The Sooners will look to win bowl championship number 24 when they take on the LSU Tigers in the Sugar Bowl.
Leading his team to a bowl game five consecutive seasons, head coach Bob Stoops is credited with the resurgence of Oklahoma's bowl status. Since Stoops's arrival in 2001, the Sooners have take part in the 1999 Independence Bowl, the 2001 Orange Bowl, the 2002 Cotton Bowl, the 2003 Rose Bowl, and now the 2004 Sugar Bowl. Stoops captured his first national championship when the Sooners defeated Florida State 13-2 in the Orange Bowl in 2001.
The Orange Bowl began the OU bowl legacy when Tennessee 17-0 shut out the Sooners in the 1939 game. A battle of undefeated teams, the Volunteers dominated the Sooners thanks to 197 yards on the ground and a defense that held OU to only 94 yards of total offense.
Legendary Sooner coach Bud Wilkinson made his bowl debut in 1949 when he took his fifth-rank OU squad into Tulane Stadium to take on undefeated and third-ranked North Carolina in the Sugar Bowl. The Sooners held a slim 7-6 lead heading into the third quarter but a 70-yard interception return by Myrle Greathouse set up a one-yard touchdown run by Jack Mitchell to give the Sooners a 14-6 lead that they would not relinquish.
The 1950 season saw the Sooners make a return trip to New Orleans to take on LSU in the Sugar Bowl. The game week against the Tigers started off with controversy when a former LSU player was caught spying on Sooner practices. Wilkinson's team took out their frustrations on the Tigers with a dominating 35-0 victory, the largest margin of victory in OU bowl history. The Sooner offense dominated a smaller LSU defense, out-gaining the Tigers 286-38 on the ground.
A third-straight trip to New Orleans in 1951 saw Wilkinson capture his first national championship despite losing to a tough Bear Bryant Kentucky squad 13-7. OU finished the regular season 10-0 (bowl games did not figure into national championship considerations).
One of the most dominating teams in the history of college football captured their second national championship in 1956. In the beginnings of what would become a 47-game winning streak, the Sooners captured the 1956 title with a 20-6 victory over Maryland in the Orange Bowl. Trailing 6-0 at the half, OU would once again rely on a dominant rushing attack and scored 20 unanswered points to come away with the victory.
Wilkinson's last bowl game would come in 1963 when the Sooners, playing in their fifth-consecutive Orange Bowl were shut out by Bear Bryant's Alabama squad 17-0. In what turned out to be the game-winning score, the Crimson Tide took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 25-yard touchdown pass from little-known quarterback Joe Namath.
After a losing record in 1964, the Sooners returned to the bowl scene in 1965 when they took on the high-scoring Florida State Seminoles. Playing without four players who had been found ineligible the night before the game because they signed pro contracts, the Sooners were dominated by the Seminoles 36-19. FSU wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff finished the game with 13 receptions for 192 yards and four touchdowns.
In the midst of their world-renowned "wishbone" offense, the Sooners made their first trip to New Orleans since their national championship season of 1951 with a dominating 42-22 victory over Auburn in 1972. 439 rushing yards helped OU jump out to a 31-0 halftime lead over Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan's squad. The Big Eight would finish 1-2-3 in the polls that year with Nebraska capturing the title and OU the runner-up and Colorado in third.
Another legendary OU head coach, Barry Switzer, made his bowl debut in 1976 in where else but the Orange Bowl. 282 yards rushing would give his Sooners a 14-6 victory over Michigan and secured the fifth national championship in school history. After the Wolverines cut the Oklahoma lead to one with a two-yard touchdown run, Steve Davis would put the game away with a nine-yard touchdown run to seal the victory for OU.
1980 would pit the Big Eight Champion Sooners against the undefeated Florida State Seminoles in the Orange Bowl. OU would avenge their Gator Bowl lost with a dominating 24-7 victory thanks to a 17-point second quarter outburst and a defense that allowed the Seminoles to cross mid-field only two times after the first quarter and never passed the 35-yard line.
National championship number six would come in 1986 when the Sooners defeated Joe Paterno's Penn State Nittany Lions 25-10. Although the OU offense would out-gain the Nittany Lions 228-103 on the ground, it was the Sooner defense that was most responsible for the victory. Butkus Award winner Brian Bosworth had 13 tackles and OU picked off four Penn State passes en route to the victory.
In his first season at the helm in Norman, Bob Stoops led OU back to the post-season for the first time since 1994 when the Sooners and the Ole Miss Rebels squared off in the 1999 Independence Bowl. The Rebels would win 27-25 on a Le Binkley 39-yard field goal. The school once known for the potent rushing attack, the Sooners would throw for 390 yards on 39-54 passing and lay the groundwork for their seventh national championship the following season.
Thanks to one of the toughest defenses in the country, Oklahoma would beat Florida State 13-2 to capture the 2001 National Championship. Tim Duncan's 27-yard field goal early in the first quarter would end up being the game winner for OU. Only a safety by Stanford Samuels with less than a minute to go in the game would prevent the Sooners from shutting out the Seminoles.