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O/NSO: Oklahoma rivalry edition

The Obvious: The USC Trojans, one of college football’s most storied programs, has a long history of going out of conference to challenge programs that are considered at the same legendary level.

The Not So Obvious: Last week, the O/NSO selected some memorable “YouTube” games that hopefully brought a helpful diversion from staying home and worrying about the Coronavirus. It got the O/NSO to thinking that maybe a series of O/NSO editions should be devoted to some of the Trojans’ greatest out-of-state rivalries.  With that in mind, this week we take a look at the Trojans’ rivalry with the Oklahoma Sooners. For the record, the Cardinal and Gold is 5-2-1 against the men from Norman. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy some of the most memorable USC/OU games.

The Obvious: In 1963, the Trojans were ranked the No. 1 team in the country, coming off the national championship season of 1962. On Sept. 28, the Men of Troy welcomed the No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners for the first game ever between the two college football giants. The afternoon heat in the Coliseum reached over 105 degrees, hence a turnout of just 39,345 with many fans electing to watch the game on national television.

The Not So Obvious: The O/NSO was at the game and words don’t properly describe just how hot it was. Just looking at the attendance count pretty much tells it all. Legendary Sooners’ coach Bud Wilkinson led his team onto an even hotter Coliseum gridiron. Wilkinson had some elite players of his own to match the Trojans. This would also be Wilkinson’s last season of coaching.

The Trojans still had QB Pete Beathard (No. 12), E Hal Bedsole (No. 19), TB/WR Willie Brown (No. 26), TB Mike Garrett (No. 20), and a host of returners from the 1962 national championship team. The Sooners had a storied player of their own in halfback Joe Don Looney. He was supported by star tackle Ralph Neely and running back Jim Grisham. In the end, the Sooners upset and basically dominated the Trojans, 17-12, despite the close final score. Notice on the highlight video that players on the USC sidelines were sitting under bench coverings because of the scorching heat, which seemed to affect them more than the Sooners. While there isn’t much game footage available, here is a brief overview of the Trojans with some highlights.

The Obvious: After having met the Sooners in 1964 in Norman, Oklahoma, and trouncing the Sooners, 40-14, for revenge of the 1963 loss, the Trojans saw the Sooners again at Oklahoma in 1971, and OU administered a 33-20 defeat of the Men of Troy in front of 61,826. The series now stood 1-2 in favor of Sooners.

The Not So Obvious: Nine years later, the Trojans and Oklahoma clashed again in the Coliseum on a Saturday night on Sept. 29, 1973. The game, which was played before 83,986, was a slugfest and featured an array of future NFL players. The Trojans showcased quarterback Pat Haden (No. 10), tailback Anthony Davis (No. 28),wide receiver Lynn Swann (No. 22), and tight end Jim O’Bradovich (No. 89). Defensively, the Trojans were led by inside linebackers Richard “Batman” Wood (No. 83) and Charles Anthony (No. 55),and nose guard Monte Doris (No. 72). As for the Sooners, Oklahoma featured the famed Selmon brothers – Lucious (No. 98), Lee Roy (No. 93), and Dewey (No. 91)on the defensive line and were backed by All-America linebacker Rod Shoate (No. 43). Offensively, head coach Barry Switzer’s team had electrifying halfback Joe Washington (No. 24), standout quarterback Steve Davis (No. 5), and favorite receiving target Tinker Owens (No. 11).

Although it didn’t finalize as a touchdown, one of the greatest punt returns against Troy for big yardage came in the first half (17:20 on the video below) when Joe Washington put on a display for the ages. WeAreSC columnist and linebacker for the Trojans, Kevin Bruce (No. 50), told the O/NSO Washington was almost impossible to tackle. Despite all the talent on the field, the game ended up a defensive struggle and concluded a 7-7 tie. Although the video highlights are courtesy of Oklahoma with Sooner music but no narration, you can get a big insight into the level of play from both clubs.

The Obvious: Before 85,651 in the Coliseum on Sept. 26, 1981, it was the No. 1 Trojans hosting the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners in an afternoon game, and the clash lived up to all the hype. It was a slugfest and came down to the Trojans’ final drive of the game with under a minute to play. It became one of the great USC crunch time comebacks.

The Not So Obvious: In the video clip below, we watch the Trojans, under head coach John Robinson, in that final drive, as ABC’s Keith Jackson and former Arkansas coach Frank Broyles call the action. The game came down to Trojans’ quarterback John Mazur (No. 11), tailback Marcus Allen (No. 33), wide receivers Jeff Simmons (No. 29) and Malcolm Moore (No. 22), and tight end Fred Cornwell (No. 84). The final score was a breathtaking 28-24 victory.

