50 Years Ago: Last Full Okie Backfield
August 22, 2018 ▪ By Ray Dozier
Oklahoma’s starting backfield this year doesn’t include any ties to the Sooner State. One would have to go back four years to find an Okie native who started in the backfield. That year, Jenks’ Alex Ross started against TCU in 2014. In the 48 games since no Okies were in the starting backfield lineup.
Before Ross, Lawton MacArthur’s running back Dominique Whaley started five games between 2011 and 2012. One would have to go back a decade to find a consistent starter with Oklahoma ties—quarterback Sam Bradford, who started all of 2007 and 2008, the latter garnering him a Heisman Trophy. Injuries sidelined Bradford for all but two games in ’09.
This is proof that the Sooners’ brand has a nationwide appeal when it comes to recruiting.
OU has had its share of great backs from the state over the years, but it has been 50 years since the Sooners have had a full backfield of state stars.
1968 was one of the most turbulent years in history. The Vietnam war was escalating, as were peace protests at home and abroad. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, President Lyndon Johnson threw in the towel to run for reelection, Richard Nixon won a close election to succeed him, and Dr. Christian Barnard performs the first successful heart transplant. That year, four Oklahoma high school stars started together for the Sooners—Ada’s Bob Warmack at quarterback, Jenk’s Mike Harper at fullback, Lawton’s Ed Hinton, and Miami’s Steve Owens at tailback.
The Sooners that year had just come off of a 10-1 season in 1967 but stumbled to a 7-4 mark in ’68 including a one-point loss to SMU in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl. Oklahoma, however, won its second straight Big Eight Conference title that year under second-year coach Chuck Fairbanks.
Warmack completed 113 of 203 passing for 1,658 yards with 7 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Hinton caught 64 of Warmack’s aerials for 1,035 yards and six scores. OU got most of its production from Owens, who rushed 393 times for 1,649 yards and 21 TDs. His carries total that year remains a school record for most totes in a season. Although he ran for just 279 yards, Harper was a punishing blocker for Owens. Harper would lead the path again en route to Owens capturing the Heisman Trophy a year later.