Former Cowboys remember the success of 1976
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
11/29/11 at 3:34 AM
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STILLWATER - Charlie Weatherbie is glad to be losing his place in history. So is Derrel Gofourth. And Jim Stanley.
In 1976, Oklahoma State shared a Big Eight football championship.
Stanley coached that team. Among his players were Weatherbie and Gofourth.
Until this season, that was OSU's only league football championship of the Big Eight/Big 12 era.
The current Cowboy squad has clinched at least a share of a Big 12 title and can secure an outright championship by beating Oklahoma in a regular season finale.
How do the "old" Cowboys feel about that? Welcome to the club.
"I'm very pleased that they are about ready to get another one," said Gofourth, an All-America center in '76.
"I'm happy. I want to see them win it outright. I would love to see them win a national championship. It's a great thing and I hope it is just the start of a tradition here."
Stanley said that, God willing, he will watch Bedlam on television from his home in Chandler, Ariz. And he'll have a rooting interest.
"I hope they win it all," Stanley said of the Cowboys.
The Bill Young connection
What the 2011 and 1976 OSU teams have in common is Bill Young. He was a fledgling coach in '76 and he's the defensive coordinator now.
Young said there is no question the 1976 team assumed the personality of its head coach.
Stanley "survived" playing for Bear Bryant at Texas A&M and, of course, coached like a Bryant disciple. During a reunion attended by Stanley's former players last year, Stanley was praised as both hard and caring.
"Unbelievably good person," Young said. "But a very, very tough individual."
Running back Walt Garrison, who played at OSU when Stanley was a Phil Cutchin assistant in the 1960s, said during the reunion he will be forever grateful that Stanley "was a hard-(butt) on me and I mean that sincerely. The first practice I had with the other (Dallas) Cowboys, it was like a walk in the park."
Stanley coached in the NFL and USFL (he won a championship with the Michigan Panthers) after six years at the OSU helm. He also worked in the front office for the Arizona Cardinals.
In retirement, Stanley is a battler again. He is undergoing treatment for melanoma, a form of cancer.
"He's having a tough fight," Young said. "But he's a tough guy and, if anybody can beat it, he can."
Nebraska and Oklahoma monopolized Big Eight football, but the 1976 OSU crew broke through by playing smash-mouth ball.
A senior-heavy offensive line (there were 29 seniors listed on OSU's preseason roster) plowed ahead and the Cowboys ran for 3,460 yards that year. Terry Miller averaged 140.1 rushing yards and finished fourth in Heisman voting (he was runner-up the next season).
The Big Eight had no soft underbelly in '76. Every team except Kansas State posted a winning record. OU, Nebraska, OSU, Colorado and Iowa State were ranked in the final poll. Kansas was a top-10 team before losing quarterback Nolan Cromwell to injury. Missouri went 6-5 with road wins at Ohio State, USC and Nebraska.
The thing that galvanized OSU's surge to the top of the heap was a crushing defeat.
Early in the league season, OSU gave away a game to Colorado. The Cowboys were nursing a late 10-6 lead and got what seemed to be a game-clinching interception in the end zone.
The interceptor chose to run the ball out of the end zone instead of taking a knee and lost a fumble at the 1. Colorado recovered and scored a go-ahead touchdown.
"Well, our guys, everybody has got tears in their eyes and they are all upset and everything," said Weatherbie, the team's quarterback.
"For us to bounce back from that... was a great tribute to a lot of guys just really putting their nose to the grindstone and getting after it and finding a way to overcome some adversity."
OSU beat fifth-ranked OU the next week and won six of the last seven games. The blemish was a four-point loss at ninth-ranked Nebraska.
"I think by the very end of the season we could have beaten anybody in the country," Weatherbie said.
'I pull for all of them'
Stanley will always consider himself part of the Cowboy program.
He called OSU a good school with good people, and he's proud the university made a commitment to football. He said he's pulling for Young, who played at OSU when Stanley was an assistant coach.
"I'm awful proud of the job Bill has done," Stanley said. "But I pull for all of them."
Even if it means the 1976 team will have to share a throne? Absolutely.
"I'm hoping and praying they take care of those Sooners," Weatherbie said. "I believe they can. I look forward to watching them this Saturday."
Oh so close
Following is a list of five of the best football teams in OSU history and the obstacles that blockaded their pursuit of a national championship.
1945: Missouri Valley Conference champion OSU capped an unbeaten (9-0) season with a 33-13 Sugar Bowl victory over Saint Mary's, but the Cowboys did not get enough poll support to be crowned national champs. They finished fifth in the final Associated Press poll. Army went 9-0, won the national title and boasted players (Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis) who went 1-2 in Heisman voting. Also voted ahead of OSU were Navy (7-1-1), Alabama (9-0) and Indiana (9-0-1).
1976: Losses to 12th-ranked Arkansas, Orange Bowl-bound Colorado and ninth-ranked Nebraska prevented OSU from being in the national championship picture, but the Bicentennial Cowboys delivered the only Big Eight football championship in school history. OSU beat fifth-ranked OU in a midseason Bedlam game and finished the season with a 9-3 record and a No. 14 national ranking.
1984: OSU played what could be interpreted as a national semifinal game in a regular-season finale against Oklahoma. The Cowboys and Sooners were ranked 2-3 (and vice versa) in the two major polls of that time period.
OU won 24-14, but fell out of the national title chase with an Orange Bowl loss to Washington. OSU, blessed with the nation's fourth-best scoring defense in '84, topped South Carolina in the Gator Bowl to secure a 10-2 record and a final AP ranking of No. 7. Unbeaten BYU downed unranked Michigan in the Holiday Bowl to finish atop the poll.
1988: OSU had so much offensive firepower in '88 that the Cowboys could play with anybody. Barry Sanders won the Heisman Trophy. Mike Gundy became the Big Eight's all-time passing leader. Hart Lee Dykes was an alpha-male receiver. They helped OSU average a nation-leading 47.5 points per game.
But the talent level on defense had declined from a gold-standard level earlier in the decade and that contributed to regular-season losses to seventh-ranked Nebraska (63-42) and eighth-ranked Oklahoma (31-28). The Cowboys finished 10-2 with a No. 11 ranking.
2011: Just like in 1988, the current OSU squad can score enough to keep pace with anyone. The Brandon Weeden- and Justin Blackmon-led Cowboys are averaging 49.8 points per game. If that figure stands, it will be a single-season school record.
The Cowboys cruised to a 10-0 start and rose to No. 2 in the BCS standings, but were upset 37-31 by an unranked Iowa State team.
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Original Print Headline: Recalling 1976
Jimmie Tramel 918-581-8389
OSU's Barry Sanders carries the ball against OU during his 1988 Heisman Trophy season in Stillwater. Tulsa world file