Oklahoma State football: A Tulsa history primer
The University of Tulsa has a proud football history. The Golden Hurricane was nationally relevant in the 1940s and the 1960s, and TU occasionally still rears its head to remind the nation that there are more than two major-college teams in Oklahoma.
OSU plays at Tulsa on Saturday, and here’s a primer on TU football history:
Conference titles: Steve Kragthorpe’s 2005 team and Bill Blankenship’s 2012 team each won Conference USA, beating Central Florida in title games. Tulsa also won 19 outright Missouri Valley championships and tied for six others. Tulsa was in the Oklahoma Collegiate Conference from 1914-28 and won five titles, and Tulsa was in the Big Four Conference from 1929-32, winning the league all four years. Tulsa played in the Valley from 1935-85, then was an independent until joining the Western Athletic Conference in 1996. In 2005, TU jumped to Conference USA, then joined the American Conference in 2014.
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Bowl history: Tulsa played in three straight major bowl games, 1942-44 seasons, and bookended those with the Sun Bowl (1941) and the Oil Bowl (1945). Tulsa lost to Tennessee 14-7 and Georgia Tech 20-18 in back-to-back Sugars but beat Georgia Tech 26-12 in the Orange Bowl (1944 season). TU is 10-11 in bowl games. Tulsa is 6-4 in bowls in the 2000s, with some notable results – victories of 55-10 over Central Michigan (2016 Miami Beach Bowl), 31-17 over Iowa State (2012 Liberty), 62-35 over Hawaii (Hawaii Bowl), 45-13 over Ball State (GMAC Bowl) and 63-7 over Bowling Green (GMAC), plus losses of 55-52 to Virginia Tech (Independence) and 24-21 to Brigham Young (24-21).
Best team: 1942. It was the World War II era, but in ’42, many players remained on college campuses. College football really became depleted starting in 1943. In 1942, Tulsa shut out its first six opponents and finished 10-0 before losing to Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl. The Glenn Dobbs-led team beat OU 23-0 and Oklahoma A&M 34-6.
Greatest player: TU has had three consensus all-Americans – center Rudy Prochaska in 1934, receiver Howard Twilley in 1965 and offensive lineman Jerry Ostroski in 1991 – but its greatest player was Glenn Dobbs. The single-wing tailback from Frederick was a passer and punter extraordinaire. He later became TU’s head coach.
Arch-rival: OSU. Saturday, the Cowboys become Tulsa’s most-played rival. TU has played Arkansas 73 times, but trails the series 54-16-3. The Golden Hurricane and the Razorbacks have played just four times since 1993. This will be the 74th meeting between OSU and Tulsa. The Cowboys lead the series 41-27-5. The rivalry has taken extended breaks; no games between 1965 and 1976, only four games since 2000, but counting Saturday, they play 11 of the next 13 years.
Greatest win: On October 30, 2010, Tulsa won 28-27 at Notre Dame. Shawn Jackson returned an interception 66 yards for a touchdown, Damarius Johnson returned a punt 59 yards for a touchdown, Kevin Fitzpatrick kicked a go-ahead field goal with 3:23 left in the game and John Flanders intercepted a Fighting Irish pass in the end zone with 36 seconds left in the game. Tulsa has beaten OU five times, but beating Notre Dame tops them all.
Greatest coach: Henry Frnka went 40-9-1 in five seasons, 1941-45, before leaving to coach Tulane.
NFL legacy: Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve Largent played at Tulsa in the 1970s, as did Drew Pearson, the leading receiver for Tom Landry’s 30 years as the Dallas Cowboys coach. Hall of Fame general manager Jim Finks also played at TU.
Biggest upset: Tulsa shocked 15th-ranked Texas A&M 35-34 in 1991, but TU’s biggest shocker came on September 25, 1971, when the Hurricane beat seventh-ranked Arkansas 21-20 after entering the fourth quarter trailing 20-0. That was not a great TU team; it finished 4-7. But quarterback Todd Starks threw three fourth-quarter touchdown passes, outdueling Razorback star Joe Ferguson.
Stadium: Skelly Stadium opened in 1930 and had a capacity of 40,385. A major renovation in 2008 came with the rebranding to H.A. Chapman Stadium and reduced capacity to 30,000.
Historical importance: TU was on the cutting edge of the passing revolution almost 60 years ago. Tulsa led the nation in passing for five straight years, 1960-64, and in ’64 quarterback Jerry Rhome and receiver Howard Twilley led a unit that broke 20 NCAA records. Rhome and Twilley were back-to-back Heisman runnersup, in 1964-65.
Career rushing leaders: D’Angelo Brewer, 2014-17, has the TU record, with 3,917 rushing yards. The most impressive Tulsa rushers, though, were Michael Gunter and Len Lacy, who were teammates from 1980-82, with Lacy also playing in 1979 and Gunter in 1983. Gunter finished with 3,536 rushing yards, third all-time, and Lacy had 2,272 rushing yards, seventh all-time.
Career passing leaders: Of all the big-time throwers in Tulsa history – Rhome and Billy Guy Anderson in the ‘60s, Jeb Blount in the ‘70s, T.J. Rubley in the ‘80s-‘90s, Gus Frerotte in the ‘90s – the career passing leader is Dane Evans, who played four years, 2013-16, and threw for 11,680 yards.
Career receiving yards: 54 years after Twilley’s final season, he remains the all-time TU leader in catches (261), receiving yards (3,343) and touchdown catches (32).
Famous alum: Susan Eloise Hinton, whose pen name is S.E. Hinton, became renowned for her young-adult novels like The Outsiders and That Was Then, This Is Now. Hinton wrote The Outsiders as a high school student in Tulsa.