Kansas, with a 1-5 record, appears to be an easy win for Oklahoma Saturday night. But the Jayhawks have spoiled the Sooners' party before.
Barry Switzer had not lost a single game in two-and-a-half seasons (29-0-1) before OU hosted the Jayhawks, unranked with a 5-3 record, in 1975. Oklahoma, the defending national champion, held a 28-game winning streak and 37-game unbeaten streak. The Sooners had not lost a game since 1972.
Second-ranked OU took a 3-0 lead on Tony DiRienzo’s field goal, but Kansas took over and rolled to a 23-3 victory thanks to Nolan Cromwell’s three touchdowns.
Nine years later, No. 2 Oklahoma limped into Lawrence with a 5-0-1 record. Danny Bradley, the Sooners’ starting quarterback, was sidelined with ankle and finger injuries. Inexperienced freshman quarterback Troy Aikman replaced him. Defensive end Kevin Murphy also was sidelined with a sprained foot and fullback Earl Johnson sat out with a busted kneecap.
The Sooners’ offense was basic and conservative due to Aikman’s lack of experience. They committed six turnovers—three interceptions, two fumbles and a blocked punt. Kansas capitalized on five of those errors en route to a 28-11 victory.
Ironically, the Sooners won the national championship each of those years they lost to KU. The Jayhawks have put a scare into the Sooners on a few other occasions when OU seemed invulnerable with a Top 10 ranking.
No. 3 Oklahoma traveled to Lawrence in 1950 to meet a 5-2 Kansas team, which was ranked 19th. Four lost fumbles killed Sooner drives leaving Oklahoma scoreless in the first 30 minutes. The Jayhawks scored a touchdown late on the first half and added another TD early in the third quarter for a 13-0 lead. Then, the Sooners got down to business. Quarterback Claude Arnold tossed four TD passes and Tom Catlin returned a KU pass for another score. At one point the Sooners scored three times in a span of five minutes and 20 seconds in the fourth period. Oklahoma went on to win its first national title.
KU drew within three points, 21-18, on the sixth-ranked Sooners in 1963 with a minute-and-a-half remaining. OU held on for the win.
Four years later, the unranked Jayhawks held a 10-7 lead on the seventh-ranked Sooners. A Kansas punt pinned OU at its four-yard line with 6:37 to go. OU moved the ball toward the south end of the stadium, but not without overcoming a couple of obstacles. The Sooners gained crucial first downs—one on a third-and-four at their 34 and the other on fourth-and-one at their 43. The Sooners continued to the KU 30. That was when OU offensive coordinator Barry Switzer, sitting in the press box, called down “24 pass,” a toss to the tight end.
Steve Zabel took off from the line of scrimmage and Bob Warmack faked to Steve Owens and faded back to heave the ball towards Zabel, who outraced KU defender Tommy Ball. The pigskin began its descent over Zabel’s shoulder in the end zone. Zabel reached out and clutched the ball with 1:02 remaining.
The fans and OU bench exploded, and oranges rained down from the stands. The Sooners won, 14-10, securing a bid to the Orange Bowl.
The Sooners sat atop the polls with a 5-0 record before heading to Lawrence in 1978. The 1-4 Jayhawks were heavy underdogs. But, Oklahoma was without the services of four offensive starters—Kenny King, Thomas Lott, Steve Rhodes and Victor Hicks. Needless to say, OU turned in a sloppy performance offensively (three fumbles and two interceptions). Oklahoma took a 10-0 lead, Kansas answered with a touchdown, and the Sooners countered with another score for a 17-7 lead early in the fourth period.
Kansas kicked a field goal to cut its deficit to 17-10, with 10:17 to go. The Jayhawks scored a touchdown with 15 seconds remaining. KU coach Bud Moore ordered a two-point conversion to win the game and stun the nation by knocking off the nation’s No.1 team. The Jayhawks took too long to get the play off and were flagged for delay of game, moving the ball from the three-yard line to the eight.
Moore changed his mind and decided eight yards was too many to try to win the game. His team would still pull off a moral victory if his kicker made the conversion. OU jumped offside forcing a bad snap to KU holder Mark Vilendese. Vilendese scrambled to find a receiver to throw to, but the Sooners knocked down the airborne football. Oklahoma was penalized five yards for the encroachment and officials replaced the ball at the three-yard line.
Take three: Moore changed his mind once again and ordered the two-point conversion. Sydney took the snap and was forced to hurry his throw. The ball sailed over his receivers’ head and the Sooners held a 17-16 advantage.
Kansas forced Sooner fans into near cardiac arrest as the Jayhawks retrieved the ensuing onside kickoff. Officials ruled that the ball was not ready for play and ordered the Jayhawks to kick it again. This time OU’s Rod Pegues grabbed the bounding pigskin to seal the victory.