1957 - 65  Sooner
(Authentic Reproduction)




By 1957, members of the squad had donned one or two-bar facemasks on their white helmets that featured the red one-inch center stripe that OU had worn since 1946, but red two-inch thin “NCAA style” numerals were added to each side. The backfield was sparked by Clendon Thomas, an All American two-way back who again led the nation in scoring as he did in ’56 and he went on to an eleven-year career with the Rams and Steelers as a DB. The All American up front was Bill Krisher who played for the Steelers and AFL Texans. The squad had but four returning starters from the great 1956 team and there was a drop off in overall team speed yet ends Don Stiller and Ross Coyle played at an All Big Seven level and sophs Bobby Boyd and Jimmy Carpenter were obvious backfield stars of the future. Tough Dennit Morris stood out at LB and later played with the Forty Niners and AFL Oilers in their first two seasons. The squad flirted with disaster in a 14-13 win against Colorado in the season’s fifth game, gave Bud his 100th win in what was expected to be an easier game than the 13-0 conquest of Kansas State, and then came back strongly against Missouri. With the consecutive wins streak at forty-seven, Notre Dame faced off with the Sooners in the season’s eighth game and in a defense struggle, found themselves with fourth and goal at the OU three-yard line late in the final quarter. HB Dick Lynch who went on to star at DB with the Giants, swept the end for the winning score in a 7-0 battle. Though Oklahoma’s 1957 team was outstanding with a 10-1 record, having roared through the final two games and an easy 48-21 defeat of Duke in the Orange Bowl to finish a great number four in the final national rankings, they are forever remembered for the loss against the Irish and the termination of the national record winning streak. Bud’s 1958 squad was as good as almost any he had, although it seemed that some were holding a grudge against him and his team for not going undefeated forever. The final polls ranked them at the highly respectable number five position and the tough defense led by sure-tackling All American Bob Harrison who later played DT in the pros for nine seasons, serving four teams, led the nation in scoring defense. They overcame the distraction of a summer injury to developing Leon Cross and recruiting inquiries by the NCAA regarding Nebraska’s Monte Kiffin who went on to the head coaching spot at NC State and became a long time NFL assistant, and Baylor’s Mike McClellan who was allowed to transfer to OU. The investigation led to probation which did not detract from the Big Eight Championship, the win over Syracuse in the Orange Bowl or the 10-1 record. The only loss was to Texas and their second-year coach, Bud’s former OU QB Darrell Royal, thus the student had bested the teacher. HB’s Bobby Boyd and Dave Baker stood out, Baker becoming the Forty Niners’ first-round pick and playing DB for three seasons, but end Ross Coyle who played a year with the Rams, tackles Steve Jennings and Gilmer Lewis and G Dick Corbitt were the players named to the All Big Eight squad with FB Gautt.     


If anyone believed that Wilkinson was losing his touch, the 7-3 record of 1959 gave them some glee. The opener to Northwestern was lost as almost the entire squad suffered what many believed to be malicious food poisoning episode by Wildcat supporters or gamblers and once again, the team fell to Texas. In a stunning upset, Nebraska defeated the Sooners, the first time Bud had been defeated by a conference opponent. Bud had won an incredible seventy-four consecutive conference games! Still OU won the Big Eight title, beat a great Army team 28-20, and Jerry Thompson was named an All American tackle. Bobby Boyd went on to an excellent nine-year career at DB with the Colts and Gautt spend a year with Cleveland and another six with the Cardinals. He earned his PhD and after coaching, went into athletic administration and was the Assistant Commissioner Of The Big Eight Conference. One of the more colorful characters on the squad was Ed “Wahoo” McDaniel, a Native American guard and LB who could legitimately claim former President George H.W. Bush as one of his baseball coaches. A ninety-one yard punt placed his name in the OU record books but after a nine-year pro career with the Oilers, Broncos, Jets, and Dolphins, he was more famous as a successful professional wrestler. 1960 was Wilkinson’s first losing season and the first losing season at Oklahoma since 1942, a 3-6-1 disaster that included but two conference victories. “Oklahoma And The Seven Dwarves” as the Big Eight had been derisively called, was a dead issue. Only 197-pound tackle Billy White was named All Conference and for the first time since Wilkinson arrived at OU with Jim Tatum, there were no Sooner All Americans. In 1961 Wilkinson was named as a Special Consultant On Youth Fitness by the Kennedy Administration and many believed that Bud had lost interest in football in favor of politics. It was also noted that a number of players adopted the odd-shaped “bubble-eared” externally padded MacGregor helmet instead of OU’s standard Riddell model. Dropping the first five games of the season, despite the hard-playing efforts of backs Jimmy Carpenter and Mike McClellan as well as tackle White who repeated as an All Big Eight choice, made the speculation look good but the Sooners roared back to finish the year with five straight wins, setting the stage for a successful 1962.


