Not all Alabama football fans know the history of the few games played by the Alabama Crimson Tide versus the University of Oklahoma Sooners.
Considering the storied legacies of Alabama football and the Oklahoma Sooners, the history of only five previous meetings is surprising. Uncharacteristically for the Alabama Crimson Tide, the game outcomes have been quite one-sided. The Alabama Crimson Tide has only one win ever against the Sooners.
The one win came in the first game between the two schools, the 1963 Orange Bowl. Bear Bryant’s 1962 team easily handled Bud Wilkinson’s Sooners in 1963 by a 17-0 score. President, John F. Kennedy attended the game and sat in the stands in those pre-suite days. There are conflicting reports over whether JFK visited both team locker rooms. Some reports were the President rebuked the all-white Alabama football team by only visiting the Sooners locker room.
A November loss to Georgia Tech by a score of 7-6 had knocked the Crimson Tide out of the 1962 national championship hunt. The defending National Champions, Crimson Tide played for pride in the Orange Bowl.
In that 1963 Orange Bowl contest, Alabama football linebacker, Lee Roy Jordan set an unofficial Crimson Tide record for tackles in a game, with 31 stops. The record is not official because, in that era of college football, bowl stats were not recognized by the NCAA.
The next Crimson Tide vs. Sooners game was the 1970 Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl in the then, impressive Houston Astrodome. Neither team had much to crow about in the 1970 season. Bryant’s Tide was 6-5. The Sooners were 7-4 and desperate to generate more offense, had switched to the wishbone during the season.
Bryant was mightily displeased with his defense’s inability to stop the wishbone attack. Both teams gained over 400 yards in the game and were tied at 24-24 with seconds left in the game. All the Tide needed for the win was to covert a 34-yard field goal attempt. Not only did Crimson Tide kicker, Richard Ciemny miss the kick – he missed it badly, hooking it wide left and short. After the kick, New Years Eve celebrations across the state of Alabama took a dispirited turn.
Some Alabama football historians believe it was trying to defend the Sooners wishbone that later led Bryant to convert the Tide offense to the wishbone.
The next two games took place in the Alabama football ‘Wilderness’ years in 2002 and 2003. The Tide traveled to Norman in 2002. After trailing 23-3 at halftime, the Crimson Tide fought back but came up short, losing 37-27.
In 2003, Dennis Franchione gave way to Mike Shula as the Crimson Tide head coach. Oklahoma came to Tuscaloosa in early September as the nation’s No. 1 team. The Shula-led Crimson Tide was not up to the task, losing 20-13. The 2003 Alabama football team finished the season with 4-9 record.
The most recent defeat at the hands of the Sooners was the 2014 Sugar Bowl. The 2013 Crimson Tide had its three-peat championship hopes derailed by Auburn. A clearly unenthusiastic Alabama football team appeared to have little appetite for the consolation game. Sloppy play led to an Oklahoma win by 45-31.
The upcoming Playoff game will have far more riding on it than any of the previous five games. Another win over the Sooners is long overdue.