Game Day: December 26, 1981
It was a pair of firsts, as Oklahoma and Houston met up in the 48th edition of the Sun Bowl. The game also marked the first time either school had played in the Sun Bowl and the first time Oklahoma and Houston had squared off on the gridiron.
Like a prize fight, the Sooners and Cougars traded punches, with a two tied at the end of the first half, 7-7. The game stayed tied until the end of the third quarter. The turning point was a 60-yard pass from Houston’s Lionel Wilson to Robert Durham, which he fumbled at the Oklahoma five-yard line. Oklahoma added 49-yard field goal by Michael Keeling at the end of the third quarter and the bout began to shift.
The Sooners, who led the nation in rushing, found a higher gear in the fourth quarter and ran over the Cougars, who came to El Paso with the nation’s third-best defense.
Oklahoma produced the highest scoring fourth quarter in its history and in NCAA bowl history with 30 points in the fourth quarter.
Defensive end John Truitt had an explosive 28-yard interception return to cap off the 40-14 victory for the Sooners.
Oklahoma quarterback Darrell Shepard, who originally went to Houston out of high school, was named C.M. Hendricks Most Valuable Player, as he set the Sun Bowl record for quarterback rushing yards with 107 on 17 carries.
Oklahoma defensive tackle Rick Bryan was named the Jimmy Rogers, Jr. Most Valuable Lineman. Bryan was named tot the 75th Anniversary All-Sun Bowl Team in 2008.
An injury to Buster Rhymes, led the way for freshmen Fred Sims, who rushed for 181 yards on 15 carries. Sims had rushed for just 179 yards during the entire 1981 season for Oklahoma.