Since October 20, 1923, the Oklahoma Sooners have called Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium home. Although the stadium looks much different than it did on that October afternoon, one thing has remained constant.
Owen Field is hallowed ground in the world of college football.
Owen Field has never been considered among the most intimidating places to play in college football, largely in part because the fan base is more of a respecting one than a rabid one.
Don't get me wrong, Sooner fans sure love their football. However, you won't hear crass chants ringing out from the bleachers like you would at an LSU night game (Disclaimer: Not a diss on LSU fans. Just a statement.)
In its 87 years of existence, Owen has seen its fair share of dominating victories and blowout losses, and nail-biting victories and heartbreaking defeats.
It has also seen its fair share of talent slugging it out on its green field. Players such as Billy Sims, Johnny Rodgers, Sam Bradford, Donovan McNabb, Lee Roy Selmon, and oh so many more.
The Sooners are an all time 349-78-15 in the House that Bud built and have only suffered a total of seven losing seasons there.
Currently, Oklahoma is 63-2 at home under head coach Bob Stoops and holds the longest active home winning streak in the nation at 30 games. The Sooners have not lost at home since TCU upset them at the beginning of the 2005 season.
Each stadium in college football is defined by some characteristic, whether it be about the stadium itself or the things that go on inside the stadium.
Penn State is known for the White Out, LSU is known for a raucous and crazy atmosphere at night games, Texas A&M is known for the loyalty of the 12th man, Clemson is known for its ultra-steep upper deck, and Baylor is known for not having a home field advantage at all because at almost every major game, the crowd is about 50-50 at least.
I feel that Owen Field doesn't have one of these characteristics that people in college football circles point to and talk about when big games come to Norman. However, I do feel that there is something that makes OU an extremely intimidating place to play.
Oklahoma is one of the greatest programs in the history of college football. With that greatness comes an aura that completely encompasses everything within the program. The fans, the players, the coaches, the interlocking O and U, and the facilities themselves.
That aura makes it extremely tough mentally to focus when you play at a place that has it. I remember going to Lincoln this past year for the game against Nebraska, and I almost forgot I was supposed to be cheering against the Huskers.
I was simply in awe that I was in a place that was revered as the home of one of the greatest programs ever. I knew the players probably felt the same way.
Oklahoma Memorial Stadium has that affect on people. It had that affect on me the first time I set foot in it, even though OU was playing Chattanooga. It's a difficult feeling to describe, but if it's working against you, it's a tough thing to overcome.
Many stadiums are just loud and don't have the program mystique to accompany that intimidation. A great example of this is Oregon's Autzen Stadium. It's a very tough place to play because it's extremely loud and the fans are solid. But it doesn't have that program mystique about it. Noise can be overcome, but mystique is more difficult.
The OU home crowd is not an extremely raucous one. This was something that head coach Bob Stoops pointed out before the Sooners played Texas Tech in 2008. Sooner Nation responded in a huge way.
A record crowd of 85,646 roared the entire game, even jumping at times, in helping spur the Sooners to what ABC's Brent Musberger referred to as "an old-fashioned stomping," as Oklahoma rolled, 65-21.
After the game, Stoops walked to several areas of the stadium, acknowledging the crowd, and even bowing to the student section. It was an atmosphere the like of which I had never experienced in my life. I count myself very fortunate to have been able to be there.
Owen Field at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium isn't the loudest place in college football, but it is still one of the toughest places to play. It achieves that distinction because of the ambiance of a program that has set itself on a pedestal as one of the best in history.
If that isn't intimidating, then I don't know what is.
Oh, and it gets pretty darn loud at times as well.
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