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Oklahoma football: Sugar Bowl history

by Berry Tramel Modified: December 27, 2013 at 12:35 pm •  Published: December 27, 2013

The Sooners' last Sugar Bowl experience was a narrow loss to LSU in 2003. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman.
The Sooners' last Sugar Bowl experience was a narrow loss to LSU in 2003. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman.

OU’s history in the Sugar Bowl comes in spurts. Three straight trips in the seasons from 1948 through 1950, then back-to-back trips in 1971-72. OU’s only other Sugar Bowl appearance was in the 2003 national championship game. Here are OU’s six Sugar Bowl appearances:

1948 season

OU 14, North Carolina 6

Rankings & records: UNC 9-0-1, ranked third. OU 9-1, ranked fifth.

Crowd: 80,383 at Tulane Stadium.

Story: The Tar Heels were slight favorites and led 6-0 on Hosea Rodgers’ first-quarter touchdown. But Myrle Greathouse returned an interception 70 yards, setting up Jack Mitchell’s one-yard TD run. Lindell Pearson added a third-quarter touchdown and the Sooner defense did the rest. Tar Heel all-American tailback Charlie Choo Choo Justice gained 84 yards on 16 carries but was kept out of the end zone. Bobby Goad’s late interception of a Justice pass sealed the game.

1949 season

OU 35, LSU 0

Rankings & records: OU 10-0, ranked second. LSU 8-2, ranked ninth.

Crowd: 82,000 at Tulane Stadium.

Story: The spying allegations against LSU dominated the days leading up to the game. Then the Sooners dominated the game. Leon Heath ran for 170 yards on 15 carries, including touchdown runs of 86 and 34 yards. George Thomas scored two touchdowns, one on a 34-yard pass from Lindell Pearson.

1950 season

Kentucky 13, OU 7

Rankings & records: OU 10-0, ranked first. Kentucky 10-1, ranked seventh.

Crowd: 80,206 at Tulane Stadium.

Story: OU’s national championship team was upset by Bear Bryant’s Wildcats, thanks primarily to five Sooner fumbles, ending OU’s 31-game winning streak. Kentucky made just seven first downs, but quarterback Babe Parilli completed nine of 12 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. The Sooners got a fourth-quarter TD from Merrill Green on a 17-yard pass from Billy Vessels, but a late interception ended OU’s hopes. Leon Heath had another monster game for OU, gaining 121 yards on 20 carries.,

1971 season

OU 40, Auburn 22

Rankings & records: OU 10-1, ranked third. Auburn 10-1, ranked fifth.

Crowd: 84,031 at Tulane Stadium.

Story: The losers of the virtual national semifinals (OU to Nebraska, Auburn to Alabama) staged a one-sided consolation bowl. OU roared to a 31-0 halftime lead. Jack Mildren scored three touchdowns and ran for 149 yards on 30 carries, outdueling Auburn’s Heisman Trophy winner, Pat Sullivan. Auburn scored 15 points in the final four minutes to make the score more acceptable.

1972 season

OU 14, Penn State 0

Rankings & records: OU 10-1, ranked second. Penn State 10-1, ranked fifth.

Crowd: 72,316 at Tulane Stadium.

Story: In OU’s second Sugar Bowl of the calendar year, the Sooners dominated with defense. OU held the Nittany Lions to 11 first downs and 50 yards rushing. Greg Pruitt concluded his OU career with 86 yards rushing on 21 carries. Freshman wide receiver Tinker Owens had five catches for 132 yards and a touchdown, on a 27-yard pass from Dave Robertson.

2003 season

LSU 21, OU 14

Rankings & records: LSU 12-1, ranked second. OU 12-1, ranked first.

Crowd: 79,342 at the Superdome.

Story: LSU held OU’s vaunted offense to 154 total yards and scored a touchdown itself, on Marcus Spears’ 20-yard interception return, which gave LSU a 21-7 lead in the third quarter. The Sooners fought back with their running game, and Kejuan Jones’ 1-yard TD run made it 21-14. The Sooners drove into LSU territory late in the game, but four straight incompletions from the Tiger 12-yard line ended OU hopes.

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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