Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mike Stoops: Look In The Mirror and Meet Brent Venables!

Late in the first half of the 2003 BCS National Championship between Oklahoma and LSU in January of 2004, I observed a bizarre scene unfolding on the Sooners sideline from my perch high above the field in the endzone mezzanine section of the Louisiana SuperDome.

As play was halted for a timeout with OU trailing LSU 14-7 in a defensive slugfest, I focused my binoculars on the Sooners sideline to see what Bob Stoops and Brent Venables would come up with to slow the Tigers offense.

And what to my surprise did I observe behind the Sooner bench that would cause a doubletake to clean my binocular lenses?

An animated, agitated and emotional Mike Stoops arguing with the SuperDome usher to allow him to enter the playing field from his lower level stadium seats.

I am not really sure the usher had much of a chance with Stoops.

At any rate, a quick leap over the gate railing and voila'! Mike Stoops was now on the Oklahoma sidelines. What he did next was virtually unheard of in a national championship football game.

For a fleeting moment, Mike Stoops forgot he was now the head football coach of the University of Arizona Wildcats and reverted back a few weeks as his baby brother's defensive coordinator at the University of Oklahoma.

The problem with Stoops flashback was that OU already had a new defensive coordinator: Brent Venables. And he was on the field trying to do his job.

Venables had assembled his linebackers in one huddle on the sidelines going over schemes and instructions while the head football coach Bob Stoops had the defensive secondary a few feet away barking instructions to those players.

Incredibly, Mike Stoops in street clothes consisting of a navy blazer and khaki slacks pushed his way into the Venables huddle, grabbed a headset from one of the assistant coaches, basically pushed Venables aside and started screaming at the players!

Oh, and by the way. After he was finished barking at the players he started barking at the game officials on the field!


I am quite certain that it was some type of NCAA violation to have a person unaffiliated with a team come out of the stands and enter the playing field for a team and begin coaching during a game. I am pretty damn sure that a head coach for another school could not coach another team during a game!

But that was what Mike Stoops was doing right in the middle of a television timeout in the national championship game in New Orleans.

Now, to give Stoops some slack, it was his former team that he was watching unravel right before his eyes. The team that just a few weeks earlier was undefeated and headed to the Big 12 championship game in Kansas City against Kansas State.

Stoops had just accepted the head coaching position at Arizona only to see his former mentor Bill Snyder's #10 Kansas State Wildcats dismantle his vaunted #3 Sooners defense 35-7.


Fortunately, Oklahoma had enough BCS style points to qualify for the National Championship game versus LSU without Stoops, anyway.

However, what Stoops was seeing on the SuperDome field had caused him to snap and revert to this Youngstown, Ohio brotherly instincts and hop the rail to come to the rescue of his Big Brother Bob.

Obviously, in the heat of the moment, he had lost whatever respect he had for Brent Venables and his behavior was not only out of line but probably could have cost Oklahoma a sideline misconduct penalty for outside interference (if such a penalty existed!)

Whatever Stoops imparted to the defense didn't help much.

An LSU lineman picked off a Jason White interception early in the third quarter and returned it for a touchdown and an insurmountable 21-7 lead. The Sooners would rally but fall short 21-14.

Fast Forward to 2013

I find this memory interesting as Mike Stoops enters Bedlam week having replaced Brent Venables as the Oklahoma Defensive Coordinator coming off the worst defensive performance in the 117-year history of the University of Oklahoma football program!

Stoops' 4-man front and 7-defensive back scheme was dismantled by former OSU Offensive Coordinator Dana Holgerson's West Virginia Mountaineers Saturday night.

The Mountaineers totalled 778 total yards on offense, 458 rushing yards, and 344 rushing yards by a converted slot back Tavon Austin!

For whatever reason, lack of imagination, coaching techniques or failure to have a back up plan, Mike Stoops stubbornly stayed in this base defense most of the second half.

The result: he helplessly watched from the sidelines as West Virginia erased a 31-17 Sooners halftime lead and found himself facing a 49-44 deficit with a little over two minutes remaining.

Fortunately, for Mike Stoops, Landry Jones called an audible on fourth and three with 24-seconds remaining and threw a touchdown pass to Kenny Stills to pull the Sooners back in front 50-49 to save his ass.

Only a hail mary pass from Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith that was batted down at the Sooners goal line as time expired allowed the Sooners to escape Morgantown with a victory.

Why Does All This Matter?

The reason all this matters is because it was only a year ago that Brent Venables was basically run out of Norman on a rail a victim of a fickle fan base who had tired of his unreliable defensive schemes the past 13 years.

Sooners lose to Texas Tech at home ending their 39-game home winning streak? Blame Brent Venables.

Sooners lose three weeks later 45-38 to Baylor in Waco on a last second 50-yard bullet from eventual Heisman Trophy winner RGIII? Blame Brent Venables.

And, the coup de grace, lose 44-10 in Stillwater where the defensive scheme did not allow the talented tandem of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon to find the end zone? Blame Brent Venables.

So you can see why Mike Stoops' hiring was so important to the Sooner nation.

Little brother was being brought home after a failed head coaching stint in the desert to save Big Brother Bob's legacy by instilling the pre-2003 Sooner smashmouth defense.

You know. The one that shut out Bobby Bowden's Florida State Seminoles offense 13-2 in the 2000 National Championship game in Miami.

The one that sent Teddy Lehman, Rocky Calmus, Roy Williams, Torrance Marshall, Tommie Harris, Brandon Everage and Derrick Straight straight from Norman to the NFL.

The problem with bringing back Mike Stoops is that he was Co-Defensive Coordinator with Brent Venables for 5 years and Venables was basically using the same schemes he and Stoops ran without Stoops' players the past 8 years!

Granted, by all accounts, Oklahoma's defense has improved in 2012.

However, as improved as the Sooners defense has been this year, Mike Stoops has proven that no remedy exists for today's up-tempo, spread offenses run by coaches that populate the 2012 Big 12 Conference.