A return to the Top Ten with a number eight ranking for ‘62 made for happy players and fans. Even an Orange Bowl visit, a 17-0 loss to number five Alabama with Joe Namath and Leroy Jordan was a relief after two sub-par seasons. The 8-3 record was sparked by All American captains Leon Cross and Wayne Lee with line help from tackle Dennis Ward who was All Big Eight. Lawton JC transfer Joe Don Looney teamed in the backfield with soph Jim Grisham who played both FB and LB and was All Conference. The difficult Looney who had a problem with authority figures, was the nation’s best punter and fifth best rusher to earn All American honors too. OU was again conference champ and for one week in ’63 they were even ranked as number one after defeating 1962’s national champion USC in the second game of the season. Losing to eventual 1963 national champion Texas the next week erased that honor and Looney was dismissed from the team, later playing in the NFL for five teams in a brief career. Many noted that Bud had not defeated Texas since 1957 in Royal’s first season there. QB Mike Ringer injured his elbow in a freak run-in with an electric fan and was lost for the year, yet the 8-2 final record ranked them at number eight and number ten in the two major polls. With Ralph Neely an All American tackle and Jim Grisham the same at fullback, some prestige was restored and having All Big Eight end John Flynn and guard Newt Burton, with future pros HB Lance Rentzel, Glen “Moose” Condren and a young frenetic Carl McAdams at LB seemed to predict ongoing success. Yet Wilkinson rejected a bid to the Bluebonnet Bowl and then announced his retirement at the age of forty-seven. In his seventeen years, this College Football Hall Of Fame coach established himself as one of the giants of the game, having great defenses that allowed a per-game average of only 10.1 points and developing the effectiveness of his Split-T offense to the point where he had nationally ranked top ten rushing teams in fifteen of his seventeen seasons. His 145-29-4 record which included two fabled winning streaks has made him an immortal. Wilkinson ran for public office, losing the race for the U.S. Senate to Fred Harris. He was later successful in business and as a football broadcaster but was lured back to the sidelines to coach the St. Louis Cardinals in 1976 and ’77. Wilkinson remains a revered figure of the game.        


After the shock of hearing that Wilkinson would step down became a reality, a behind-the-scenes battle ensued over his predecessor. To the public, the January 11, 1964 announcement that long-time assistant and right-hand man Gomer Jones would take over seemed like a rather obvious and almost unnecessary formality. However a battle royal had ensued after Bud declared his intention to run for the Senate as a Republican. Almost the entire OU Board Of Regents had been named by a Democratic administration and they were not going to allow common sense and consideration get in the way of politics! Jones who had serve loyally as Wilkinson’s line coach and buffer between the esteemed head coach and his players, was considered to be one of the finest assistants in all of football and a superb teacher yet the obvious difficulty of following a true legend of the game didn’t seem to be a factor in his desire to be OU’s next head coach. The criticism was immediate. The Sooners defeated Maryland13-3 in the opener but then dropped three consecutive contests, getting clobbered in one by USC to the tune of 40-14 and losing to arch-rival Texas by 28-7. The squad truly held affection for their coach and rallied to finish at 6-3-1 but this brought more critical comment as many fans and boosters looked at the talent and wondered why the record wasn’t more reflective of the players’ abilities. Tackle Ralph Neely, guard Newt Burton who became a respected oral surgeon, bruising fullback Jim Grisham, a ’63 All American, and junior linebacker Carl McAdams were named to the All Big Eight team while Neely was a consensus All American and McAdams found his name on a number of All American lists. Glen Condren, a fine two-way player, had an eight-year pro career with the Giants and Falcons while guard Ed McQuarters played with the Cardinals in ’65. HB and return man Lance Rentzel was a second-round pick of the Vikings so the mediocre record was viewed by some as misuse of the talent that Wilkinson had left. The team accepted a bid from the Gator Bowl to play upstart Florida State and their Steve Tensi-to-Fred Biletnikoff passing attack rolled up 303 yards in the air to embarrass the team 36-19. Few wished to acknowledge that the loss of Rentzel, Neely, and Grisham prior to the bowl game for signing undated pro contracts during the height of the war between the NFL and AFL would have wrecked the plans of any squad. Neely went on to an outstanding thirteen season career with the Cowboys, making the All Pro squad four times. Rentzel had a controversial career with the Vikings, Cowboys, and Rams between 1965 and ’74 and gained further notoriety as the husband of actress and singing star Joey Heatherton. Grisham completed his career as one of OU’s greats, rushing for 2404 career yards and eighteen TD’s. 1965 was no kinder to Coach Jones as the Sooners opened with three losses, played inconsistent offense all season, suffering four shutouts, and closed with three consecutive losses, the final one an unacceptable 17-16 defeat at the hands of much weaker rival Oklahoma State. McAdams again was an All American and played three seasons with the Jets before being sidelined with injuries. Soph RB Ron Shotts teamed with Larry Brown to provide some offensive punch and end Ben Hart was capable but QB remained unsettled all season. When it was over, the 3-7 record forced the resignation of Jones on December 6th, who reamined at OU as AD until his death in 1971. 

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