Previous meeting with Nebraska a painful memory for Oklahoma

Friday, October 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ Oklahoma's last game with Nebraska was three years ago, although it seems more like three decades.

When the 1997 game was played, Oklahoma was nine games into what would be a 4-8 season. Nebraska was undefeated, ranked No. 1 and on its way to a share of the national championship.

Nebraska won 69-7, the worst loss in Sooner history.

``It was very ugly, what happened on the field that day,'' said Oklahoma center Bubba Burcham, who shared time at guard that afternoon in Lincoln.

No such wipeout is expected Saturday when the teams meet in Norman. Both are undefeated, Nebraska is No. 1 and Oklahoma is No. 3.

``I'm not going to talk about the past game or the past coaching staff, but a lot of things have changed since then,'' said senior fullback Seth Littrell, who as a freshman made his first start in the 1997 game. ``I'm ready to go after it and play it again in these circumstances.''

Burcham, who redshirted the previous year as a walk-on, spent his time in the '97 game lined up against All-American Jason Peter. Peter and his teammates throttled the Sooners, holding them to 2.6 yards per play and 11 first downs.

``I didn't know what to expect,'' Burcham said. ``All I did was just try to do my assignment and do the best I could. I got killed quite a few times in that game.''

He wasn't alone. Oklahoma lost four fumbles in the first quarter, which helped Nebraska take a 20-0 lead. The score was 34-0 at halftime and 54-0 before the Sooners scored their only touchdown on a short run by Littrell.

``I don't know if we were outclassed,'' Littrell said. ``I don't think the University of Oklahoma is ever outclassed by anybody. But yeah, they probably had more athletes than we had.''

That game gave Nebraska its seventh straight victory over Oklahoma and ended a three-year stretch of domination by the Cornhuskers. They beat the Sooners 37-0 in Lincoln in 1995 and 73-21 in Norman in 1996.

Burcham said he remembers thinking in '97 that Oklahoma had a long way to go to approach Nebraska's level.

``I didn't have any idea where we'd be today, to tell you the truth. I was hoping we'd be in this position, of course,'' he said.

Littrell credits coach Bob Stoops' organization and positive approach to helping turn the Sooners around so quickly.

``When coach Stoops came in here, he didn't say he couldn't win with the players he had,'' Littrell said. ``When he came to the team meeting, he said we're going to go out there and work with the people we have, and this is what we're going to win with. That instilled a lot of confidence in us.''

Merv Johnson, director of football operations and a 21-year member of the Oklahoma staff, said he is surprised by how quickly Oklahoma's fortunes have turned. The Cornhuskers are probably still more talented, he said, but the players' dedication and their belief in the coaches has them confident they can win any game.

That confidence comes through loud and clear.

``I know this is a different time now and I'm looking forward to this game,'' Littrell said. ``There's no doubt in my mind that we can go out there and win.''