The term "Sooner Magic" was born on a cold and windy afternoon in Lincoln, Neb., in 1976 when the fourth quarter found the Sooners trailing the Cornhuskers 17-7. With three minutes to play, and the lead down to four, hope for a comeback had all but vanished into the Nebraska clouds.
Oklahoma was stuck at the Husker 16-yard line when Woodie Shepard completed a 50-yard halfback pass to freshman end Steve Rhodes, whose catch was nothing short of miraculous. Two plays later, Rhodes ran a curl pattern and then pitched to halfback Elvis Peacock on the old hook-and-lateral. Peacock was finally knocked out of bounds at the Nebraska three.
Peacock scored the winning touchdown on next play with 30 seconds remaining, vaulting the Sooners into a three-way tie for the conference championship.
Further proof of the pixy dust that filled the air over Lincoln that day was the pregame prayer delivered in the Oklahoma locker room by defensive back and team captain Scott Hill at the behest of coach Barry Switzer:
"Please dear Lord don't let any injury or harm come to any player. And please, please, please, dear Lord, please don't let the best team win."
The youthful Sooners were outmanned and outgunned that day. But "Sooner Magic" never failed them.
Three years later, Nebraska was unbeaten and the Sooners had lost but one game to Texas when the teams met in Norman. Oklahoma led 10-7 with eight minutes to go, and were lining up for a chip shot field goal when Switzer sent the offense back onto the field. Quarterback J.C. Watts scored a touchdown and the gamble paid off. Nebraska marched 86 yards in the final minutes for a touchdown, but would fall short 17-14.
A year later in 1980, Nebraska halfback Jarvis Redwine dashed 89 yards for an early touchdown, and the Cornhuskers led 10-0 after one quarter. With three minutes left in the game, Nebraska clung to a 17-14 lead, with the Sooners eighty yards from the goal.
When Buster Rhymes gained forty yards on the game's most critical play, a young Nebraska fan sprinted along the sideline, expressing despair. Sportswriter Jim Weeks would record the youngster's words the next day in the Norman Transcript; "Oh, no," the boy cried. "They're going to do it to us again."
They did. Rhymes dived for the winning touchdown with 56 seconds to play. Sooner Magic 21, Nebraska 17.
In the sixteen years that Barry Switzer coached the Sooners (1973-88), the Nebraska-Oklahoma game normally determined either the conference or the national championship or both. The teams played seventeen times during the Switzer era, the Sooners taking twelve. Oklahoma came from behind eight times in the fourth quarter to win.
- From Jim Dent, author of "The Undefeated" | Buy Book