Our friends at the Tulsa World recently had a Final Four bracket involving Sooner football traditions.
They had four categories: best wishbone quarterback, best coach, worst gut-punch and best Texas import.
The choices were interesting, but debateable.
For Wishbone quarterback, fans could choose Jack Mildren or J.C. Watts on one side and Jamelle Holieway and Steve Davis on the other.
Mildren vs. Watts: Mildren — He had to teach himself the offense when the Sooners chose to go to the ’bone after losing to Oregon State 23-14 in the third week of the season his junior year.
If Mildren had failed that season, the history of OU football could have seen drastic changes. Chuck Fairbanks could have been fired as well as future legend Barry Switzer, the offensive coordinator.
No one could make the last-second pitch with the precision of Mildren. Watts should be considered the best quarterback of the Switzer era, being a deadly accurate passer.
Holieway vs. Davis: Slight edge to Holieway because of his athletcism. It’s hard to argue against Davis’ 32-1-1 record as a starter, but Holieway was so hard to tackle.
Mildren vs. Holieway: Mildren, a great leader who died too soon.
• Best coach: Bud Wilkinson vs. Bob Stoops; Barry Switzer vs. Bennie Owen.
Wilkinson vs. Stoops: Wilkinson’s three national championships and winning streaks of 47- and 31-game winning streaks make him the choice here.
Switzer vs. Owen: Switzer is the obvious choice, but the field is named after Owen for a reason. He had the foresight as the athletic director to build he current stadium in the mid-1920s, just before the great Depression.
Switzer vs. Wilkinson: Switzer is the King, Wilkinson is God. Wilkinson brought in the first African-American player in 1956 (Prentice Gautt as a freshman), more than 14 years ahead of Texas.
• Biggest gut punch: OU’s 7-0 loss to Notre Dame in 1957 (breaking 47-game win streak) vs. a 17-14 loss to Nebraska in 1978 that cost OU a national championship; Arkansas’ 31-6 upset over OU in 1977 vs. 55-19 loss to USC in 2004 national championship game.
Have to go with a write-in here.
Was there a bigger gut-punch than the 16-13 loss to a 4-7 Oklahoma State team in 2001 that not only cost the Sooners a shot at the national championship but a place in the Big 12 championship? Out of the four in the bracket, the Nebraska loss has to be the bigger bummer, because the Sooners lost six fumbles.
Notre Dame, no doubt, was a stunner, especially since OU had beaten the Irish 40-0 the year before. Wilkinson, though, had been quoted as saying the Sooners “played the best we could in that game.’’ The Arkansas and USC games could be listed as two of the worst games good Sooner teams have played.
OU wouldn’t have necessarily been national champions with a win over Arkansas. Notre Dame jumped up from No. 5 to No. 1 after beating Texas (who had beaten OU) in the Cotton Bowl.
• Best Texas import: Billy Sims vs. Jack Mildren or Adrian Petersen vs. Jerry Tubbs.
Sims vs. Mildren: Slight edge to Sims because he won the Heisman. Both lived up to their billing as two of the most hyped recruits OU signed out of Texas.
Petersen vs. Tubbs: As good as Petersen was, he didn’t achieve his full potential because of injuries and leaving early for the NFL. Tubbs, author Jim Dent said, might have been the best player of his era. OU was 31-0 during his tenure. He might have won the Heisman in 1956 if not for more publicized teammate Tommy McDonald.
Sims vs. Tubbs: Tubbs simply because of two national championships. The 1956 team was arguably the best in OU history.
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.