The Obvious: In 1982,the Trojans traveled back to Norman, Oklahoma, to face a revenge-minded Sooners team, which had lost the season before to the Trojans in the last minute. There was a capacity turnout of 75,008 smelling USC blood, but the Trojans’ defense shutout the Sooners, and the Trojans departed Norman with a 12-0 victory.

The Not So Obvious: The Trojans offense was led by tailback Fred Crutcher (No. 49),quarterback Sean Salisbury (No. 7),and wide receiver Jeff Simmons (No. 29). Defensively, the Trojans were led by linebackers Jack Del Rio (No. 52) and Riki Gray (No. 35), defensive tackle George Achica (No. 78), and defensive back Joey Browner (No. 47). As for the Sooners, they were again filled with great players like running backs Marcus Dupree (No .22), Buster Rhymes (No. 4), Steve Sewell (No. 13), Weldon Ledbetter (No. 43), Stanley Wilson (No. 12), and quarterback Danny Bradley (No. 1). Defensively, the Sooners led with linebackers Thomas Benson (No. 38) and Jackie Shipp (No. 49), young defensive lineman Tony Casillas (No. 92), and defensive back Dwight Drane (No. 33). Again, on the video below, there is no narration except for the background of the public address announcer, but the video quality is good, and you can see the quality of the two teams.

The Obvious: In 1988,the two college football giants had at it again in Los Angeles, and the Trojan head coach was Larry Smith. A turnout of 86,124 on Sept. 24 watched the No. 5 Trojans dominate the No. 8 Sooners 23-7.

The Not So Obvious: The Men of Troy were led by quarterback Rodney Peete (No. 16), fullback Leroy Holt (No. 39), tailback Aaron Emanuel (No. 24), flanker John Jackson (No. 1), and split receiver Erik Affholter (No. 42). The OU defense was led by linebackers Frank Blevins (No. 35) and Kert Kaspar (No. 46). The Sooners’ quarterback was former SoCal prep star Jamelle Holieway (No. 4) from Wilmington (Calif.) Banning HS. Defensively, the Trojans were led by linemen Tim Ryan (No. 99), Don Gibson (No. 92), and Dan Owens (No. 90), linebacker Scott Ross (No. 35), and a tough secondary of Chris Hale (No. 2), Cleveland Colter (No. 8), Mark Carrier (No. 7), and Ernest Spears (No. 3). Again, enjoy the ABC voice of Keith Jackson calling the play-by-play.

The Obvious: In 1992, the unranked Trojans visited the No. 13 Sooners, and USC fans were fearing the worst. However, it was not to be as the Men of Troy upset the mighty Sooners, 20-10, on Owen Field before a sellout of 70,215. The irony was this was to be Larry Smith’s final season as the Trojans’ head coach, fired after losing to Fresno State in Anaheim’s Freedom Bowl, 24-7. The firing of Smith provided an opening for the Trojans to reach back and rehire former head coach John Robinson for a second tour of cardinal and gold duty.

The Not So Obvious: The Oklahoma head coach this time around is Gary Gibbs, who was in his fourth season. Below are the ABC network highlights of the game with the play-by-play supplied by Roger Twibell and analytical work done by none other than former Trojans’ athletic director Lynn Swann. You won’t need any background roster, since this is the network’s feed. In case, however, you’d like just a little background, the Trojans’ quarterback is Rob Johnson (No. 11). The Sooners QB is Cale Gundy (No. 12).

The Obvious: Does the 2004 BCS title game between the Trojans and Sooners need an introduction? Didn’t think so. It was a game that vaulted the Trojans to the very top of the Pete Carroll dynasty, and they did it on the field and not at the AP ballot box.

The Not So Obvious: All you need to know about this Trojans shellacking of the Sooners is that the famed Sooner Schooner, a covered wagon, left the Orange Bowl in the second half as did most of the Oklahoma fans, who didn’t want to stay for the final 55-19 score. Enjoy one of the best games from the Pete Carroll era.

The Obvious: And finally, the Trojans have come away with the Sooners rivalry with a winning record and their pride intact.

The Not So Obvious: As for next Friday’s O/NSO rivalry selection, maybe it will be the Alabama Crimson Tide, Ohio State Buckeyes, Michigan Wolverines, or Penn State Nittany Lions. Don’t you just love the suspense?

Greg Katz

Now entering his 59th season of either writing, broadcasting, or just plain watching USC football, WeAreSC columnist Greg Katz began his affiliation with the website back in 2001, introducing his well-received O/NSO (The Obvious/The Not So Obvious) column and later adding his respected IMHO Sunday opinion and tidbits column. Greg, a former ESPN.com college football columnist covering USC, is also a member of the Football Writer's Association of America. He is also known in Southern California as a professional public address announcer, having called the the 1996 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Northwestern. Greg also holds a master's degree in athletic administration and was a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.

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