The Game Of The (Oklahoma) Century

Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman wrote in 2007 celebrating 100 years of Oklahoma statehood, ranking the 2001 Oklahoma Sooners’ Orange Bowl win over Florida State as “the greatest sports event in state history.”

Given the illustrious record of Sooner football since the end of World War II, that’s saying quite a bit. Six other national championships and a still-standing Division I winning streak of 47 games was quite a hurdle to jump over.

Yet going into the 2000 season, there had been little for Tramel and his fellow Sooner fans to cheer about over the previous 11 seasons. While fans of ordinary schools might find little to complain about a composite record of 68-55-3 with 4 minor bowl appearances, for Oklahomans it was like going into a bar and being served skim milk with your nachos. And with the team averaging fewer than 5 wins per season since 1995, there was little reason to expect that things would get any better.

But in real life the game is played on the field, not in the pre-season polls. And once the 2000 season began, Sooner fans quickly realized that their gridiron dust bowl had grown a nice field of grass. After cruising through their first four games by lopsided margins, Bob Stoops’ men went down to Austin to meet mighty Texas in what everyone expected would be a shootout. A shootout it turned out to be, all right, but the bullets all landed in the Longhorns, as the Sooners waltzed to an almost impossibly easy 63-14 massacre.

From there it didn’t get any easier, as the Red and White ran into top-ranked Nebraska at the end of October in a continuance of their traditional rivalry. We’d like to think that the Oklahomans had vengeance in their hearts in memory of the 1971 “Game of the Century,” but whatever the motivation, by the end of the day the # 1 banner was being handed over to the home team, as the Cornhuskers were humbled in a 31-14 rout.

Subsequent to that highlight game, the Sooners had a few close calls against Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. And while they entered the Orange Bowl (and BCS title game) as the only unbeaten team in the nation, they were made into 11½ point underdogs to Florida State once the oddsmakers noted that the Seminoles had racked up 509 points in rolling to an 11-1 record.

But again, championships are decided on the field, not in Las Vegas. When they woke up the next morning with nightmares of the Sooners’ defensive line still spinning in their heads, the Seminoles wished they could have saved a few of those 509 points for a night when they really needed them. Only a fourth quarter safety prevented a humiliating whitewash, as the Oklahomans proved their championship mettle with a convincing 13-2 win.

Click here to buy a poster of this program cover.

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