception by a tailback this fall!
52 Days! - 52 Bowl Appearances
Since the 1938 season, Oklahoma has qualified for college football’s bowl game festivities 52 times. After losing that 1939 Orange Bowl to Tennessee, 17-0, the Sooners proceeded to win seven of their next eight bowl games, and now hold an all-time record of 29-22-1 in such contests. That one tie came against Alabama in the 1970 Bluebonnet Bowl.
I mentioned the Orange Bowl earlier, and it’s likely the bowl that Sooners fans are most familiar with, as Oklahoma has taken that trip down to Miami on 20 separate occasions. Of course, the most recent of such occasions was actually the last time OU stepped on the field — last December against Crimson Tide.
In the College Football Playoff era (2014-present), OU has hit a bit of a rough patch in the postseason, with its only bowl win coming against the Auburn Tigers in the 2017 Sugar Bowl. All things considered, Oklahoma’s current streak of 20 consecutive bowl invites is a major testament to the program’s sustained strength and consistency.
53 Days! - Kenneth Murray breaks 53-year old program record
On Sept. 22, 2018, then-sophomore MIKE linebacker Kenneth Murray broke an OU record against the Army Black Knights that hadn’t been touched in decades. In 1965, Oklahoma’s Carl McAdams made 24 tackles in a loss versus the Navy Midshipmen, and it took 53 years before another Sooner was able to surpass his mark, which now sits at 28 tackles made in a single game.
For Murray’s valiant effort and record-breaking performance, he was named the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week.
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