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Bowl game quandary
Stoops latest in long line of coaches to endure slump

by Berry Tramel Published: January 21, 2008
The Crimson Tide lost 20-16 to Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.

No big deal. Then came a Gator Bowl loss to Missouri. And a Liberty Bowl loss to Colorado. Finally, a 24-24 Bluebonnet Bowl tie with Oklahoma's wishbone.

Bryant was so taken with that OU offense, and so looking to change up Bama's fortunes, he adopted the ‘bone himself.

The wishbone got Alabama to the Orange Bowl and a national-title shootout with Nebraska. The Huskers won 38-6. Then came a Cotton Bowl loss to Texas, a Sugar Bowl loss to Notre Dame for the national title and an Orange Bowl loss to Notre Dame.

Eight years, 0-7-1 bowl record, including 0-5 in major bowls.

Then, the Bear turned it around. His final eight bowls: 7-1, with two national titles and 5-1 in major bowls.

Schembechler's bowl slump was worse: 0-7 from 1969 through 1978. Michigan was 0-5 in the Rose Bowl, 0-1 in the Orange (losing to OU) and 0-1 in the Gator.

Here's the killer on Schembechler. No blowouts. Average margin of defeat in those seven bowl losses: 4.7 points. Largest margin of defeat: 14-6, to OU in the Orange and USC in the Rose.

On New Year's 1981, Michigan beat Washington 23-6 in the Rose Bowl, and Schembechler returned to normalcy. He became what most coaches will become if given enough time: .500 in bowls. Schembechler was 5-5 in his last 10 bowls.

But while Schembechler remained revered in Michigan and Bryant worshipped in Alabama, another coach's bowl disasters were not so easily forgiven.

In seven straight seasons, 1987 through 1993, Nebraska lost a bowl game. A Fiesta, an Orange, another Fiesta, a Citrus then three straight Oranges.

And Tom Osborne's defeats weren't all that competitive. Losses by 20, 24, 24, 22 and 13 points.

Osborne was the coach who couldn't win the big one. An 8-13 bowl record. No national championships. A good coach, they said, not great.

But the seventh of those seven straight bowl losses was a thriller, an 18-16 loss to Florida State in the 1994 Orange Bowl.

Osborne coached only four more seasons. In those years his teams went 60-2 and won three national titles. The Huskers were 4-0 in bowls, winning 24-17, 62-24, 41-21 and 42-17.

Nebraska went from wretched in bowl games to regal. From woeful to epic.

Better players? Sure. Better coaching? Maybe. Easier teams? No way.

Who can explain it? Bowls produce strange streaks. Some are unflattering. If Bob Stoops wants to get high on that list, he's got some work to do.

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops needs to figure out why the Sooners keep falling short in bowl games. BY STEVE SISNEY, THE OKLAHOMAN


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