American Football Database
1946 Oklahoma Sooners football
Big Six Conference Co-Championship
Gator Bowl Champions
Gator Bowl vs. NC State, W, 34–13
ConferenceBig Six Conference
1946 record8–3 (4–1 Big Six)
Head coachJim Tatum
Offensive schemeSplit-T
Home stadiumMemorial Stadium (Capacity: 32,000)
← 1945
1947 →
1946 Big 6 football standings
v · d · e Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
#14 Oklahoma 4 1 0     8 3 0
Kansas 4 1 0     7 2 1
Missouri 3 2 0     5 4 1
Nebraska 3 2 0     3 6 0
Iowa State 1 4 0     2 6 1
Kansas State 0 5 0     0 9 0
Rankings from AP Poll

The 1946 Oklahoma Sooners football team represented the University of Oklahoma in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) college football. The team was led by Jim Tatum in his first and only season as head coach. Along with first-year backfield coach Bud Wilkinson, who became the head coach himself the following year, Tatum installed the new split-T offense. An intensive recruiting effort, largely focused at veterans returning from the Second World War, helped Oklahoma to on-field success and eight of the team's new recruits eventually earned first-team All-America honors. The team improved from the previous season to an 8–3 record and a share of the Big Six Conference championship.


Coaching staff

In 1945, head coach Dewey Luster missed part of the season due to illness,[1] and had struggled to recruit quality players during the Second World War when many University of Oklahoma athletes were serving overseas.[2] His Sooners finished the year with a 5–5 record that included a finale loss, 0–47, to Oklahoma A&M (now known as Oklahoma State).[3] At the conclusion of the 1945 season, Luster tendered his resignation.[4]

Athletic director Jap Haskell recommended Jim Tatum to University of Oklahoma president George Cross, and other applicants considered by the Board of Regents included Bear Bryant and Harold Drew.[4][5][6] Haskell had served in the U.S. Navy during the war, and Tatum was an assistant coach for the Navy's Iowa Pre-Flight School team under head coach Don Faurot, the inventor of the split-T formation. Prior to that, Tatum had coached at his own alma mater, North Carolina. Bud Wilkinson, who had been a colleague of Tatum's at Iowa Pre-Flight, was hired as Oklahoma's new backfield coach.[4] Walter Driskill, the former line coach at Colorado and Wyoming, was given that same role at Oklahoma.[5] Tatum and Wilkinson installed the split-T, the innovative new offensive system they had learned under Don Faurot in Iowa.[5]


Tatum launched an intensive recruiting drive that included open tryouts that attracted an estimated 600 prospects.[6] He largely rejected the players from the previous season and focused instead on building a new team. The recruiting effort targeted returning servicemen who had been athletes at other colleges before the war, rival universities, and graduating high school seniors.[6] Tatum's recruiting paid dividends, and nine of his players would earn All-American honors at Oklahoma: Plato Andros, Buddy Burris, Jack Mitchell, Jim Owens, John Rapacz, Darrell Royal, George Thomas, Wade Walker, and Stan West.[4] Burris became the first Sooner to receive that honor three times.[7]



The season-opener was against Army, the defending national champions and a 38-point favorite. The Sooners scored in the second quarter on a blocked punt, but Army equalized shortly before halftime. In the third quarter, Army blocked an Oklahoma punt on the Sooners' 15-yard line and scored four plays later. Shortly after, the Sooners recovered a fumble on the Army 18-yard line. On fourth down at the Cadets' nine-yard line, Dave Wallace, about to be sacked, threw a lateral, but the ball was deflected, and Arnold Tucker returned it 85 yards for Army's final touchdown. The Cadets won, 21–7,[5] and went on to finish the season ranked number-two, with no losses and one tie in a legendary game against first-ranked Notre Dame.

Texas A&M

In the first quarter against Texas A&M, the Sooners drove 84-yards to the Aggies' one-yard line, including a 42-yard pass from Wallace to end Warren Giese, but the A&M defense held. In the second quarter, Oklahoma again drove into A&M territory, but a pass was intercepted in the end zone. The Aggies then attempted to punt, but Norman McNabb blocked the kick and it was recovered on the A&M six-yard line. On fourth down, Jack Mitchell rushed for a score, and Wallace made the extra point. In the third quarter, Marion Flanagan returned a punt 72 yards to equalize the score. The Sooners blocked an Aggie field goal attempted in the fourth quarter, and then mounted a drive to the A&M seven-yard line. After being stalled by the Aggie defense and incurring a delay of game penalty, Wallace made good a short field goal attempt for the go-ahead score, 10–7.[8]

