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Back on track with a tailback
Ralph Wiley
November 15, 1982
Freshman I Back Marcus Dupree has Oklahoma running once again
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November 15, 1982

Back On Track With A Tailback

Freshman I Back Marcus Dupree has Oklahoma running once again

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Against Texas Dupree opened the scoring with a fake flanker reverse (no one but Dupree and Switzer knew the handoff would be bogus) that was good for 63 yards and a touchdown. Against Kansas, Dupree, on his first carry of the game, bolted 75 yards for a touchdown, pausing along the way to plant the final defender with a stiff-arm so stunning that Switzer said later, "It's not fair for a guy to be 6'3", 233, 9.5 and know karate, too." In that game Dupree carried nine times for 158 yards and scored three touchdowns. The next week, against Oklahoma State, he scored from 30 yards out on fourth-and-one. Against Colorado he was held to 53 yards in 12 carries, but he ran back a punt 77 yards for a score after shrugging off an attempted necktie tackle that might have turned even a good back into a soprano. "Can you imagine?" asks Switzer, "230 pounds, running back punts?"

With each subsequent dash, the cheers for Dupree grow louder, the comparisons grander, the attention greater. And the Wishbone has been placed farther back on the shelf—the Sooners used it only 20% of the time against Kansas State. The comparisons abound. Dupree is Herschel Walker II, Sooner fans say. "He's Earl Campbell all over again," says Williams. Switzer says that Dupree is "unlike any back we've had here. Bigger, but still a runner." No one has mentioned Jimmy Brown yet, but the similarity is obvious.

Curiously, it wasn't one of Oklahoma's Wishbone runners that Dupree admired most when he was being sold on Oklahoma. "I liked [Quarterback] Thomas Lott—a lot," he says, grinning. "The way he ran the offense. He seemed to know what he was doing." But Lott departed in 1978, and, as Switzer says, "Poor quarterback running ability has allowed teams to defense us." Now the Sooners are humming again. Wilson rushed for 143 yards and Dupree for 118 and two TDs against Kansas State, the first time all year two Sooner backs had surpassed 100 yards.

The Sooners will need that sort of devastating running attack if they hope to defeat Nebraska and go to the Orange Bowl. "At the beginning of the year, I thought Oklahoma had no chance against Nebraska," said Kansas State Coach Jim Dickey. "Now I think they do." The chance is Dupree, a quiet kid with shy eyes, a B+ student who has a 6.9-yard average per carry and remarkably little hubris. "None of it, football or studies, is overwhelming," he says. Nebraska, however, may be.

Perhaps in anticipation of the Nov. 26 showdown with the Cornhuskers, Dupree ran an option run-pass sweep at the Thursday practice before the Kansas State game and fired a 40-yard bullet completion. A bespectacled 13-year-old named Kathy, sheltered against evening shadows and prairie winds by her father's arms, said, "Look, Daddy! He's the quarterback, the runner, the tank, everything!" Her father, Barry by name, adjusted the tobacco in his lip, squinted, and said, "Yep."

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