Welcome back to another installment of our 2019 Countdown to Kickoff series! With 36 days until the Oklahoma Sooners begin the upcoming college football season, I want to take a look inside OU’s current run of dominance in the Big 12.
On Oct. 17, coming off a loss in the Red River game against Texas, the Sooners took a trip north of the Oklahoma border to Manhattan, KS. There, a struggling Kansas State was the unlucky recipient of one of the biggest beatdowns in recent OU football history. The result was a 55-0 win for the Crimson & Cream, and so began an epic run of conference supremacy.
Led by Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma ran the conference table the rest of the way to finish the regular season 11-1, claiming the outright Big 12 title and earning a berth in the College Football Playoff.
The following season, the Sooners were once again manned by Mayfield, but with him was the full force of Dede Westbrook. After stumbling out of the gates 1-2, the two eventual Heisman Trophy finalists came together to lead Oklahoma through the Big 12 unscathed and towards a second consecutive title.
The 2016 campaign would be capped off with an invite to the Sugar Bowl, where OU would throttle the Auburn Tigers.
Going into 2017, a major changing of the guard was taking place as Bob Stoops handed over the team reins to Lincoln Riley. In his first season as head coach, the genius play caller didn’t miss a beat as he guided the Sooners to a strong start to the season. Then came one of the biggest upsets in program history.
Losing to Iowa State in Norman not only ended an 18-game win streak versus Big 12 opponents, it raised several questions regarding the team and the program itself. Fortunately, Oklahoma rallied to win out, beat TCU in the return of the Big 12 Championship Game, and go back to the CFP.
Finally, in 2018, the Sooners may have had to replace all-everything Heisman QB Baker Mayfield, but Kyler Murray was already in place and ready to show the football world what he could really do when let loose. Unfortunately for the rest of the Big 12, that meant putting up video game numbers week after week.
The only stumble in conference play last season came against the Longhorns, who had their strongest team in nearly a decade. Beyond them, no other team in the Big 12 presented as great of a challenge as UT, allowing Oklahoma to run the table, rematch Texas, and get the last laugh en route to a fourth conference crown in a row.
Starting with that 55-0 shutout over Kansas State in 2015, Oklahoma has come away victorious in 34 of its last 36 games against Big 12 conference members. In that same span, the Sooners have also won four consecutive Big 12 titles. That’s a program record streak, and according to the 2019 preseason media polls, OU is the heavy favorite to finish on top yet again.
Now let’s cover any days we missed since our last countdown post:
37 Days! - Oklahoma gets revenge over Iowa State, 37-27
Going into 2018, there was only one Big 12 team Oklahoma had yet to defeat with Lincoln Riley as its head coach. That team was Iowa State, and Matt Campbell was 1-0 against the Sooners’ young front man.
With Baker Mayfield in Cleveland, the Kyler Murray show was only two games in, but statistical comparisons were already being drawn between the two. As the season played out, we all know how that story went. Heisman, playoffs, first pick: check, check, check. But back in Ames, on a balmy September morning, business needed to be handled, and a little payback was in store.
Star running back Rodney Anderson was lost for the season against UCLA in the weekend prior, so others had to step up against one of the better defenses Oklahoma would face all season. Murray and his top target Marquise Brown connected early for a 75-yard bomb, while Trey Sermon and Marcelias Sutton handled the bulk of the carries from the backfield.
Speaking of Sutton, the senior backup running back did this:
Marcelias Sutton jumped over a man today -- and then received the business end of that decision. Football. pic.twitter.com/vSU0kXvUhz— Eddie Radosevich (@Eddie_Rado) September 15, 2018
Unfortunately, some time later, Sutton would also go down, leaving Sermon and Murray as the Sooners’ primary running threats. Because of this development, K1 would carry the ball 15 times, which were the second most rushing attempts for the entire season (17 against Alabama).
All game long, ISU WR Hakeem Butler put on an absolute clinic against the Sooners’ secondary, but ultimately his Cyclones would fall in defeat amid such valiant effort when OU CB Parnell Motley sealed the deal with this interception.
Even with Oklahoma avenging the loss in 2017, Campbell’s program has proven that the upset in Norman was no fluke. His Cyclones have stymied Riley’s offenses each of the past two seasons, and are responsible for two of the Sooners’ three lowest score totals versus all Big 12 teams. If this year’s matchup is as thrilling as either of the past two, prepare yourselves for anything.
38 Days! - Oklahoma’s dominant defense in 1938
The year was 1938, and Tom Stidham was in his second season as Oklahoma’s head coach. The campaign was off to an inauspicious start after a 7-6 victory over Rice in the opener, but little did anyone realize just how stifling of a run the defense — led by First-Team All-American DE Roland ‘Waddy’ Young — was embarking on.
The Sooners went on to defeat Texas, Kansas and Nebraska by a combined score of 46-0, before finally giving up points to Tulsa in a 28-6 win. Oklahoma’s shutout streak quickly picked back up against Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Washington State, outscoring those opponents, 104-0. Eight shutouts in 10 games? Not bad by any measure.
That OU team wasn’t just great at keeping the opposition off the scoreboard, they held them down on the stat sheet as well. In fact, the 1938 Sooners still hold the program records for fewest yards allowed in a single game (14 vs. Washington State) and fewest yards allowed per game for an entire season (111.5). In today’s college football, those records are about as unbreakable as they come.
The undefeated, record-setting Sooners earned a berth to the Orange Bowl against the Tennessee Volunteers, marking the first time Oklahoma played in a bowl game in school history. Unfortunately, the game resulted in another shutout, but with OU on the wrong side of the score. The Vols won, 17-0, but the Big 6 Champions could still be proud of the incredible season they put together. It’s the kind of season that will likely never be matched or challenged ever again.
39 Days! - OU beats Texas, 39-27, for the 2018 Big 12 Championship
When Oklahoma and Texas met up last October for the annual Red River Showdown, the resulting loss left a bad taste in the mouth for Sooner fans everywhere. Fortunately, with the return of Big 12 Championship Game, OU didn't have to wait an entire year for a shot at redemption.
The game actually began with the Longhorns landing the first couple punches, leading 14-6 in the second quarter and looking every bit as dominant as they did in the meeting less than two months prior. Then Kyler Murray and the Sooners’ offense found their footing and put the pedal to the metal.
What’s great about these games between Red River rivals is how the stars typically come out to shine. For Oklahoma, that meant players like Murray, CeeDee Lamb, and Grant Calcaterra stepping up when the team needed them most. What’s even more exciting is when a player who doesn’t necessarily have a well-known reputation makes a play to impact the overall course of the game. In this title bout, that Sooner was CB Tre Brown, who made the defensive play of the year with his fourth quarter sack for a safety.
In the end, Oklahoma came away victorious after a tough yet convincing performance over UT. Kyler Murray went on to win the Heisman Trophy the following Saturday, and the Sooners made their third overall appearance in the CFP. None of that would have been possible if it weren’t for this epic showdown in the Big 12 Championship.
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