Texas (#1)

First-ranked Texas entered the game with a 3–0 record, and had decisively beaten Missouri, 42–0; Colorado, 76–0; and Oklahoma A&M, 54–6. The Longhorns jumped out to a lead, 14–0. In the second quarter, Wallace intercepted a pass from Tom Landry on the Oklahoma 44-yard line, and he then mounted a drive that ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass. The extra point attempt failed. Shortly thereafter, Wallace made another interception on the Longhorns' 39-yard line, but Darrell Royal soon threw an interception of his own in the Texas end zone. In the fourth quarter, Joe Golding intercepted a pass and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown that tied the school record set the previous year. Texas then engineered a 75-yard drive for the final touchdown and won, 20–13.[9]

Kansas State

Kansas State then traveled to Norman, which marked the start to Oklahoma's conference schedule. Golding scored first with a 43-yard breakaway. In the second quarter, Kansas State equalized. Oklahoma pulled away with a third-quarter and two fourth-quarter touchdowns, with the final tally coming after a Royal interception. Immediately following that turnover, Golding rushed for an 81-yard touchdown.[10]

Iowa State

Oklahoma routed Iowa State at their own homecoming, 63–0, which is the school's worst defeat in history. The Sooners recorded 398 rushing yards, 130 passing yards, and 204 return yards. Iowa State managed just four first downs, 91 rushing yards, and 43 passing yards.[10]


Oklahoma was projected as a two-touchdown favorite against TCU. In a driving rainstorm, Oklahoma advanced to the TCU nine-yard line. Royal attempted a lateral, but Weldon Edwards knocked it down and Harold Kilman picked it up, ran 15 yards, then lateraled to Edwards. He carried it 70 yards to take the lead for the Horned Frogs, 6–0. The Sooners drove to the Frogs' 12-yard line, but fumbled away the water-logged ball. TCU failed to advance and kicked a short punt to their 28-yard line. The Sooners rushed on five plays for the score, and with the extra-point, took the lead, 7–6. At the start of the second half, Mitchell returned the kickoff 80 yards to the TCU 11-yard line. The teams traded fumbles, before the Frogs recovered a second Sooners' turnover. TCU was forced to punted and Mitchell returned it from the Frogs' 40-yard line. Lindy Berry tackled Mitchell at the goal line, but he crossed into the end zone. Wallace kicked the extra point. TCU blocked a fourth quarter punt from the Oklahoma 25-yard line, and Doug Brightwell ran it in for the game's final score. Oklahoma held against two more scoring threat by TCU and won, 14–12.[10]


Oklahoma traveled to Lawrence, Kansas to face the Jayhawks in another driving rainstorm. In the second quarter, Kansas took the lead before Golding rushed 65 yards to even the score, 6–6. Soon after, Kansas converted an Oklahoma fumble to take the lead again. In the third quarter, Golding rushed 14 yards for another touchdown and Wallace tied the game with the extra point. In the final 1:15, the Jayhawks' kicker made good his career first field goal attempt, and Kansas won, 16–13.[11]


Against Missouri, Oklahoma scored several plays after recovering a fumble. Buddy Burris then blocked a Missouri punt, and Homer Paine recovered it on the Tigers' 12-yard line. The Sooners then executed a halfback option, with Mitchell lateraling to Wallace who passed to Giese for a touchdown. Wallace made the extra point and the Sooners led, 14–0. On their next possession, Missouri fumbled again and Oklahoma again capitalized with a score. In the second quarter, Golding intercepted a Missouri pass and returned it 75 yards to the Tigers' 17-yard line. The Sooners scored two plays later to take a 27–0 lead. In the final quarter, Tatum fielded his alternate lineup, against which Missouri engineered a 71-yard drive for a touchdown, and the final score, 27-6.[11]


Oklahoma, with a 3–1 conference record, was tied for the lead in the Big Six with Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. Against the Cornhuskers, Oklahoma scored first before Nebraska equalized, 6–6, but those were their only points of the game. Eddie Davis, Golding, and Mitchell each scored rushing touchdowns and Royal threw for a passing touchdown.[11]

With the 27–6 victory over Nebraska, Oklahoma ended its conference schedule with a 4–1 record. Since Kansas had defeated Missouri, 20–19, on Thanksgiving, Oklahoma shared the Big Six Conference Championship the Jayhawks.[11]

Oklahoma A&M

Oklahoma traveled to Stillwater to face in-state rivals Oklahoma A&M (now known as Oklahoma State). The Aggies' star halfback, Bob Fenimore, missed the game due to an injury. The Sooners won 73–12, with Golding scoring three of their ten touchdowns.[11]

