Welcome back to another exciting edition in our 2020 Countdown to Kickoff series! As of this Tuesday, there are 81 days remaining until the Oklahoma Sooners are set to return to the gridiron. With that in mind, let’s take a look at junior H-back Brayden Willis, who for the past two seasons has steadily emerged as one of OU’s more intriguing offensive weapons.
Coming out of James Martin HS in Arlington, Texas, Brayden Willis was a late addition to the 2018 recruiting class. Fortunately for all parties involved, the 6’3” and 235-pound athlete found his way to Norman, albeit via one of the more unusual ways — through a coach’s recommendation from a rival school. Lincoln Riley explains the unique situation here:
The oral history of sophomore H-back Brayden Willis recruitment that led him to Norman. pic.twitter.com/i3CovxDuOt— SoonerScoop.com (@SoonerScoop) April 4, 2019
After playing most of his snaps on special teams as a true freshman in 2018, Willis was ready to take on more of a role within the Sooners’ offense. Still, he maintained his spot on the field during punts and kickoffs because he’s since proven himself as a difference maker in the game’s third phase. In two seasons, he’s recovered a game-sealing onside kick and blocked two punts, including this one against the West Virginia Mountaineers last October.
As the 2019 regular season reached its final quarter stretch, Willis stepped up in some key moments, recording a touchdown in three consecutive contests. Perhaps no TD was more important than this two-yard reception from Jalen Hurts to tie the game against the Baylor Bears. This particular score completed the Sooners’ massive comeback effort in Waco, before Gabe Brkic ultimately pushed Oklahoma over the edge with a successful late field goal.
In his two years at Oklahoma, Brayden Willis has recorded a total of 12 receptions for 197 yards and three touchdowns. Add in the impact he continues to make on special teams, and we’re potentially looking at the rise of the next great H-back at OU. Now a junior with a pair of seasons under his belt, he knows his way around both the facilities and the field of play. I expect him to receive much more recognition outside of Norman this fall with his abilities on full display.
Now take a look at our countdown installment from Monday!
82 Days - OU scores program record 82 points against Colorado
Barry Switzer’s Sooners were an established college football powerhouse coming into the 1980 season. After opening the campaign with a convincing win over the Kentucky Wildcats, Oklahoma was shocked in Norman by John Elway and the Stanford Cardinal.
That surprising loss sparked a fire in the team — a fire that could only be handled with an offensive clinic for the ages. The following week, OU headed northwest for a bout against the Colorado Buffaloes. Unfortunately for CU, they just so happened to be the unlucky victims in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The date was Oct. 4, 1980. In the first quarter, Oklahoma’s stable of running backs got going early, as Chet Winters and Buster Rhymes each found the end zone before CU could blink. By the end of the game’s opening 15, the Sooners were up 21-7.
The Buffs were clearly outmatched, but they weren’t backing down during this rainy afternoon on Folsom Field. Another Colorado touchdown closed the gap to a single score, but that’s as close as it would ever get for the remainder of the contest as Rhymes and Winters found pay dirt for the third and second time, respectively. Going into the half, the score was 34-21, Oklahoma. A high score for a half of football surely, but certainly not unheard of. That’s where things took a sudden turn for the historic.
The Sooners raced out of the break with three straight touchdowns, starting with a fumble recovery in the end zone from receiver Forrest Valora, followed by a 37-yard TD reception from J.C. Watts to David Overstreet and a 64-yard run from Darrell Shepard. Just about the only thing Oklahoma’s offense did wrong all day was fail on a two-point try in an attempt to atone for a missed PAT from earlier in the game. Still, OU led CU 54-21 mid-way through the third and had absolutely no plans of slowing down.
Rhymes would go on to score his fourth touchdown of the game in the final minute of the third, and in the fourth Shepard housed an 89-yard run. Even Rod Pegues served himself a slice from the scoring fest late in the afternoon, and Jerome Ledbetter capped off the record-setting performance with a 99-yard kickoff return. Final score — 82-42, Sooners.
So to put into perspective just how wild this day was for Oklahoma, it currently stands as the highest scoring game in program history. Beyond that, the Sooners’ 875 total yards are the most they’ve ever racked up in any game (yes, even more than that ridiculous 2016 game at Texas Tech). It’s also the only time OU has scored 12 touchdowns (11 on the ground, one on special teams), and it marks the second-most rushing yards (758) in a single game.
If that wasn’t enough for you, also in 1980, Billy Tubbs was entering his first year as the OU men’s basketball head coach. His hoops squad averaged 72.5 points per game that season, nearly 10 full points less than what Switzer’s team dropped on Colorado. Now that’s cooking.
Oklahoma went on to finish the season at No. 3 in the AP Poll with a 10-2 overall record and an Orange Bowl victory over the Florida State Seminoles. Considering it’s only happened once in 1,288 games, Sooner fans today may never see the 80-point mark eclipsed again in their lifetime, but if the circumstances align just right, it’s not entirely out of the question.
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