The three-game offensive gauntlet of Baylor (ranked #5 nationally), West Virginia (ranked #9 nationally,) and OSU (ranked #2 nationally,) is one game away from being completed.

The results:

Oklahoma 42 Baylor 34.
Oklahoma 50 West Virginia 49.
Oklahoma vs. OSU?

It doesn't take a defensive genius to know that Mike Stoops defense has been torched by Baylor and West Virginia the past two weeks.

Granted, the Sooners won both games but how comfortable do you think the Sooner Nation is with this defense entering Saturday's Bedlam game against Mike Gundy's high-flying, 3rd ranked offensive scoring, Cowboys "plug and play" quarterback system?

If you've seen the big smile coming from Stillwater this week, you know that there is reason to feel queasy in Norman.

What To Do Saturday Afternoon?

So what exactly does Mike Stoops do against OSU Saturday afternoon?

Does he remain with the 4-man front, 7-defensive back scheme that has been torched up the middle by a Baylor running attack and a West Virginia converted wide receiver?

Or does he do something he stubbornly refused to do Saturday and adjust his scheme?

Head Coach Bob Stoops admitted this week the Sooners defense basically stunk Saturday night. But he didn't exactly endorse wholesale changes as well when he said this about making adjustments mid-stream:

"Tough to ditch everything you've practiced all week."


Come again?

Making in-game adjustments is what the Head Football coach and Defensive Coordinator get paid over $5 million a year to do during a game!

Anyone watch the first half of the Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks game earlier this year?

Seattle came out blazing and made Aarron Rodgers look like a junior high quarterback with blitzes, stunts and a defensive scheme that rendered the high-powered Packers offense futile.

What did Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy do at halftime?

He made an adjustment and began running the ball down the blitzing Seahawks' throat and stopped the Seattle onslaught.

Same thing applies here to the Stoops brothers.

We know Bob Stoops loves his mano-y-mano, man-to-man coverage at cornerback. He loves to play with four down lineman and line up and see if the other team can beat him.

Last week West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson called Stoops scheme a "Cat" defense. You know, "I got that cat, you got that cat!" Just like on the playground. Put your best player on their best player and see who's better.

You can only run this kind of scheme if you have superior players at cornerback with catlike reflexes, tenacious man coverage skills and speed.

Fortunately, Oklahoma has a pair of these "cats" in Demontre Hurst and Aaron Colvin. They're two of the best cover corners in college football. They will both play on Sundays.

But the problem with the Sooners defense isn't with Hurst and Colvin.

The problem lies in the middle and therein lies the rub.

Saturday Afternoon's Game Plan

Admittedly, I'm no defensive genius.

And, I don't have a crystal ball either.

However, I have played my share of ball on both sides of the line and have watched an awful lot of football in my 50 years.

And, one thing I know is that football is a war. As Bud Wilkinson famously said, "Football, in its purest form, remains a physical fight. As in any fight, if you don't want to fight, it's impossible to win."

And war consists of strategy.

So what can the brothers Stoops do to Mike Gundy Saturday to stop the bleeding we witnessed in Morgantown Saturday night?

One only has to look to the former OSU Offensive Coordinator Dana Holgerson and his comments following the 2010 Bedlam matchup:

"Last year when we played Oklahoma, you talk about a shock. I've known Brent Venables and Bob Stoops for 11 years and played against them for nine. They've been a traditional four-down front team for 10 years. And I watched some tape and said, 'Yeah, that's the same stuff they've been doing for a long time. They're four down. They're a zone blitz team. Every now and then they'll bring a safety down or bring everybody down and play man. They came out against us in a three-down front for the first time in their entire career at Oklahoma. That's when you have to adjust. It took us about a quarter to adjust."

OSU had the ball four times in the first quarter against Oklahoma. They scored 3 points. OU took a 7-3 lead and never trailed before winning.

A 3-man front for Mike Stoops? Can he force himself to borrow a page from Brent Venables?


But what does he do with the other 8 players?

If you consider the base secondary players, Hurst, Colvin, Tony Jefferson and Javon Harris, all will remain intact, what does that leave you with?

Four linebackers?

Anyone remember what happened last year when Brent Venables faced Weeden and Blackmon?

Does 44-10 sound familiar? Do you still see Tom Wort and Travis Lewis trailing the OSU wide receivers flailing to catch them?

Do you remember OSU running backs gashing the Sooners for 250 yards on the ground?

Think OSU still has the horses upfront to inflict similar damage on the ground with Joseph Randle?


So what does Mike Stoops do?

I think he basically has two choices:

1) Stubbornly stick with the same base defense that Baylor and West Virginia torched and pray Landry Jones and the offense can outscore OSU. After all, as the head coach said this week, it's the defensive scheme they have been practicing all year.


2) Implement a 5-man front with 2 linebackers and see what happens.

A good way to stop a running game is to fill the line gaps with bodies. Big bodies.

Sooners have some of those in Seniors Jamarkus McFarland, Stacey McGee, Casey Walker and David King.

The problem is that this is the same cast of characters who have been torched the past two weeks.

And there is not much depth behind them to rotate in fresh bodies.

Tom Wort and Corey Nelson are very talented linebackers at stopping the run. However, they are not so great in coverage against a high-powered spread offense like the one OSU runs.

Which is why Stoops has decided to take them off the field in passing situations and replace them with a 7-defensive back formation.

Oh, you could move Tony Jefferson from Free Safety and put him 3-yards off the ball as basically a hybrid linebacker but then just remember who is left mining the deep third? Javon Harris.

And, anyone who thinks Javon Harris can do the job back there just flashback to Baylor and Texas Tech last year.


As Barry Switzer used to famously say, "Coaches don't make plays, players make plays!" or something to this effect. Oklahoma has to rely on players Saturday to make plays.

Bob Stoops said the Sooners missed 20 tackles Saturday night. That's an awful lot of missed tackles.

Credit Tavon Austin for some of those misses. But also ask the Sooners to step up and make a play Saturday night regardless of the scheme.

I said earlier this year that this might be the most talented team Bob Stoops has fielded in his 14 years in Norman.

