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Wayback Wednesday: OSU’s First Bowl Game, the 1945 Cotton Bowl

The Cowboys “poured it on” the Horned Frogs in this historically significant bowl matchup.

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I was recently perusing a coffee table book that someone had passed on to me called The Tulsa Tribune: Eighty Years of History. As the title would indicate, it includes pages of the now-defunct newspaper on significant days in history from 1900 to 1980. It’s been fun and interesting to have my 5-year-old daughter practice reading headlines of some the most memorable moments of the 20th century, and through a local lens.

But what’s been even more fascinating for me have been some of the side stories. This one that jumped out to me was from the Jan. 2, 1945 edition: Aggies Win Lopsided Tilt From T.C.U. 

Included was this four-paragraph recap of Oklahoma A&M’s 34-0 win over TCU in the 1945 Cotton Bowl.

DALLAS. Jan. 2. 1945 — The Oklahoma Aggies are kingpins of college football in the southwest and as far as 27,500 folks who turned out for Monday’s game are concerned the Cowboys can include points east, north, west and south.

The Cowpokes, with dashing Bob Fenimore giving an All-American exhibition, finished their greatest season by pouring a 34-0 defeat on the backs of Texas Christian’s Horned Frogs — the most lopsided triumph in nine years of Cotton Bowl history.

But Oklahoma A. and M. was not one-man affair. Jim Spavital, a bruising, smashing fullback, battered the T.C.U. line for 120 yards, while Cecil Hankins not only stabbed the Frog forward wall to pieces, but put on a grand pass-catching show.

The Aggies second team took over in the fourth period to score a couple of touchdowns with ease after the regulars had pounded the Frogs into only passive resistance. [The Tulsa Tribune: Eighty Years of History]

I hope Spencer Sanders gives me a reason to type “kingpins of college football” at some point this fall.

A five-score shutout may not seem all that compelling, but this game holds several points of significance for Oklahoma State. Here’s what I came across.

• This was the school’s first bowl game ever, and also it’s first and only shutout of a bowl opponent. (OSU was shut out in the 1949 Delta Bowl, 20-0 by William & Mary.)

• Sophomore Bob Fenimore lived up to his star billing. The nation’s leader in offense took the game over and all his skills were on display against TCU. Fenimore finished with 178 rushing yards and two scores and 136 passing yards. He also punted five times.

• Feniomore finished ninth in Heisman voting that season after leading the nation in total offense (1,758 yards), finishing third in rushing (899 yards), eighth in passing (997 yards), ninth in scoring (77 points) and 13th in punting average (37.3 yards). He was the No. 3 vote-receiver for the award as a junior.

• Fenimore’s 178 rushing yards (on 8.5 yards per carry) was a school postseason record for nearly 44 years until Barry Sanders’ legendary 222-yard performance in the 1988 Holiday Bowl. Fenimore was enshrined in the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame in 2007, the only OSU representative in the hall to date.

• Along with Fenimore, defensive back Neill Armstrong and tackle Ralph Foster were named the game’s outstanding players. Jim Spavital also had himself an outing, logging 120 yards on 18 carries, highlighted by a 52-yard scamper to pay dirt to put the Pokes up 14-0 in the first quarter.

• This was also the largest postseason victory by OSU until that 1988 Holiday Bowl, a 62-14 thrashing of Wyoming.

• TCU finished that season 6-3-1 and averaged 13.4 points per game. This was the only game they were held scoreless.

• The Aggies defense bottled up the Frogs allowing just 31 passing yards, 109 total yards and just five first downs all game, all three of those marks are OSU bowl records. TCU didn’t pass midfield until the second half.

• Oklahoma A&M totaled 494 yards of total offense in this game. Related: No one show this to Mike Gundy. He might have Sean Gleeson digging through the archives looking for Jim Lookabaugh’s single-wing playbook.

• The Aggies finished 8-1, their best finish since 1932 (9-1-2). But the next season, Oklahoma A&M — led by Lookabaugh and Fenimore — went 9-0 landing with a 33-13 win over St. Mary’s. OSU was posthumously (and controversially) named the 1945 national champion by the AFCA in 2016.

• This was the 10th meeting between Oklahoma A&M and TCU, a series with started in 1915. The Aggies were 4-5 all-time against the Horned Frogs coming in, but A&M took control of the series directly after. The next fall, TCU was on the nonconference slate and the teams met for six consecutive years. The Aggies went 4-1-1 in that span. Currently, the series sits at 15-12-2 in favor of the Pokes.

• Some of the VIPs on-hand for the event included then Oklahoma governor Robert S. Kerr, who was seated with Oklahoma A&M president Dr. Henry G. Bennett, and even Dr. George L. Cross, OU’s president.

• The 34-point win stood as the most lopsided Cotton Bowl game for 46 years until the 1991 iteration when Miami (Fl.) blew out Texas 46-3.

• This was just the beginning of a long history between Oklahoma State and the Cotton Bowl Classic. The Cowboys would return three more times, losing all three.

In 2004, OSU fell to Ole Miss 31-28. Then in 2010 — the first year the bowl was held at its current location at AT&T Stadium in Arlington — the Cowboys lost to Ole Miss again, this time 21-7. OSU then came up short in the 2013 Cotton Bowl Classic to Missouri 41-31. OSU did win the 2013 Heart of Dallas Bowl (end of season 2012), blowing out Purdue 58-14, which is held at Cotton Bowl Stadium.

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