Before the start of the 1968 season, Coach Hayden Fry decided that no matter what happened SMU was going to be the most exciting team in the country. The theme was short and simple: “Excitement ’68.” By season’s end, the Mustangs had indeed been one of the most exciting and entertaining teams in all of college football. This was never more evident than in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl against Oklahoma. The Mustangs edged the Sooners, 28-27, in one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.
The game drew 53,543 fans to the Astrodome in Houston, as the No. 20 Mustangs were set to do battle with the No. 10 Sooners. SMU was a 12-point underdog to an Oklahoma team led by Steve Owens, Bob Warmack, and Steve Zabel. Despite the belief that SMU’s high flying attack was doomed against OU’s powerful defense, the Mustangs took the field with one thing in mind: winning.
Oklahoma jumped out to any early lead, capitalizing on good field position. Warmack scored from the three and OU led 7-0. The score stayed this way for the remainder of the half as interceptions stalled both offenses. In the absence of points, the defenses started picking up their intensities. Hard hitting by the Mustangs sidelined both Warmack and Zabel before halftime.
SMU finally scored in the third quarter after recovering an OU fumble near midfield. Mike Richardson finished the scoring drive with a blast over right guard from the one. The extra point was blocked and OU led 7-6. The Sooners retaliated with an 80-yard drive capped off by Owen’s fullback pass to Johnny Barr for a score. SMU finally came to life on their second possession of the fourth quarter. Chuck Hixson engineered a quick 57-yard drive ending with an 11-yard toss to Jerry LeVias in the corner of the end zone. Hixson then connected with Pinky Clements for the two point conversion to tie the score at 14.
SMU’s defense then kept the Sooners bogged down deep in their own territory to set up good field position. Richardson found the end zone for a second time, scoring on an 18-yard run to give SMU their first lead of the game. The lead was short lived, however, as the Sooners converted a fourth-and-10 into a touchdown. Quarterback Mickey Ripley forced a pass into a crowd of Mustang defenders only to have ball ricochet off three of them and into the arms of Bo Denton for a touchdown.
Late in the game, the SMU defense came up with a crucial turnover. Bruce Portillo intercepted a pass on the OU 22 giving the ball back to Hixson and company. On the second play of the drive, Hixson found Ken Fleming in the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown. SMU led 28-21 with 2:42 remaining. However, OU needed only half that time to march 80 yards to tie the score as Ripley hit Barr for a 21-yard touchdown.
The Sooners decided they wanted to go for the win rather than settle for a tie, so they sent the offense out for the two point conversion. Ripley tried to take it in himself but was met by Mike Mitchell at the goal line. Mitchell drove Ripley sideways and out of bounds mere inches from the end zone. SMU still led, 28-27. The Sooners still had one more shot as they recovered the ensuing onside kick. With the clock moving under twenty second left, OU lined up for a game-deciding 24-yard field goal. It sailed wide left, and SMU won. The Mustangs had scored twenty-two points in the final quarter to pull off the upset. The win embodied the excitement of the 1968 season and will go down as one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.