An awfully young bunch, with transfers mixed in at key positions, but very talented.

There are 20 seniors, including a half a dozen or more on defense, who will play their final home game as Sooners Saturday.

Maybe it's time to light a fire in their ass and get them motivated to play the game of their careers?

Anyone out there think we've seen the best of Jamarkus McFarland, R.J. Washington, Stacey McGee, Casey Walker or David King?

Fire em' up and get em' motivated.

How about a couple of new players who haven't been seen or heard from this year?

Geneo Grissom? Torea Peterson?

Can they be inserted in key positions and turned loose on OSU's "plug and play" quarterback system?

What about Frank Shannon, Rashod Favors, Jordan Phillips?

Put them in and turn them loose.

What say you this week Mike Stoops:

"So we will see if we can make the adjustments and improvements but really just concentrate on those issues we have."


Oklahoma has held OSU to 125 yards passing the last 6 visits to Norman and has outscored the Cowboys by an average of 42.5 to 10 in the last four home wins, as well.

Guess who was the Defensive Coordinator for three of those visits? Brent Venables.

Defensive schemes come and go with varied success.

At the end of the day, players have to make plays.

Oklahoma has a ton of talented players. Some have not played to their potential this year.

Some haven't been given a chance.

Saturday afternoon it's time to let these horses loose and see what damage they can do to the Cowboys offense.

Or, else, let's just bring Brent Venables back.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Sooners Secret Weapon Spells Doom for OSU!

After his defense just allowed West Virginia to establish a school record nearly 800 yards of total offense on his proud Sooner defense last night in a wild 50-49 comeback win, Coach Bob Stoops isn't taking any chances this week for the annual Bedlam game.

No, in fact the text went out from the Sooner locker room right after the clock struck zero last night in Morgantown:

"Is she coming Saturday?"

And, as any faithful Sooner fan would answer his Coach's calling, "Sir, Yes Sir!"

Here's a look back at the success of the Sooners Secret Weapon Coach Stoops wants to ensure is in the house on Saturday!

Holiday Success!

In 2005, Lucy ventured to the West Coast for her first-ever Sooner game and Bowl Game against the Oregon Ducks in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego.

She was fearless as we crashed an Oregon tailgate party and then as to our surprise, our seats were in the Oregon section!

But behind a war horse effort from Adrian Petersen (24 carries for 80 yards), linebacker Clint Ingram's leaping interception grab at the OU 10-yard line with 33-seconds remaing in the game and escaping a Rhett Bomar premature spike on our 1-yard line as the final seconds ticked off the Quaalcom Stadium clock, the Sooners prevailed 17-14!

The First Home Opener

We ventured to Owen Field in the home opener in 2006 as Lucy made her first home game appearance.

And the Sooners didn't disappoint even though a little rain and a stubborn opponent made it closer than comfortable as converted wide receiver-to-quarterback Paul Thompson and Adrian Petersen led Oklahoma as the Sooners defeated the University of Alabama Birmingham 24-17.

Lucy experienced the Sooner Game Day activities, ate her share of cotton candy, beef jerky and saw the Pride of Oklahoma and cheered on the Sooners! The win was #6 in the record 39-consecutive home win streak that would continue until the 2011 season.


Eventual Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford continued his perfect season with a solid game versus Big East opponent Cincinnati in 2008.

Bradford tossed 5 touchdown passes including one to freshman Ryan Broyles who set a Sooner freshman record with 7 receptions for 141 yards.

And, Lucy experienced her first heat-fest inside Memorial Stadium.

Sitting high above the east stands, we hydrated early and often as the #4 ranked Sooners steamrolled the Bearcats 52-26 en route to a 12-1 BCS Championship game season. The win was the 20th consecutive at home and the nation's longest current win streak.

Lucy would see a vaunted Oklahoma team that consisted of All-Americans Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy, Duke Robinson and Jermaine Gresham and three of the first four 2010 NFL First Round Draft Picks Bradford, McCoy, Trent Williams and Jermaine Gresham.


2009 was a great Sooner season for Lucy making three appearances in Norman despite the Sooners losing Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford to a shoulder injury in the first game against BYU in Dallas!

And the Sooners responded with three shutouts in one season for the first time since 1986!

Another home opener and a 64-0 victory in the rain over Idaho State. The Sooners were ranked #13 in the nation as freshman Landry Jones made his first start at home throwing for 286 yards and 3 touchdowns--all to Ryan Broyles.

The Sooners maintained their 25-game home win streak and recorded their first shutout since 1986!

This win was followed by a 45-0 beatdown of Tulsa.

The #12 ranked Sooners were led by Landry Jones 6 touchdown passes--a school record. The win was the second straight shutout for the Sooners and 26th consecutive win at home.

Finally, with the season teetering on the brink at 6-5, Lucy made her first Bedlam appearance and the Sooners responded with a 27-0 shutout of OSU.

DeMarco Murray led the Sooners with 2 touchdowns and Ryan Broyles' 88-yard punt return for a touchdown clinched the victory.

The victory knocked OSU from BCS Bowl contention and the Sooners defensive effort inflicted the worst offensive performance in a decade for OSU. The Sooners held the Cowboys to 109 total yards and no first downs in the second half.

The win was the 30th consecutive at home and the third shutout of the 2009 season.


After taking a rare season off, Lucy made her third home opener as the Sooners were ranked #1 for the first time since 2003.

The Sooners beat Tulsa 47-14 as Dominique Whaley set a school record with 4 touchdowns in his Sooner debut and 131 yards rushing.

Lucy also witnessed the greatness of Ryan Broyles, the two-time consensus All-American wide receiver, as he had 14 receptions for 158 yards.

Broyles would go on to establish the all-time career receptions record in college football history wth 349 catches in 2011.

The win was the 37th consecutive at home for the Sooners.

The Thanksgiving weekend brought 40-degree temperatures, 40-mile per hour winds and Iowa State to town. However, Lucy was undaunted in her cold-weather gear as the Sooners dominated the Cyclones 26-6.

