Happy Friday, friends and fans! We’re moving right along in our Countdown to Kickoff. With 99 days to go until the Oklahoma Sooners open the 2021 season, I wanted to use this time to reminisce on one of the longest plays in program history that directly led to a record-breaking day. I’m talking about Jerome Ledbetter’s 99-yard kick return against the Colorado Buffaloes in 1980.
On Oct. 4, 1980, Barry Switzer and his No. 12 OU team was coming off a frustrating home loss to the Stanford Cardinal. Unfortunately for the Buffs, they were the next team on the schedule, meaning they’d have to endure the inevitable onslaught coming to Folsom Field.
With three and a half minutes remaining in the contest, the Sooners had built a 75-42 lead over Colorado. The game was clearly in hand at that point, but when a freshman Jerome Ledbetter fielded a kickoff, he saw nothing but daylight and opportunity.
While it isn’t the longest kick return ever for a Sooner (four players have gone the full 100), there are a couple aspects surrounding this play that make it one of the truly remarkable moments in OU lore. For starters, this was the very first kick return attempt in Ledbetter’s career — and he housed it for 99 yards. Also, this particular touchdown officially gave Oklahoma 82 points on the day, making this the most points scored in a single game in program history.
Jerome Ledbetter is the younger cousin of fellow Sooner tailback Weldon Ledbetter, and he came to Norman out of Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1980. Following a solid freshman campaign, he redshirted the following year, then suffered a season-ending injury in the early stages of the ‘82 season. He was finally able to contribute in ‘83 and ‘84, and for his career, the converted fullback rushed for 384 yards and five touchdowns on 97 carries while adding two more scores as a returner.
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