Clash of Titans
Games featuring a future Hall of Fame coach on each sideline.
September 26, 1959: Oklahoma @ Northwestern
Bud Wilkinson vs Ara Parseghian
Oklahoma, ranked #2 in the AP preseason poll, visited #10 Northwestern in Chicago in the biggest game of football's opening weekend as evidenced by the fact that NBC tele­cast the game coast-to-coast. The game would be remembered for the mysterious events that happened two nights before kickoff.
Bud Wilkinson's Sooners were the undisputed team of the fifties. From 1950-58, they finished the season below #5 in the polls just once. They won every Big Seven Conference championship, played in four bowl games, and were acclaimed national champions three times. From 1953-57, OU won 47 straight games, still a major college record.
The Wildcats won the 1949 Rose Bowl under Coach Robert Voigts but immediately fell on hard times, winning a total of 22 games in the next six years. Lou Saban replaced Voigt but lasted only one disastrous 0-8-1 season. Ara Parseghian took the reins in 1956 and went 4-4-1, 0-9, and 5-4 in his first three seasons.
The Sooners arrived earlier than usual, Wednesday night. They held a secret workout session Thursday afternoon. That evening, the team, without most of the coaching staff, including Wilkinson, and HB Edward "Wahoo" McDaniel and All-America FB Prentice Gault, ate supper at the Chez Paree, the Windy City's top nightclub. When the team arrived at the restaurant, the waitress took them to meet an older gentlemen who was sitting with a good looking girl who asked the players their positions and whether they were starters. When the team was seated for the meal, waitresses served a fruit appetizer to particular individuals instead of straight down the line. Within 30 minutes, 13 players were in the bathroom vomiting. E Paul Benien recalls himself and seven other players stumbling down the steps, trying to make their way to the street so they could take taxis to the hospital. T Bill Watts recalls, "I threw up four or five times before I went to the hospital. They were pumping our stomachs ... It was a traumatic experience." The six Sooners spent the night in the hospital, and others became ill after the team returned to their hotel.

L-R: Bud Wilkinson, Ara Parseghian, Ron Burton
Heavy betting on underdog Northwestern through Thursday reduced the spread to one touchdown. However, the point spead shrank to two points early Friday after news of the players' illness spread. A few hours later, bookies in New York and Chicago took the game off the boards. Rumors spread that professional gamblers poisoned the Sooners' food.
The hospitalized players were discharged Friday morning and missed the afternoon prac­tice session at Dyche Stadium. They ate a normal meal Friday night.
Meanwhile, authorities combed through the hotel and nightclub menus to determine why the players were stricken. Tests proved that food served at the Chez Paree did not make the players ill. The sandwiches the players ate at the hotel earlier Thursday were also inspected with inconclusive results.
Benien remembers sitting in the locker room before the game. It was "pretty dreary," and there wasn't "a lot of enthusiasm."
The game started in a steady rain before a crowd of 50,813. Five of the striken OU regu­lars were in the starting lineup, but Wilkinson warned that they might be restricted to lim­ited action.
Things started going haywire for Oklahoma right away. On their second possession, Wa­hoo McDaniel tried a quick kick but the snap was low, and Joe Abbatiello blocked the punt to give Northwestern possession on the nine. Three plays later, Ray Purdin pushed into the end zone from the 1' line. Northwestern 7 Oklahoma 0

Oklahoma (in white) vs Northwestern before the monsoon hit
The next Sooner punt, under a heavy rush, went only 9y against a strong wind to set up the Wildcats at midfield. Star HB Ron Burton introduced himself to OU's second unit by reeling off 27y around right end. Wilkinson rushed the starters back into the game, but the visitors' bad luck continued when a piling on penalty on QB Dick Thornton's run moved the ball to the eight. Two plays later, Thornton swept over from the six. The PAT failed. Northwestern 13 Oklahoma 0
Staying on the ground in a driving rainstorm that made it impossible for the TV viewers to see the field, Oklahoma reached the NU seven in the second quarter. Three of the lads on the sick list, QB Bobby Boyd and halfbacks Jimmy Carpenter and Brewster Hobby, combined for a razzle-dazzle touchdown play. QB Boyd flipped back to Carpenter who tossed a pass to Hobby all alone in the end zone to make it Northwestern 13 Oklahoma 7. That would be the high point of the Sooners' day.
It took only three minutes for the Wildcats to regain a two-score lead. Starting from their 24, they made a first down at the 38 against the OU alternates. Burton cut around right end, eluded two defenders, then turned back to the middle and outran the secondary to complete the 62y touchdown. Northwestern 19 Oklahoma 7

Ron Burton tackled by a Sooner.
Just before intermission, Sooner Jackie Holt fumbled the ball to NU G Wayne Cham­berlain on the OU eight. On the first play, Thornton threw a touchdown strike to E Paul Yanke. Northwestern 25 Oklahoma 7
The rain stopped at halftime, but it didn't help the Sooners. They faced a fourth down at their 21 early in the third period and had to gamble. But a host of defenders smothered Gault for no gain. Four plays later, Burton swept right end from the seven to make it 31-7.
The next Wildcat touchdown followed another fumble recovery at the OU 37 early in the fourth quarter. Eight plays later, the Wildcats had 4th-and-five at the 19. Alternate QB Chip Holcomb passed to Yanke for the touchdown. 37-7 Northwestern
Just when the Sooners thought matters couldn't get any worse, they found a new way to give NU a touchdown. From his 46, Boyd pitched out to Carpenter only to have E Elbert Kimbrough pick it off and take it the distance. 45-7 Northwestern
The OU alternates drove 50y for the final tally of the day with Bob Page at the throttle. Holt did the honors from the three.
The final score was 45-13, Oklahoma's worst defeat during Wilkinson's tenure, which began in 1947 and included a 47-game winning streak, still the longest in football history.
The Sooners led in first downs 17-9 and trailed only 311-306 in total yardage. But they fumbled 11 times, losing five. The Wildcats had to march over 37y for only two of their seven touchdowns.
Not one to make excuses, Wilkinson played down the illnesses, both to the media and with the team. He said his squad was beaten by a better team.
The '59 Sooners finished the season 7-3 while Northwestern, which rose to #2 in the poll and stayed there after five more victories, lost their last three games.