The #9 ranked Sooners overcame the strongest winds in Norman since a home game in 1964 versus USC as Blake Bell scored two touchdowns in the BellDozer formation.


Lucy made her fourth home opener and saw a 69-13 beatdown of Florida A & M raising her win total to 9 versus 0 losses.


So as you can see, Coach Stoops has reason to text his secret weapon to make sure she will be in the house Saturday for the annual Bedlam Game.

Lucy will bring her cold-weather gear and lucky seat cushion, cotton candy and beef jerky as she settles in to watch the Sooners bring in another victory.

The Sooners have outscored their opponents 317 to 100 for an average score of 41 to 11 in her 9 games in Norman.

Expect more of the same on Saturday!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"West Virginia. Are You Kidding Me?"

Barry Switzer fed the "monster" Bud Wilkinson created and he overstuffed the monster by going 32-1-1 in his first three seasons in 1973, 74' and 75'.

Back-to-back National Championships in 74' and 75' didn't help matters nor did a 32-game winning streak from 1973 through 1975.

Oh, and by the way, Switzer's Sooners gave former Sooner Legend Darrell Royal's Texas Longhorns the worst loss in Darrell Royal's career in 1973 whipping the Longhorns 52-13.

The fact Switzer did this rout using Royal's Wishbone and using Texas players didn't help matters, frankly speaking either.

And don't forget Switzer's domination over arch rival Nebraska. Beginning with the 1971 "Game of the Century" in Norman, Oklahoma would not lose again to Nebraska until Billy Sims' untimely fumble in Lincoln in the 1978 game.

But don't fret. The Orange Bowl gave Oklahoma an unprecedented rematch in the 1979 bowl game in Miami and to the dumbfoundedness of Tom Osborne and Bob Devaney, Switzer's Sooners beat the Cornhuskers in the rematch 31-24.

So you can see Switzer set the table for very high expectations from a generation of Sooners who grew up listening to Oklahoma football games on the radio from 1973 thru the 1975 season because the Sooners were on probation the entire period!

Skip past an aberration year in 1976 when the Sooners would drop to a 9-2-1 regular season and 1977 at  10-2 and go directly to two straight 11-1 seasons from 1978 and 1979 and back-to-back Orange Bowl victories in 1979 and 1980 and you have the 1980 season in Norman.

I still don't have an explanation for John Elway's performance in Norman that resulted in a 31-14 upset other than the tremendous rainstorm that flooded Owen Field. Another 10-2 season sent the Sooners back to Miami and another win over Florida State.

So the 1981 Oklahoma Sooners football season was filled with promise and high expectations that Barry Switzer would continue his "Sooner Magic" and dominate college football just like he had done the first 8 seasons in Norman.

My First Season in Norman

So this was the backdrop when I enrolled my Sophomore year in college at the University of Oklahoma after spending a year in Kansas chasing my baseball dreams in NAIA Division II "hell" at Baker University.

I soon realized that the opening home game of the year was a very big deal.

Every fraternity and sorority held "Victory Parties" where big keg's were ordered, a live band was booked and hundreds of "Victory T-Shirts" were ordered with funny little sayings about the upcoming opponent who was sure to experience the impending beatdown history showed they would.

And, of course the Wyoming Cowboys obliged with a 37-20 smackdown in the home opener.

However, the uphoria was shortlived.

John Robinson's USC Trojans and running back sensation Marcus Allen handed the Sooners a 28-24 loss in the Los Angeles Coliseum the next Saturday.

The Sooners returned home and were promptly lucky to tie lowly Iowa State 7-7 in Norman. This unheard of setback was followed the next week by a 34-14 beating in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas against hated-rival Texas.

Now the Sooners stood at 1-2-1 headed into a week five matchup with Kansas.

Fortunately, Oklahoma would run off three consecutive home wins and finish the season 7-4-1 with a victory over Houston in the Sun Bowl.

And Then There Was West Virginia

So you can sense the anticipation for Oklahoma football as the 1982 season unfolded coming off the worst season in Barry Switzer's 8 years in Norman.

Much anticipation was in the air as freshman phenom Marcus Dupree from Philadelphia, Mississippi had arrived on campus with much fanfare. So much so, that rumors had it that Switzer was considering scrapping his beloved Wishbone in favor of the I-formation to get the ball into Dupree's hands more often.

And who better than to resurrect the winning tradition than an unheralded West Virginia Mountaineers, who were coming off four back-to-back losing seasons before a 6-6 season in 1980 by rookie head coach Don Nehlen followed by a 9-3 mark in 1981.

Head Coach Nehlen brought an unranked and untested team into Norman as the sacrificial lamb for the traditional opening day beatdown.

Victory parties were scheduled, t-shirts and kegs were ordered and bands were booked for the evening of Saturday, September 11, 1982.

However, a kid named Jeff Hostetler and a band of game-Mountaineers had other ideas.

Hostetler had transfered from Penn State and was ready to unleash his passing prowess on an unsuspecting Sooners.

And Oklahoma did not disappoint in the beginning.

The Sooners got off to a fast start with two quick touchdowns and a 14-0 lead.

Everyone thought another Sooner smackdown was at hand. However, as ESPN "GameDay" host Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast Oklahoma!"

Incredibly, West Virginia would charge back under Hostetler's passing and bring the game to within one point at 14-13 with 1:23 remaining in the first half.

And this is where it started to get weird for Oklahoma fans who were already three beers down across the street at the corner of Lindsey and Jenkins at O'Connell's Irish watering hole.

After a field goal, West Virginia incredibly called for an on-side kick which the Mountaineers recovered. A few short seconds later and a Hostetler touchdown pass and West Virginia had shocked the Sooners and led 20-14 at halftime!


The game would seesaw back and forth until the Sooners tied it up at 27-27 with 3:32 remaining in the game.

Until the unfathomable happened. West Virginia stopped the Sooners cold and scored twice with under two minutes remaining to cap a wild, unthinkable 41-27 upset.

How big of an upset was this?

