Oklahoma football: Orlando has not been best of bowl experiences for Sooners

Twenty-six of the 55 postseason bowl appearances by an Oklahoma football team have taken place in the state of Florida. Most of those have come in the Orange Bowl in Miami, where the Sooners have won some huge games, including national championships.

Two other times, however, the Oklahoma postseason location were in Orlando, the home of Disney World. Let’s just say, the Sooners two previous postseason trips to Orlando have not been Disney-like experiences.

Oklahoma’s third appearance in a bowl game in Orlando will be in the Cheez-It Bowl against Florida State, the second-best team in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season behind Clemson. The Sooners’ two other Orlando trips were against another ACC team, Clemson.

OU’s two previous bowl appearances in Orlando have been in the Citrus Bowl in 1989 and the Russell Athletic Bowl in 2014. Clemson was the opponent both times, and both games resulted in Oklahoma losses.

The Sooners lost 13-6 to Clemson in the Citrus Bowl in January 1989. Both teams came into the game with identical 9-2 records and nationally ranked: OU at No. 10 in the AP poll and Clemson No. 13. Heading into the final quarter, the only scoring in the game had come on a pair of field goals by each team. Clemson managed to push across a touchdown in the fourth quarter to take a 13-6 lead.

Oklahoma took possession of the ball on its own 20-yard line with 2:59 to go in the game. Playing in his final game as an Oklahoma Sooner, Jamelle Holieway led OU down the field on a 66-yard drive to the Clemson 14-yard line with 12 seconds remaining. Two pass attempts fell incomplete in the end zone, and the Tigers held off the late Sooner rally to post the win, the first by an ACC team over Oklahoma in 16 previous tries.

The same two teams met again 25 years later in the same Orlando stadium in what was then known as the Russell Athletic Bowl. The second meeting was nothing like the first, with 18th-ranked Clemson handing the Sooners a 40-6 smackdown. The 34-point loss was the third worst in Oklahoma bowl history and would have been even worse had the Sooners not scored a meaningless touchdown very late in the contest on an 11-yard run by Alex Ross.

The Clemson defense was the top-ranked defensive unit in the country that season and held the Sooner offense, led by quarterback Trevor Knight, to just 275 total yards. Five OU turnovers contributed to the humbling loss.

The 2014 season was Deshaun Watson’s freshman season at Clemson. He did not play in the Russell Athletic Bowl game with Oklahoma due to injury, but the Sooners got to see him at full strength the following year when No. 1 Clemson faced the No. 4 Sooners and Baker Mayfield in the College Football Playoff. The Tigers prevailed for a third straight time against Oklahoma, posting a 37-17 win in the national semifinals.

Although Oklahoma’s luck has not been good in bowl assignments that have taken them to Central Florida, the Sooners do have a 3-1 record in bowl games against Florida State, their opponent on Dec. 29 in the 2022 Cheez-It Bowl.

As far as Orlando is concerned, the Sooners are hoping that the third time is charm.