Oklahoma fans have always displayed their disdain for teams wearing orange. In addition to annual contests against rivals Oklahoma State and Texas, the Sooners will get another opportunity to put their crimson to the test against an orange-clad club when the Tennessee Volunteers visit Owen Field in 2014.
Fittingly, these two historic programs have been pitted against each other twice in the Orange Bowl, but have never met as regular season combatants. In fact, Oklahoma's first-ever bowl appearance came under head coach Tom Stidham against the Volunteers in the 1939 Orange Bowl.
This 1939 Orange Bowl was the first in that game's illustrious history to feature two national powers entering the game undefeated and untied. Oklahoma headed for Florida with a 10-0 record, with eight of those wins coming by a combined 150-0 margin. In their other two contests, the Sooners limited Rice and Tulsa to six points apiece. While numerous bowl representatives were courting the Sooners, the director of the Orange Bowl was actually seen on campus leaving chalk messages on sideways to entice Oklahoma and OU fans to travel to the game.
Unfortunately for OU, Tennessee's powerful ground attack proved too much for the Sooners as the Volunteers claimed their 13th straight for Major Bob Neyland by a 17-0 margin.The game was considered to be the roughest of all bowl games played that year as both teams combined for more than 200 yards in penalties.
It would be nearly three decades before Oklahoma and Tennessee would square off again on the gridiron. The Sooners won the Big Eight title in Chuck Fairbanks' first season as head coach in 1967, but No. 3 OU was still a slight underdog against No. 2 Tennessee in the 1968 Orange Bowl.
"We went there in 1967, my first time with Chuck Fairbanks when I was his assistant," former OU head coach Barry Switzer recalled. "We were leading Tennessee 19-0 in the half. They were the favorite in the ball game."
Granville Liggins, the Sooners' two-time All-America defensive lineman, remembers that game well. That was the game where his knee was injured and he was taken out in the third quarter.
"They would block down to me a lot, double team a lot, the left guard and the right guard," Liggins remembered. "The right guard is the one who took my knee out in the third quarter."
Tennessee came back to narrow the OU lead to 19-17 before Oklahoma defensive back Bob Stephenson picked off a pass and raced 24 yards to give OU an insurance score. The Sooners would need that extra margin when Dewey Warren plowed into the end zone from a yard out to cut the OU lead to 26-24.
Despite the loss of Liggins, other members of the vaunted Oklahoma defense stepped up when the Sooners desperately needed a defensive stand. The Volunteers then missed a potential game-winning field goal as time expired, preserving an OU win by a score that Liggins will never forget.
"Someone in Tulsa sent me a license plate, which I still have in my rec room at home," he said. "It had 26-24, an actual Oklahoma license plate. I have it on my wall and I see it every day when I into my rec room and that was the score, 26-24."
The Sooners and Vols will open a home-and-home series in 2014 when Tennessee travels to Norman, Okla. The Sooners will return the favor in 2015, playing at Neyland Stadium -- the third-largest venue in college football.
Oklahoma and Tennessee represent two of college football's most storied programs. NCAA rankings are found on the outside columns, while the numbers that put them there are inside the bars. Click the graphic for more detail: SERIES RESULTS
Oklahoma and Tennessee have met just twice, splitting a pair of Orange Bowl encounters. The two powers have never played on the other's turf.
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