Consider the fact that not only had Oklahoma had won 9 straight home openers in the Barry Switzer era but that incredibly the Sooners had not lost a home opener in Norman since 1965 to Navy! It was also the first time Oklahoma had started a season 0-1 since 1968 and it was also the most points ever scored against the Sooners in the state of Oklahoma!

Hostetler had a career day completing 17 of 37 passes for 321 yards and 4 touchdowns. The performance and victory would propel the Mountaineers to a 9-3 season and a Gator Bowl berth where they would lose 31-12 to Florida State. The victory would rate #9 on the all-time wins list in Mountaineer history in a 2011 Bleacher Report article.

Interestingly, the 48-28 2008 Fiesta Bowl win over the #3 ranked Sooners also made the Mountaineers top 10 all-time wins list.


The Saturday night matchup between Oklahoma and West Virginia in Morgantown will be the fifth time the two schools have met on the gridiron and the first-ever for the Sooners in West Virginia.

The series is tied at 2 games apiece although the Mountaineers have won the last two meetings.

Oklahoma is the #1 winningest football program in the modern era and sports 7 national championships, 5 Heisman Trophy winners, 43 Conference Championships and 153 All-Americans.

West Virginia is ranked as the 14th winningest football program in the country without a National Championship.

The Sooners are ranked #12 with an overall 7-2 record and 6-1 Big 12 conference record. The Mountaineers are 5-4 after getting off to a 5-0 record and are entering the game off of 4 consecutive losses in Big 12 play. They are 2-4 in the Big 12 standings.

The Mountaineers are playing for state pride and a bowl qualifying win as this game against Oklahoma is arguably the biggest game of the season and has been circled on the West Virginia fans calendars for some time.

And they are playing for the memory of Don Nehlen and Jeff Hostetler and a repeat performance from 1982 when they shocked the Sooner Nation.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

"He Was One of Us!"

Those of us in the football world are mourning the loss this week of football legend Darrell K Royal.

In the Mount Rushmore of college football you have Rockne, Leahy, Wilkinson, Bryant, and Royal. Not many would argue with those five men.

However, for many in the south, especially for a generation of Dust Bowl Oklahomans and another generation of 1960's Texans, Darrell K Royal is a dichotomy.

Because never before has one man impacted two football-driven universities moreso than the effect Darrell K Royal had on the University of Oklahoma and blood-rival the University of Texas.

No man has ever been loathed equally by both schools at equal parts of his career either.

If you bleed burnt orange or crimson and your soul aches at the very thought of losing to the other rival, blame Darrell K Royal.

Greatest Generation of Sooners

Darrell K Royal was born on July 6, 1924 in Hollis, Oklahoma. The youngest of six children born to Katy and B.R. "Burley" Royal, young Darrell grew up during the Dust Bowl in extreme southwestern Oklahoma--just 6 miles from the Texas border.

Author's note: I have never known why anyone would name their child with just initials but it must be an Oklahoma-thing. Darrell's middle initial "K" doesn't stand for anything other than his mother's name was Katy.

After his mother died before he was 6 years old, losing two sisters to a fever epidemic and facing a life of poverty, at age 14 he followed his father and the migration depicted in John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" and headed to California for a new beginning and hope for prosperity.

However, young Darrell was homesick for his native Oklahoma so he packed a knapsack and his baseball glove and hitchhiked back to Hollis. He made it in one piece and lived with his grandmother.

According to John Hoover in the Tulsa World, as a youngster, Royal would listen to Oklahoma Sooners football games on the radio every Saturday in the fall.

Later as an adult, Royal would recount the impact of Oklahoma football on his young psyche when he described the impact the sound of the Boomer Sooner fight song had had on him:

"...lifted me right out of my socks!"

Royal was a skinny kid on the Hollis High School football team but good enough to lead them to a state championship his senior year as quarterback.

Unfortunately for Royal though, he came of age just as World War II began and soon found himself enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps and served four years in World War II.

After completing his service, Royal finally found his way back to Oklahoma and a home on the University of Oklahoma football team where he would be introduced to a young assistant named Bud Wilkinson.

However, coach Wilkinson wasn't quite a legend yet. The head coach was Jim Tatum.

Royal found himself in one of the first signing classes among a slew of returning veterans. Wilkinson would become the Oklahoma head coach the next year in 1947. According to Harold Keith's book "47 Straight" 31 of the top 33 Sooner players in the 46' class were military veterans just returning from World War II.

The "Monster" Was Born

Barry Switzer often said he was just "feeding the monster" in describing his incredible success starting off 32-1-1 and back-to-back National Championships in 74'-75' as head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners in the early 1970's.

The "monster" Switzer was talking about was created by Bud Wilkinson and a young quarterback from Hollis named Darrell Royal.

In Wilkinson's second year in 1948, with the skinny kid from Hollis who said the sound of "Boomer Sooner" "lifted him out of his socks" at quarterback, the Oklahoma Sooners went 10-1 overall and 5-0 best in the Big 7 conference.

Oh, and by the way, Oklahoma beat Texas that year 20-14 in the Cotton Bowl for the first Sooner victory over their hated rival since 1939!

For all of you who cherish the thought of victory in the Cotton Bowl over either Oklahoma or Texas and revel in the accoutrements of victory, imagine losing to the other team 8 consecutive years!

It was the beginning of a dynasty at Oklahoma.

And domination over rival Texas.

Bud Wilkinson's Sooners would go on and win 8 of 10 against Texas during Wilkinson's first 10 seasons in Norman which was part of an overall 93-10-3 record.

During that time frame no other school dominated college football like the Sooners:

3 National Championships.
10 Big 6 and/or 7 Championships.
4 Undefeated Seasons.
1 Heisman Trophy Winner.
47-game winning streak--longest ever in college football.

In Royals' senior season, the 1949 team was 11-0, the first perfect season in Oklahoma football in 31 years, and has been called "the best college football team of all time!" by 1952 Heisman winner Billy Vessels. 

Royal completed 34 of 63 passes, 54% completion percentage rate, for 509 yards with just 1 interception in 49' earning All-America honors along the way.

