Although the season could be considered a little bit of a letdown at 5-6 and 3-5 in the Big XII (what we wouldn’t give to experience a record like that now!), one game and one half in particular gave KU almost an entire season’s worth of highlights.
Oklahoma traveled to Lawrence in the fall of 1997 and needless to say, that OU team was nothing like the ones that have come to town in the last decade and a half.
After being down 10-3 at the half, the KU defense got a stop. Kansas City product Tony Blevins then ran back an Oklahoma punt 56 yards for a Kansas score and a tie game.
But that wasn’t even the biggest highlight of this win, KU’s third consecutive against Oklahoma (not even possible to imagine now). The game’s and season’s greatest highlight belongs to Eric Vann.
A few years ago, I did a profile on Vann and his historic 99-yard touchdown run against Oklahoma, but it’s worth revisiting again. I remember seeing it while in the student section at Memorial Stadium and still not believing my eyes. But alas, it happened.
The El Dorado, Kansas native just broke free, but the real question still remains: where was the Oklahoma secondary? He was free from the ten-yard line and the touchdown was a foregone conclusion. Kansas was in the lead.
And the domination by local athletes continued. Oklahoma had a chance to tie the game in the last minute with a field goal but Blevins came up big again. He blocked the 33-yard field goal attempt and KU ran out the clock after recovering the kick.
But here’s the real kicker: Oklahoma had made a 28-yard field goal just seconds before the Blevins block. The Sooners were called for a false start penalty and were pushed back five yards. They had to retry the field goal and the rest is history.
A punt return for a touchdown, a rushing touchdown from record setting (and maximum) distance, and a game clinching blocked field goal all in one half of action. October 4, 1997 was not a bad day to day to be a Jayhawk.
Kansas 20, Oklahoma 17.