8 Saturdays: The Trojans vs the Sooners

Just in case anyone else is counting, there are 8 Saturdays left until the first college football game.  Come on, folks, we can do this standing on our heads. It’s just right around the corner. Take the wife and kids on vacation and watch some baseball.

Or, do like I do and watch some classic college football games.


1981 was a rough year for the #1 teams in the polls.

The Michigan Wolverines were the preseason #1 team, but that didn’t last long. They lost in the first week of the season to the Wisconsin Badgers, 21-14. The Badgers in those days were nothing like they are now and this should have been a cake walk for Michigan. But, that’s football.


Notre Dame was the next #1 and that didn’t last long either as they were promptly kicked to the curb by an apparently very angry Michigan, 25-7.


Oklahoma got passed over 2 weeks in a row and the USC Trojans were the new #1. But, the #2 Sooners had a chance to do something about that and on September 26th, the Sooners traveled to Los Angeles to take on the #1 ranked USC Trojans.


It was the classic #1 vs #2 match up we all dream about every season.


The Oklahoma Sooners came in with their usual high powered wishbone offense led by QBs Darrell Shepard and Kelly Phelps. Speed burners Stanley Wilson and Buster Rhymes were dangerous wishbone backs. Wilson was an undersized Wishbone Fullback, but had speed to burn.

USC countered with Marcus Allen, Chip Banks, Joey Browner and Bruce Matthews. The Trojans were big and fast and talented across the board.


The Sooners were super quick on both lines and slightly less talented than the Trojans but they sort of dominated the line of scrimmage at times. Fumbling is what kept the Trojans in the game. The Sooners had fumbled 5 times by the early part of the 2nd quarter but they had lost only 1 of those. The fumbles did set the Sooners back, and pretty much killed the play. By the end of the day, the Sooners had lost 5 fumbles.


The game was a tough battle from the start and was tied 7-7 at the end of first.


OU threatened to take over the game in the 2nd going up 17-7. But, then those Oklahoma fumbles kicked in again when the Sooners fumble a punt and let the Trojans back in the game. USC did have Marcus Allen one of the great RBs in the history of the game and they drove the ball and scored before half to make the score 17-14.


Former Sooner QB Steve Davis was the sideline reporter. Great Wishbone QB a few years back for the Sooners and in spite of his obvious bias, he actually did a pretty good job. I’d have to say way better than the one OJ Simpson had done in the Rose Bowl when the Trojans played Ohio State. I just have to scratch my head as to why ABC won’t put a neutral guy in the booth and on the sidelines instead of a former player of either school.


Surprisingly OU fumbled again while driving the ball with the Trojans recovering.


Nolan Ryan threw his 5th no hitter while this game was happening.



The Oklahoma Fumbles pretty much gave the Trojans the opportunity to stay in this game. The score was 17-14 going into the 4th quarter and who knows what might have been if not for turnovers. This was in some ways a very sloppy game with fumbles and mistakes and missed field goals by the Trojans. The Sooners kept giving the Trojans the ball but they kept missing opportunities.


Oklahoma  had 399 yards after 3 quarters and the Trojans had 233 but the Sooners had 5 Turnovers.


Steve ‘Dr Death’ Williams was a starting offensive guard for the Sooners. Great player and later a pro wrestler that died from throat cancer.


OU went up 24-14 threatening to take the game again. Marcus Allen and unheralded QB, John Mazur, were big in the 4th quarter and brought the Trojans down for a TD, 24-21, with Allen’s runs and Mazur’s passing.

Mazur to Tight End Fred Cornwell for a 6 yard TD with 2 seconds left as the Trojans come back and beat the Sooners.


In spite of the turnovers and some sloppy play, this was an excellent football game. Trojan fans would think more so than Sooner fans, but the Sooners took it to the Men of Troy that day in a hard fought battle.


Oklahoma was tied the following week by Iowa State, of all people, 7-7. The next week, they were demolished by Texas, 34-13, and they were completely out of the picture.


USC was now #1 after the big win over OU, but lost the same day OU was defeated by Texas, to Arizona by 13-10.

Texas was the new #1 and they got bushwhacked by Arkansas the following week, 42-11.


1981 was truly the year that nobody wanted to be #1. Oklahoma finished up 7-4-1 in an off year for them. They would be back with a force in 1982 with one of the more controversial recruits in the history of the game, Marcus Dupree. Oklahoma would be a dominating force like in the 1970s again up until the late 1980s when they had some dark times before the arrival of Bob Stoops.


USC finished 9-3. But, the 1960s and the 1970s were the Trojans better days. The 1980s and the 1990s were not as kind to the Men of Troy and they wouldn’t be a real powerhouse again until the arrival of Pete Carroll.


Marcus Allen was the real star of 1981 and won the Heisman Trophy, becoming the first Running Back in college football history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season. Allen finished with 2,342 yards in a very remarkable season.

Allen would go on to great success in the NFL as well winning the Super Bowl with the Raiders.


Just 8 more Saturdays before we can talk about current football and I do realize that everyone else is not as interested in historical games as I am.

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