Quarterback Darrell Royal led Oklahoma to two Sugar Bowl wins and a 31-consecutive win streak during his stay in Norman, as well.

But that was just on offense.

Royal was also an excellent defensive back who intercepted 18 opponents passes during his one-platoon days in Norman. Open the Sooner record book and you'll still see Darrell Royal's name at the top of the list of all-time defensive interceptions.

But Royal wasn't done.

Darrell Royal also was a punter extraordinare once kicking an 81-yarder against OSU and also returned two punts for touchdowns of 73 and 95 yards!

There have been many great Sooners who have played the game in Norman.

However, no one had the impact that Darrell K Royal had on creating the "monster" that cemented greatness on the gridiron in the minds of a generation of Oklahomans! His teams success also reversed a generation of Dust Bowl misery and state inferiority that was widely documented in John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath."

His accomplishments also paralled the skyrocketing post-war building boom at the University of Oklahoma to accommodate all of the returning military veterans who attended college on the G.I. Bill.

In fact, it was University of Oklahoma President George Lynn Cross who famously said he "would like to build a university of which the football team could be proud !"

He was speaking about the legacy that Darrell K Royal created.

The Eyes of Texas

Darrell Royal had always wanted to be a football coach.

As the quarterback of Coach Wilkinson's earliest winning teams, no one knew the intracacies of what made Oklahoma football succeed better than Darrell Royal. In fact, Royal would always be the last player on the practice field in hopes of soaking up as much football knowledge as he could muster.

However, starting out as an assistant coach in the 1950's didn't pay much and meant he would have to take his game on the road.

After stints as assistant at North Carolina State, Tulsa, and Mississippi State, he became head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League in 1953.

Following head coaching stints at Mississippi State and Washington, Darrell K Royal found a home deep in the heart of Texas.

Immediately Darrell K Royal knew he had found his calling.

"Edith, this is it, this is the University of Texas," Royal excitedly told his wife upon receiving the head coaching offer from Texas.

But it wouldn't be easy.

From 1939 to 1953, Texas won 77% of its games but Texas had not had a winning season in three years before Royal became head coach and was 1-9 in 1956.

In fact the football stadium that would later be renamed in his honor was ringed by barbed wire fence and tall grass when Royal first put down stakes in Austin.

It is ironic today to look back and wonder what must have been going through Darrell Royal's head when he stood on that field in Austin and took stock of the sorry state of affairs he had inherited at such a proud football school as Texas and know deep in his mind that he had a direct hand in the situation!

He also knew that if he were to reverse the situation, and carry that success to Texas, it would have to be at the expense of his mentor and friend, Coach Bud Wilkinson and his native Oklahoma Sooners.

But he knew no man was more prepared to carry that success to Texas than himself.

Hook 'Em!

It didn't take Coach Royal long to reverse the direction of University of Texas football.

He went 6-3-1 in his first season in 1957 and would never have a losing season for the 20 years of his coaching career in Austin.

He also dominated his alma mater.

From 1947 to 1956, Bud Wilkinson's Oklahoma Sooners owned the college football landscape and its neighbor to the south, Texas.

Wilkinson's teams were 8-2 in the ten years prior to Darrell Royal's arrival at Texas. He would stretch that streak to 9-2 beating Royal's first Longhorn team 21-7 in the Cotton Bowl.

However, beginning in Royal's second season in 1958, the University of Texas would not lose to the Oklahoma Sooners for 8 years!

That streak included the final 6 season's of Coach Wilkinson's career in Norman.

The pupil had not only mastered the mentor but had run him out of football!


The greatest coach in the University of Oklahoma history had been vanquished from the playing field by one of his own.

"Darrell, how could you?"

You can imagine how this went over in Royal's native state.

Barry Tramel, columnist with The Daily Oklahoman, reported this week the thoughts of Ed Lisak, one of Royal's teammates on that 1949 Sooner team,

"Darrell, he was a great one," said Lisak, "Only thing that ever disturbed me was he was the head coach at Texas. Other than that, I'll forgive him,"

The problem with Royal's impact on the University of Texas for Oklahoma fans was that it didn't stop at the Red River.

Royal would win Texas' first national championship in football in 1963. He would repeat that feat in back-to-back wins in 1969 and 1970 after installing a new offensive system called the Wishbone and reeling off 30-consecutive wins.

Holy cow!

Young Darrell had not only knocked Coach Wilkinson out of football but he had matched him in National Championships and damn near matched his win streak!

Yes, native son Darrell Royal is loved in Norman for what he accomplished as a player on Coach Wilkinson's legendary teams in the 1940's.

However, too many years in burnt orange tarnished his legend in Oklahoma and was a sore spot for many Sooner fans that they never forgot or forgave him!

The Monster Is Awakened

Darrell Royal was instrumental in creating the Sooner football legend then resurrected a downtrodden Texas program at the expense of his alma mater, coaching legend mentor and state pride.

It must have weighed on his mind.

Because after beating Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl for 8 straight years from 1958 to 1965 and then for another 4 years from 1967 to 1970, Darrell Royal had a soft spot in his heart.

Beating OU 12 of his first 14 years had a reverse effect on Darrell Royal.

In 1970, Royal instructed his assistant coach Emory Bellard to visit with Sooners Offensive Coordinator Barry Switzer and show him the keys to effectively running the wishbone.

In Switzer's autobiography, "Bootlegger's Boy", he describes the scene in the Oklahoma coaches office after losing the third game of the 1970 season to Oregon State:

"You could almost hear the Oily's howling to load the entire coaching staff in the first boxcar heading to the Yukon!"

It was a period of time in Oklahoma of restlessness. Losing 11 of 13 years to rival Texas will do that to a proud football program in Norman.

It was also a time that "Chuck Chuck" bumper stickers and parties were appearing all over Oklahoma as Sooner fans were showing their displeasure with Head Football Coach Chuck Fairbanks.

So Switzer convinces Fairbanks to change offensive systems to the Wishbone patterned after Royal's successful system at Texas the week before the rival game in the Cotton Bowl.

