Gloom descends upon Norman

By Berry Tramel Modified: November 12, 2007 at 8:23 am •  Published: November 12, 2007
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Th
ey rose and unified in a standing ovation. According to "Presidents Can't Punt,” former OU president George Lynn Cross' book, Notre Dame vice president Father Edmund Joyce thought the ovation was for the Irish, and Cross didn't correct him.

Not every OU fan was so sporting. The next week, a letter to The Oklahoma City Times called for Wilkinson's removal as head coach. At the time, his record in the previous 48 games was 47-1.

Such nonsense was rare. Some fans gathered outside the OU locker room to cheer on the exiting Sooners. But the reality of defeat was slow to sink in on everyone.

Bill Krisher, an All-American OU guard in 1957, dressed after the game, left the locker room and walked behind the old south bleachers, which you could see through. He was taken aback by people still sitting in the stands.

Gene Nance was one of those OU fans. Then 32, he said the mood was, “Well, I guess it’s over. Kind of a funny feeling. Everybody was just stunned.”

Many fans walked home in those days — Wilkinson included — and Nance walked home maybe a mile to his home on Caddell Lane. Nance wore a red shirt that day, which was not the norm in 1957.

A neighbor across the street doing yardwork yelled out, “That shirt doesn’t look too red right now.”

There are wisenheimers in every era.

Bob Barry Sr., then a budding sportscaster for KNOR radio and still a few years removed from becoming the OU radio play-by-play voice, had friends over that Saturday night.

“Most adults almost cried,” Barry said. “This had never happened. We were all in a stupor. It was like somebody died. Just disbelief. I don’t know how to say it any better than that.”

That says it well. Over on Flood Avenue, then the primary road to Oklahoma City, 13-year-old Bob Rice sat and watched the cars inch by.

“It was pretty quiet,” said Rice, who still lives in Norman. “No one was saying a word. My father said it looked like a funeral procession.”

In a way it was. One of the great streaks in American sport had died.

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