Much like the time between spring football and fall practice, the time seems endless between getting out of the first round of this tournament. However, we have now just one more region before we trim the list to 32 players. But, before we get there, let’s continue with the first round as we provide the results of the Billy Sims region as we look at the greatest players in Oklahoma football history.
Billy Sims Region First-Round Matchups
(1) Billy Sims vs (16) Cale Gundy
Sims has plenty of star power to go along with his huge personality. It’s hard to imagine someone that personifies Sooner Nation more than Sims. In his career, he came the closest to back to back Heisman winning seasons in program history. In his Heisman winning year of 1978, Sims ran for 1,762 yards and 20 scores. On the opposite side, we have a player that was stuck in a transition period of Oklahoma football. In the right system, Gundy could have flourished However, his career was very close to Gary Gibbs in terms of it was defined with the games that he lost rather than the games that he won. Sims rolls to an easy victory in this one, 672-23.
Winner: Billy Sims
(8) Jack Mildren vs (9) Rod Shoate
The “Godfather of the Wishbone” opens up in our match-up to face Sims. In 1971, Mildren set a record with over 1,289 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns on the ground from his quarterback position. Chuck Fairbanks and Barry Switzer both said Mildren was the perfect player to execute the wishbone offense. Comparatively, Shoate was born to play linebacker. He was a heat-seeking missile and simply one of the best to play the position. He was a three-time All-American pick for the Sooners from 1972-74. Also, he finished seventh in the 1974 Heisman Trophy voting. Shoate concluded his career with 420 tackles, the third-highest total in school history. Unfortunately for Shoate, the “Godfather” comes through again with a 355-96 victory.
Winner: Jack Mildren
(4) Steve Owens vs (13) Cedric Jones
Another match-up and another Heisman Trophy winner. Owens won the 1969 Heisman with 1,523 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns. Interestingly enough, in 1968 his numbers were nearly identical but he didn’t make the top 10 of the Heisman voting. Owens was also the 19th overall pick of the 1970 NFL draft. Jones was a victim of his own time. His career was in the midst of one of the worst periods of football in Oklahoma history. Even still, Jones is the single-season leader (14) and career-leader (31.5) in quarterback sacks for his Sooner career. Even with that, Owens dominates his way to the second round by a score of 348-10.
Winner: Steve Owens
(5) Samaje Perine vs (12) Ricky Bryan
This is a match-up where recency may have won over. However, some people forget that Perine is still the all-time leading rusher in program history. Perhaps, it’s the lack of Heisman consideration, but Perine is still one of the best running backs in a long list of greats at the position. Perhaps a little under-seeded here, Bryan was outstanding from his defensive lineman position. Today, he still owns the school record for tackles by a defensive lineman with 365. In fact, he is the eighth leading tackler in school history regardless of position. However, the clout that comes with the all-time leading rusher cannot be ignored. Perine triumphs by a count of 944-192.
Winner: Samaje Perine
(6) Lucious Selmon vs (11) Thomas Lott
Lucious looks to be the third Selmon to make it into the round of 32. In 1973, Selmon was named as the National Defensive Player of the Year, Big Eight Conference Athlete of the Year, and Big Eight Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Also, he finished second in the Outland and seventh in the Heisman voting. Lott was one of the best wishbone quarterbacks under Barry Switzer. He also is the only quarterback to play under Switzer, Bud Wilkinson, and Fairbanks. His best season was 1977 when he rushed for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Selmon name wins the day by the score of 602-160.
Winner: Lucious Selmon
(3) Kyler Murray vs (14) Jerry Tubbs
The generational gap within this match-up is interesting, to say the least. With more than 50 years between the two careers, this one may be a little unfair. However, as you look at Murray, he had possibly the best single-season in Oklahoma football history. Murray had the most efficient season throwing the football as he broke Baker Mayfield’s record in 2017. Like Mayfield’s career, one wonders what could have been with a better defense. Meanwhile, Tubbs did a little bit of everything for the Sooners in the 50’s. While he was in the lineup, the Sooners won 31 of the legendary 47 game-winning streak. Tubbs, a fullback and a center, was a two-time national champion. He also finished fourth in the Heisman voting in 1956. Murray is the victor here in a predictable recency vote by a score of 811-45.
Winner: Kyler Murray
(7) Tommy McDonald vs (10) Spencer Tillman
McDonald was a superstar in his day and age of the 1950s. As a starter at running back in 1955 and 1956, he ran for 715 yards and 16 touchdowns and 853 yards and 12 touchdowns in his senior year. At the time, he became the first player in school history to score a touchdown in every game played. He was the winner of the Maxwell Award and came in third in the Heisman in 1956. Tillman was a contributor in all four seasons he played as a Sooner. However, his freshman year of 1983 was perhaps his best. He ran for over 1,000 yards, scored nine rushing touchdowns, and was the Big Eight player of the year. He was also a team captain for 1985 national championship season. With that being said, we have our first real shocking upset of the tournament as Tillman wins 488-442.
Winner: Spencer Tillman
(2) Gerald McCoy vs (15) J.T. Thatcher
McCoy was a local Oklahoma kid out of Southeast High School in Oklahoma City. He was a high-profile recruit as the top overall recruit at his position and that translated to college. McCoy was a consensus All-American in both the 2008 and 2009 season from his defensive tackle position. He was the only non-senior up for the Lombardi Award and had 14.5 sacks in his Sooner career. Perhaps nobody embodies the turnaround of Oklahoma football in 1999 and 2000 more than Thatcher. He was initially a running back and wide receiver before moving to the defensive backfield and special teams in 1999. In 2000, he led the team with eight interceptions and excelled as a punt returner where he returned two for scores. He was also a consensus All-American in 2000. Even with Thatcher’s impressive resume, McCoy wins this one easily by a score of 352-34.
Winner: Gerald McCoy
We will begin the final games of the round of 64 with the Adrian Peterson region play this week. Again, some of the key names in this region are Peterson, Marcus Dupree, Jamelle Holieway, Sterling Shepard, and Demarco Murray.