How ironic.

The man who mastered Coach Wilkinson's Split-T option at Oklahoma had improved upon the rushing game by installing his own version called the Wishbone only to have it copied by a young, brash offensive coordinator named Barry Switzer.

Switzer knew they had no choice. Rumors were that all the coaches were going to be fired. He had also heard that the University of Oklahoma Regents had recently been turned down by favorite son Darrell Royal to return and resurrect Oklahoma football for the second time.

He had convinced Fairbanks to change offensive systems the week before his biggest rival game and his and the entire coaching staff's futures rode on Switzer's gamble.

The outcome? Texas routed Oklahoma 41-9 in the Cotton Bowl. And, with a good Colorado team up next,
Switzer knew it was a death-knell but had hope. A humorous streak didn't hurt either.

So facing a sure firing, Switzer gathered his fellow Oklahoma coaches and they decided to try and cheer up Coach Fairbanks by having their very own "Beat Colorado" party.

Imagine the scene: Barry Switzer, Jimmy Johnson, Larry Lacewell and Gene Hochever all met at Switzer's house and were indulging in a few adult beverages. Soon Switzer had convinced his wife Kay to let the men raid her closet. They then travelled to all the other coaches houses and convinced them to join in the drag party.

A little after midnight, Switzer and the coaching staff arrived at a stunned Fairbanks' house. Fairbanks knew the power of the moment and joined right in with his assistants.

The Sooners would beat Colorado with Royals' Wishbone 23-15 and held off a sure firing.

Hang Half A Hundred

Oklahoma had gone on to compile a 7-4-1 season that year in 1970 after installing the Wishbone the week before Texas.

Royal had summoned his assistant to help them out at the end of the season suredly not thinking that Fairbanks and Switzer would ever master the system without his players.

Because Royal knew that the key to the Wishbone was execution and it all started with a quarterback and he had James Street.

Street had been Royal's quarterback in that magical 1969 season when Texas beat Arkansas 15-14 at the end of the 1969 season to claim the school's second national championship.

In what would become the "Game of the Century" in Texas football annals, Royal and his Longhorns were on the top of the world having their national championship proclaimed by no other than President Richard Nixon in the locker room following the game.

But Switzer was smart as a fox because he knew that he had the players to run Royal's offense in Norman.

Royal's players.

Oklahoma had 20 players from the state of Texas on the Oklahoma roster including a young quarterback named Jack Mildren whom Switzer had personally recruited right under Royals' nose from Abilene, Texas.

And to make matters worse, most of the top players from Texas were black. You see the "Bootlegger's Boy" from Arkansas who was raised by a black nanny, was welcomed into the black player's homes and made their momma's feel comfortable because Barry Swtizer was one of them.

On the other hand, Darrell K Royal was late to the game in recruiting black players. In fact, his 1969 national championship team was the last all-white team to be #1.

Royal could hardly be blamed for the snub of black players. He was head coach at a major southern university deep in the heart of Texas in a state that fought for the Confederacy.

He had to be coaxed into relaxing his views by none other than the Texan President Lyndon B. Johnson who had overseen major Civil Rights legislation in 1964.

Texas didn't have it's first black football letterman until 1970 in offensive lineman Julius Whittier. The first black star running back Roosevelt Leaks, would soon follow Whittier in 1971. The "Tyler Rose" Earl Campbell would follow Leaks and arrive in Austin in 1974.

However, Oklahoma had been recruiting black players since their first player Prentice Gautt came on campus in 1956.

The head start in recruiting black players would start playing dividends in 1971.

Switzer also had a couple of running backs from Texas named Greg Pruitt and Joe Wylie. Pruitt from Houston, "a little black kid Texas didn't even try to recuit", would run wild on Royal's Longhorns in the 1971 game. Pruitt carried the ball 20 times rushing for 216 yards and 3 touchdowns as Fairbank's Sooners and Switzer's Wishbone gashed Royal's Longhorns 48-27.

It was only the third time Oklahoma had beaten Texas in 15 years and had been done in a routing fashion with an offense native son Darrell Royal had taught to the Sooners.


And that began the beginning of the end of Darrell K Royal's career at the University of Texas. Just as he had done 8 years earlier to his mentor and legendary Oklahoma Coach Wilkinson, Barry "Bootlegger's Boy" Switzer would now do to Darrell Royal.

Switzer's Sooners would not lose a game to Darrell Royal's Longhorns. He had mastered the Texas Wishbone and had returned to the Cotton Bowl with Texas players, many whom Royal did not recruit, and  delivered a viscious smackdown in his very first game.

In Switzer's first year as Sooners head coach in 1973, following a convincing 27-0 win in 1972, Oklahoma beat Texas 52-13 for the worst loss in Darrell Royal's career at Texas.

More wins followed in 1974 and 75' including back-to-back National Championships. In fact, in Switzer's two years as offensive coordinator and 16 as head coach, he beat Texas 11 times.

The tide of the red river rivalry had once again been turned.

Darrell Royal look in the mirror and see your new nemesis named Barry Switzer.

The very thought made Royal's blood curl.

The humble man from Hollis, Oklahoma who had served his country and mentored under the legendary Coach Wilkinson was now being humiliated on the recruiting trail and on the football field by a 36-year old swashbuckler, hard-drinking, cross-dressing, recruiting-bandit coach who had stolen his offensive system and was now shoving it down his throat.

Oh, and by the way. He cheated.

That's what Royal incredibly accused the Sooner coaches of doing prior to Switzer ever coaching a game at the University of Oklahoma in 1973.

Things Turn Nasty in The Red River Rivalry

The Ivery Suber affair was the beginning of the hatred between Darrell K Royal and Barry Switzer.

Suber was a blue-chip recruit from O.D. Wyatt High School in Fort Worth, Texas. Suber had given his oral commitment to Coach Royal in his living room with his mother and father by his side.

But that fact didn't keep Switzer from trying to convince him to come to the University of Oklahoma.

After reconsidering his commitment to Texas and hearing Coach Switzer's pitch in the locker room of a high school game, Subey decided to play at Texas.

