1974 National Champions
This Oklahoma team, the first of three national championship squads for Barry Switzer, controlled the college football world like few others.
Only one opponent played the Sooners within 14 points and four failed to score a touchdown. At the same time, OU led the nation in scoring offense with an average of 43 points per game to finish the season as the only undefeated team in the country at 11-0.
Oklahoma was loaded with talent, evidenced by its eight All-Americans, the most of any season to that point. OU's wishbone offense, triggered by RB Joe Washington, FB Jim Littrell and QB Steve Davis, averaged 73.9 rushing attempts per game, which still stands as an NCAA record.
Combined with a tough defense led by senior All-American Rod Shoate, a swift and punishing linebacker, and a defensive front comprised of Lee Roy and Dewey Selmon, and defensive end Jimbo Elrod, it's easy to see why the Sooners were so highly regarded.
The Sooners opened the '74 season as the top-ranked team by the Associated Press. It marked the first time since 1957 OU debuted at No. 1, and it was the first time in 11 years Oklahoma sat atop the AP poll.
Despite being a 43-point favorite against Baylor, the Sooners struggled in their season opener, needing three fourth-quarter touchdowns to secure a 28-11 victory. The win didn't impress AP voters, and OU dropped to No. 3 behind Ohio State and Notre Dame.
The Sooners quickly rebounded by destroying Utah State and Wake Forest in back-to-back weeks by a combined score of 135-3. Eight Sooners scored touchdowns against Utah State, while nine players found the end zone against the Demon Deacons.
Next up for the Sooners was the Red River Rivalry, and the Longhorns would easily represent Oklahoma's toughest challenge yet.
It turned out to be the equivalent of a final exam. Trailing 13-7 in the fourth quarter, OU dug into its bag of tricks with a reverse to split end Billy Brooks, who scampered 40 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. Still, the extra point was ruled no good to the chagrin of Sooner kicker John Carroll, leaving the game tied at 13-13.
Oklahoma's defense rose to the challenge, led by Shoate, who finished the game with 21 tackles, two pass breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. The last statistic was the critical one, as the Sooners forced a Texas fumble on the next possession, which Shoate recovered at the 50. A 37-yard field goal from Tony DiRienzo minutes later was the difference.
"This was as close as a game can be," Coach Switzer said afterwards. A testament to how hard it was fought in the trenches, OU offensive tackle Mike Vaughan reportedly passed out from exhaustion following the game.
The Sooners followed it up with a pair of blowouts over No. 16 Colorado, 49-14, and Kansas State, 63-0. Joe Washington rushed for 200 yards and four touchdowns against the Buffaloes, while eight players found the end zone vs. the Wildcats.
After a sloppy performance on a soggy field in a 28-10 win at Iowa State, Oklahoma blanked a tough Missouri squad 37-0, a team that had already beaten Nebraska and scored 82 points in its previous two games. OU's third shutout of the season ran its record to 8-0, and stunning news came out of East Lansing, Mich., where Michigan State upset top-ranked Ohio State, 16-13.
Oklahoma regained the No. 1 ranking and, following a 45-14 win over Kansas, traveled to Lincoln with a Big Eight title on the line. A victory would put OU in the driver's seat, while a loss would give the Huskers a share of the crown.
OU changed up its defense for the Nebraska game, using man-to-man coverage instead of zone. The move paid dividends, as the Sooners intercepted four passes, including three by Randy Hughes, while the offense rolled up 482 yards on the ground despite not completing a single pass in the contest. The victory earned Oklahoma its second straight Big Eight Championship with one game still remaining against Oklahoma State.
Against the Cowboys, OU faced a 13-10 deficit late in the third quarter before scoring five TDs during a seven-and-a-half-minute span. The 44-13 victory marked OU's 20th consecutive win and 29th straight game without a loss.
When Alabama fell to Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, the Sooners were left as the nation's only unbeaten team.
A No. 1 ranking in the final AP poll confirmed who the best team in the country was, and OU laid claim to its fourth national championship and first since 1956.