Marquee non-conference opponents nothing new for the Sooners
NORMAN, Okla. -- When a football program's conference is as tough as the Big 12 is year after year, most head coaches would seek out a lighter non-conference schedule before entering weeks of grueling conference play.
Oklahoma's Joe Castiglione and Bob Stoops don't subscribe to that theory.
Since Stoops took over in 1999, Oklahoma has scheduled some of the most storied football programs from around the country. Not afraid to test his team early, Stoops and the Sooners have not only gone toe-to-toe with multiple marquee opponents, they've come out on top more often than not, boasting a 12-5 regular season record against BCS conference schools and Notre Dame.
Castiglione, OU's vice president and director of athletics, put it more succinctly when announcing the renewal of the Oklahoma-Nebraska football series in 2021 and 2022.
"Playing marquee non-conference opponents remains an integral part of our scheduling philosophy," Castiglione said.
All told, Oklahoma has wins over teams from the SEC (Alabama), Pac-12 (UCLA, Oregon, Washington), ACC (North Carolina, Miami, Florida State) and the Big East (Cincinnati).
OU and Florida State met in 2011 in a matchup of top-five teams. Ranked No. 1 in the nation, the Sooners traveled to Tallahassee and defeated the Seminoles 23-13 in front of a record crowd. Tied at 13-13 with seven minutes left in the game, Landry Jones found Kenny Stills for the go-ahead score on a 37-yard touchdown pass. The win was the second in as many years over FSU after the Sooners ran past Florida State in 2010 in Norman, 47-17, as Jones threw for 380 yards on 30 for 40 passing and four touchdowns.
"It's exciting to come out in a big atmosphere like that and again we have great, great respect for the tradition and history of Florida State," said Stoops following the 2010 contest. "Offensively, we took care of the football, good balance, and defensively, after the first drive we really settled in and played great football."
The Sooners split a pair of marquee games against FSU's Sunshine State counterpart Miami (Fla.) in 2007 and 2009, defeating the Hurricanes 51-13 thanks to future Heisman winner Sam Bradford's five touchdown passes (three to receiver Malcolm Kelly) and 205 yards on 19 of 25 passing. Oklahoma's 51 points were the most the Hurricanes had given up in 17 years.
"We are really excited to have a great match up this week with Miami, said Stoops in 2007. "They are another tradition-rich program who we have a good history with and had a lot of great games with, important games."
In the mid-2000s, the Sooners claimed wins over multiple Pac-12 opponents, getting home wins over UCLA in 2003, Oregon in 2004 and Washington in 2006.
After romping past the Bruins, 59-24 in 2003, Oklahoma defeated Oregon 31-7 due in large part to running back Adrian Peterson, who ran over and around the Ducks for 183 yards and two touchdowns, including a 40-yard scamper in the third quarter that sealed the game for OU. Peterson put on a similar show two years later against Washington, totaling 165 yards on 32 carries. His two touchdowns late again broke open a close game and helping the Sooners coast to a 37-20 victory.
In OU's Rose Bowl-winning season of 2002, the Sooners, ranked No. 2 in the country, defeated Alabama, 37-27 in Norman. Down 27-23 with three minutes to go, Kejuan Jones scored on a nine-yard run to give OU the lead before Eric Bassey returned a fumble 45 yards for the touchdown with 24 seconds left in the game to seal it for the Sooners. A year later OU again topped the Crimson Tide, this time in Tuscaloosa, as quarterback Jason White, who would go on to win the Heisman Trophy, AP Player of the Year and Davey O'Brien Award, threw a 46-yard touchdown to Mark Clayton and a 47-yard score to Brandon Jones on the way to a 20-13 win.
Now as the 2013 season approaches, Oklahoma will face three non-conference opponents, two familiar and one new - Louisiana-Monroe, Tulsa and Notre Dame. All three were bowl game participants in 2012, including the Fighting Irish, national runners-up after playing in the BCS Championship Game. Oklahoma's rivalry with Notre Dame is legendary, and the Sooners will look to avenge last season's loss when they travel to South Bend on Sept. 28. The two clubs last met in South Bend in 1999, Stoops' inaugural season at the Sooners' helm.
In-state rival Tulsa will travel to Norman on Sept. 14, as the Golden Hurricane are coming off a Liberty Bowl win over Iowa State and an 11-3 season. Louisiana-Monroe, national fan favorites after an overtime victory over then-No. 8 Arkansas early last season, will visit Norman for the season opener on Aug. 31.
The great games and memories will continue with some of the top programs in the country well into the future for Sooner fans. Future announced opponents in upcoming seasons include LSU, Nebraska, Ohio State and Tennessee, among others, ensuring great football for Sooner nation in the future as well as the past.
OU inspires champions today and prepares leaders for tomorrow by enabling its student-athletes to achieve their highest academic, athletic and personal aspirations. The OU Athletics Department sponsors 21 varsity sports with more than 600 student-athletes and is completely self-supporting.
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