Gator Bowl: NC State (#18)

Oklahoma, with a final ranking of number-14, accepted an invitation to the second annual Gator Bowl to play 18th-ranked North Carolina State on January 1, 1947. During the regular season, the Wolfpack had allowed an average of 6.7 points per game and finished with an 8–2 record.[11]

The Sooners received the opening kickoff and drove 65 yards for a touchdown. NC State responded by scoring on a 42-yard pass. In the second quarter, Oklahoma scored three rushing touchdowns and entered halftime with a 27–7 advantage. In the third quarter, a 67-yard Wolfpack drive was capped by an eight-yard touchdown run. In the final quarter, the Sooners took over on downs on their 36-yard line and advanced downfield to score on a 15-yard option pass. The final result was 34–13 in Oklahoma's favor.[12]

During the game, Oklahoma recorded 195 rushing and 74 passing yards, while NC State compiled 136 rushing and 103 passing yards. Sooners' halfback Joe Golding rushed for 91 yards on 12 attempts and was named the most valuable player.[13]


Individual honors were bestowed upon several Oklahoma players, and at the time, the 1946 team included the most all-conference honorees to date. First-team All-American honors were granted to guards Plato Andros and Buddy Burris, and center John Rapacz. The All-Big Six first team included those three as well as end Warren Giese, back Joe Golding, and tackles Homer Paine and Wade Walker.[12]

After the Gator Bowl, university president Cross learned that Tatum had paid each player $120 ($1,349, adjusted for inflation), despite Cross's order not to do so. He later learned that $60,000 ($674,667 in inflation-adjusted terms) was unaccounted for in the athletic department budget. As a result, athletic director Jap Haskell was fired.[4] Tatum accepted an offer to coach at Maryland, and Cross promoted Bud Wilkinson into the head coaching position.[6]


Date Opponent# Rank# Site Result Attendance
September 28, 1946* at Army Yankee StadiumNew York, New York L 7–21   25,500[14]
October 5, 1946* Texas A&M Memorial StadiumNorman, Oklahoma W 10–7   44,000
October 12, 1946* vs. #1 Texas Fair ParkDallas, Texas (Red River Shootout) L 13–20   50,000
October 19, 1946 Kansas State #13 Memorial Stadium • Norman, Oklahoma W 28–7   25,000
October 26, 1946 at Iowa State #14 Clyde Williams StadiumAmes, Iowa W 63–0   15,176
November 2, 1946* Texas Christian #14 Amon Carter StadiumFort Worth, Texas W 14–12   6,000
November 9, 1946 at Kansas #16 Memorial StadiumLawrence, Kansas L 13–16   15,000
November 16, 1946 Missouri Memorial Stadium • Norman, Oklahoma W 27–6   33,431[15]
November 23, 1946 Nebraska #18 Memorial Stadium • Norman, Oklahoma (Nebraska–Oklahoma football rivalry) W 27–6   25,000
November 30, 1946* at Oklahoma A&M #17 Lewis FieldStillwater, Oklahoma (Bedlam Series) W 73–12   18,500
January 1, 1947* vs. #18 NC State #14 Fairfield StadiumJacksonville, Florida (Gator Bowl) W 34–13   10,034[16]
*Non-Conference Game. #Rankings from AP Poll.


  1. Harold Keith, Sooner Sports (PDF), Sooner Magazine, p. 6, January 1946, retrieved December 17, 2008.
  2. Harold Keith, Sooner Sports (PDF), Sooner Magazine, p. 15, July 1942, retrieved December 17, 2008.
  3. All-Time Results (PDF), Program History, 2008 Oklahoma Football Guide, p. 194, University of Oklahoma Sooners Athletics, 2008, retrieved December 17, 2008.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Gary King, The Forgotten Man of Oklahoma Football: Jim Tatum, Sooner Magazine, University of Oklahoma Foundation, Inc., Spring 2008.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Ray Dozier, The Oklahoma Football Encyclopedia, p. 90–91, Sports Publishing LLC, 2006, ISBN 1-58261-699-X.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Head Coaches, University of Oklahoma, April 28, 2009.
  7. All-American: Paul "Buddy" Burris, University of Oklahoma Sooners Football, retrieved January 26, 2009.
  8. Dozier, p. 91.
  9. Dozier, p. 91–92.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Dozier, p. 92.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 Dozier, p. 93.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Dozier p. 94.
  13. Historical Box Scores: 2nd Annual Gator Bowl, Gator Bowl Association, retrieved June 11, 2009. Archived 2009-06-15.