All across the nation this week, wherever football fans gather to drink their toasts and work up their devilishly accurate prognostications, kind words of tender solicitude will be spoken on behalf of five teams: Colorado, Iowa State, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma A&M. These are the unfortunates who must still play Oklahoma, an assignment which has proved a fruitless one for 35 previous opponents. It was fruitless again Saturday. The lean and lethal Sooners, making one of their few appearances outside the land of black gold and white-faced Herefords, invaded Indiana and left Notre Dame for dead in a game that should have been played in an abattoir.
The fact that Coach Bud Wilkinson's warriors won the game 40-0 was only incidental. What mattered most was how they did it—coolly, methodically, dispassionately, as though they were meeting the junior varsity of Mrs. Featherington's finishing school for girls. The tip-off came on the first play from scrimmage. String-bean Quarterback Jimmy Harris had the gall to start right off with the Sooners' bread-and-butter option play, as illustrated with football manikins in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S preview of the game last week. This is a pitchout from Harris to Halfback Tommy McDonald, and the play was run with a devil-may-care nonchalance. The pitchout wobbled softly through the air, end over end. McDonald grabbed it, halfheartedly faked a pass, and ran. The whole orderly procedure seemed to be happening in slow motion, but it went for 18 yards then and many another good chunk of yardage later.
The Oklahoma defense operated with the same effortless perfection in shutting out Notre Dame for the first time in 48 games. Irish runners, spotting an inviting hole in the Oklahoma line, would sprint eagerly forward, only to find themselves bombed to earth by a single swipe from the powerful right arm of Linebacker Jerry Tubbs or one of his similarly heartless cohorts. Oklahoma's pursuit, as Notre Dame Quarterback Paul Hornung observed later, was "frightening." Hornung explained: "It isn't that they're big; they're not. But they're always there."
Underneath the Sooners' businesslike attitude was a merciless desire to prove themselves college football's No. 1 team. The way to accomplish this was simply to give the Irish a pasting worse than Michigan State's 47-14 victory of the week before. Coach Wilkinson's antics on the sidelines showed how ambitious he was to run up a big score. When Jimmy Harris passed to John Bell for a touchdown on the 11th play from scrimmage, Wilkinson remained un-thrilled beneath his five-gallon hat. With each succeeding touchdown his cool reserve fell away. When the Sooners scored for the sixth time on an intercepted pass in the final period, the usually taciturn coach applauded merrily and aimlessly wandered out on the field in joyous delirium.
November 5, 1956
Seconds later the poker-faced Oklahomans showed their only emotion; in a huddle, they slapped backs and smiled broadly when the public address announcer informed the 60,128 spectators that Illinois had hung one on Michigan State, thus making the Sooners undisputed kings of the hill. Barring the unlikely entrance of the Chicago Cardinals into collegiate competition, Oklahoma's bland butchers will stay on top for as long as anyone cares to think ahead.