ABC footage from broadcast
The most iconic rivalry in the Southwest, Oklahoma and Texas have played plenty of big football games over the years.
One of those came on this day 45 years ago. In what would be a top-5 match-up in Dallas, the Sooners pulled it out late for a 24-17 victory.
Setting the Stage
Despite beating ranked Colorado 21-20, Oklahoma had fallen from No. 1 to No. 2 as it arrived at the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 11, 1975. With superstar running back Joe Washington in the backfield and Lee Roy Selmon, Dewey Selmon and Jimbo Elrod manning the defensive line, the Sooners were looking for a fifth straight win over Texas.
Texas was ranked No. 5 and like Oklahoma, was 4-0. Through four games, the Longhorns had outscored opponents 177-45.
A Memorable Fourth
For most of the day, Oklahoma seemed in control. The Sooners led by 10 after a quarter and maintained that lead into the fourth quarter.
Down 17-7, Texas refused to go quietly. On the final play of the third quarter, Texas blocked the punt of Oklahoma’s Tinker Owens to start inside the Sooners’ 40-yard-line. Less than two minutes into the final quarter, Texas was within three.
Jimmy Walker’s 25-yard touchdown run capped a 4-play drive. With the contest now 17-14, Texas again proved opportunistic. The Longhorns forced a fumble from Oklahoma’s Jim Culbreath and started their ensuing drive at the Oklahoma 35.
After picking up one first down, the drive stalled for Texas, but Russe Erxleben was able to convert a 43-yard field goal with more than eight minutes remaining. For the first time since the contest was scoreless, Texas was even, 17-17.
Texas looked to have forced a 3-and-out on the ensuing drive, but a face mask penalty gave the Sooners new life. After methodically marching inside the Longhorn’s 35-yard-line, Horace Ivory capped the drive with a run up the middle for a 33-yard touchdown with 5:31 to play. Texas would get two more possessions, including one after a 76-yard punt from Washington, but mounted no serious threat.
The teams combined for just 471 yards, but Oklahoma dominated most of the day. The Sooners forced five turnovers, including a fumble off an errant option pitch that defensive end Mike Phillips fell on in the end zone in the final minute of the first quarter.
Down 10-0 after one, Texas got on the board midway through the second quarter when Marty Akins found Alfred Jackson for a 38-yard touchdown. The Sooners pushed their lead back to 10 midway through the third quarter on Washington’s 9-yard touchdown run.
The loss for Texas was a big one. Texas would win its next five games to improve to 9-1, but lost to No. 2 Texas A&M in the regular season finale. The Longhorns beat Colorado in the Cotton Bowl to finish 10-2 and No. 6 in the final polls.
Oklahoma won its first eight games before an unthinkable home loss at Kansas. The Sooners were able to circle the wagons and close the year with wins over No. 18 Missouri, No. 2 Nebraska and then No. 5 Michigan in the Orange Bowl. Following No. 1 Ohio State’s loss in the Rose Bowl to UCLA and No. 2 Texas A&M’s Liberty Bowl loss to USC, the Sooners were crowned national champions.
It would serve as Barry Switzer’s second of three national titles as Oklahoma head coach. It would not have been possible without a thrilling win over Texas that took place on this day 45 years ago.