Thursday’s Orange Bowl between Clemson and Oklahoma will be the fifth matchup between the schools. The previous four meetings have not been memorable, but they have been at pivotal points in the schools’ respective histories. Let’s take a walk down memory lane.
A Meeting Between Two Legends: Oklahoma 31, Clemson 14
Norman, Okla. – Sept. 21, 1963
Frank Howard was head coach at Clemson for 30 years and is the most beloved figure in the program’s history. Bud Wilkinson’s run at Oklahoma included three national championships and a record 47-game winning streak. However, when Clemson and Oklahoma met for the first game of the 1963 season, the Sooners were ranked in the top five and Clemson was rebuilding. The Tigers were actually up 14-7 after the first two quarters, but OU broke loose in the second half to score 24 unanswered points. The Sooners finished with an 8-2 record in what would be Wilkinson’s final season as their head coach.
The Wrath of the Wishbone: Oklahoma 52, Clemson 3
Norman, Okla. – Sept. 30, 1972
After Howard retired in 1969, Cecil “Hootie” Ingram, who went 12-21 from 1970-72, replaced him. In his final season, Ingram’s Tigers faced the No. 2 Sooners, whose Wishbone offense hung “half a hundred” on countless opponents during the 1970s. Powered by an offense that included Greg Pruitt, Joe Washington and Tinker Owens and a defense that included all three Selmon brothers, OU throttled Clemson, amassing 475 yards rushing and holding the Tigers to under 200 yards offense. The Sooners would go on to win back-to-back national championships in 1974 and ‘75.
The Last Stand of the OU Wishbone: Clemson 13, Oklahoma 6 (Citrus Bowl)
Orlando, Fla. – Jan. 2, 1989
Danny Ford became head coach of Clemson in 1978 and had arguably the most successful run in the history of the program, winning the ‘81 national title and five ACC championships. Meanwhile, OU had reinstalled the Wishbone in 1984 and won the 1985 national title in the midst of three 11-1 seasons. That being said, when these two teams met in the Citrus Bowl, Sooners starting quarterback Charles Thompson was out with a leg injury. The gifted Jamelle Holieway, who had led the Sooners to the national title as a freshman, but was never the same after suffering a devastating knee injury in 1987, replaced him. Clemson held the Sooners to 116 yards rushing and stopped their last-minute drive to tie the game. OU had already been placed on three-year probation by the NCAA prior to the Citrus Bowl and in the months after, a rape would occur in the athletic dorm, one player shot another and Thompson was arrested for selling cocaine. Sooners head coach Barry Switzer resigned in June 1989 and was replaced by Gary Gibbs. The Sooners continued to run the wishbone in 1989 and ‘90, but its era of dominance was over. Ford resigned as head coach of Clemson after the 1989 season and the ‘90s were a decade of mediocrity for both programs.
“Our Night”: Clemson 40, Oklahoma 6 (Russell Athletic Bowl)
Orlando, Fla. – Dec. 29, 2014
Bob Stoops took over the Oklahoma program in 1999 and turned it into a national power, winning the 2000 national title and staying in the championship picture on an annual basis. Dabo Swinney took the reins at Clemson with the goal of getting better every year and has had an unprecedented level of success with the Tigers having won 10 or more games in each of the past five seasons. In the Russell Athletic Bowl (formerly known as the MicronPC Bowl, which was formerly known as the CarQuest Bowl, which was formerly known as the Blockbuster Bowl), Clemson thumped an 8-5 Sooner team, jumping out to a 40-0 lead. Senior quarterback Cole Stoudt, filling in for an injured Deshaun Watson, threw for three touchdowns and ran for another and never turned the ball over. "It was our night tonight. We knew it would be a tough challenge, but we were ready,” said Swinney.
Equal Footing: Clemson vs. Oklahoma (Orange Bowl)
Miami – Dec. 31, 2015
Can Clemson’s offense overcome the Sooners’ defense? If so, can OU’s offense keep pace? We’ll find out Thursday when these two schools meet on equal footing for the first time ever.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.
(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)