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:
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
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