Switzer was disappointed but knew he already had some pretty good Texas running backs in Norman including Joe Washington.

However, Switzer was stunned when University of Oklahoma Faculty Representative David Swank told him that Darrell Royal had levied serious accusations against him with the NCAA in the Subey recruiting affair that included:

Switzer had offered Subey a 1973 Pontiac.
$1,000 in cash.
A new wardrobe.
And $250 monthly payments to attend the University of Oklahoma.

Switzer vehmently denied the accusations. He had to not only because he knew them to be untrue but also because Oklahoma was still on major probation over the recruiting of Texas schoolboy star Kerry Jackson in 1972. In fact, not only was OU on probation but from the end of the 1973 season to January 1, 1976, Oklahoma was banned from appearing on television over the Kerry Jackson affair. Sports Illustrated dubbed the Sooners "the greatest team you'll never see!"

Swank said Royal had prepared an affidavit by the NCAA that Subey was prepared to sign acknowledging the accusations against Switzer.

However, with Subey's parents, Coach Royal and the NCAA representative sitting in his living room, Subey refused to sign the affidavit implicating Coach Switzer. Subey went on and played at Texas for 4 years and never recounted his denial.

Royal was disbelieving. He publicly called for Switzer to take a lie-detector test.

Switzer did and passed the test. Had his entire coaching staff take the test and they all passed, as well.

This is what Oklahoma vs. Texas football had come to: lie-detector tests, accusations of illegal payments and distrust.

Later in 1976, Royal accused Switzer of spying on his practices before the annual game in the Cotton Bowl. Switzer laughed off the accusations but stung by the constant sniping by Royal, the accusations and repeated requests to take a lie detector test, Switzer finally snapped and said this:

"Some coaches don't want to coach anymore. They would rather sit home and listen to guitar pickers. They want us to make it where you can't outwork anybody."

To which Royal replied to a reporter supposedly off the record:

"Why those sorry bastards. I don't trust em' on anything."

After tieing Oklahoma 6-6 in the 1976 OU vs. Texas game, Darrell K Royal retired at the end of the season at age 52.

Ironically, it was a fumble by Ivery Suber with 5:31 remaining in the game with Texas leading 6-0 that resulted in the ensuing Oklahoma touchdown. However, the Sooners missed the extra point ending the gut-wrenching game in a tie.

Legendary Dallas sports columnist Blackie Sherrod summed up Darrell K Royal's final game versus Oklahoma at Texas in The Dallas Times Herald this way after the game,

"Royal looked like he had driven a gravel truck without a windshield nonstop across Death Valley."



Son of the depression having grown up in the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma, Darrell K Royal had more impact on the University of Oklahoma vs. University of Texas rivalry than any other human being.

He found amazing success at both schools.

At Oklahoma he led the Sooners to an 11-0 season in 1949, the schools' first in 31 years, and a 31-game winning streak. He was a three-position star finishing his senior season with All-America honors.

At Texas, he is the winningest coach of all time amassing a 167-45-5 record from 1957 to 1976 never having a losing season. The best mark in the nation during that time period. His Texas teams would win the school's only national championships and the only Heisman Trophy winner in school history up until that time was recruited by Darrell Royal.

His folksy, down-home manner was universally revered by Presidents to celebrities to common folks he encountered during his every day life.

The University of Texas honored his life this week by illuminating the famous tower on campus in burnt orange. Today his Longhorns will play a game against Iowa State in the stadium that bears his name. The Texas players will honor him by wearing special stickers on their helmets with the initials "DKR." 

Coach Mack Brown also honored his mentor by lining up his team in the Wishbone formation on the Longhorns first play from scrimmage.

The play was a throwback pass to the quarterback who threw from his endzone a 47-yard pass to a Texas wide receiver. All of the Texas players celebrated by raising the #1 sign up to the heavens.

Oklahoma plays Baylor at home today in Norman across the street from Heisman Park home to five statues of the Heisman Trophy winners from Oklahoma. The players will come out of their locker rooms inside the Barry Switzer Center which is also across the street from Bud Wilkinson House where the players live. In front of Bud Wilkinson House stands two statues: one to legendary Coach Bud Wilkinson and the other to legendary Coach Barry Switzer.

Sadly, nowhere on the University of Oklahoma campus is anything in comparison to the great life and career of the favorite son from Hollis. Too many years of success in burnt orange across the river in Texas.

Not sure what President David Boren and Athletic Director Joe Castiglione have in store to honor Royal's legacy today but I am certain they will do something to honor the favorite son from Hollis.

Yes, Darrell K Royal was a special man who rose to great heights. His legacy will remain bright in the hearts of Oklahomans and Texans.

According to Barry Tramel, his backup quarterback in 1949 and lifelong friend Claude Arnold summed him up this way,

"He became imbued with being a Texan. He was very strong down there. But he still thought of himself as an Okie."

Today, both schools fans will remember his legacy and be thankful that he left so much to both schools.

"He was still a true Okie and one of us," his friend Lisak said. "Nothing but great memories and he was a great person."

Boomer Sooner & Hook 'Em!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sooners Have No Excuses

After a heart-breaking 30-13 loss to Notre Dame last Saturday in Norman before 86,031 rabid fans, the largest attended sporting event in state history, Oklahoma must pick up the pieces and rebound this week against a scrappy Iowa State Cyclone team looking for an upset in Ames.

However, before we turn the page, a thoughtful look back at the historic Notre Dame game and five things that contributed to the loss to the Fighting Irish:

1--Big Plays

According to John Shinn of The Norman Transcript, Oklahoma has been involved in 979 plays in the first 7 games this season.

Four of them account for the two losses.

"Bad Landry's" fumble on the 1 yard line that was returned for a touchdown and Blake Bell's fumble on the goal line resulted in the Kansas State loss.

The Sooners held Notre Dame to 291 total yards if not for two huge plays Saturday: the 62-yard first quarter run right up the middle for a touchdown and the big 50-yard bomb late in the fourth quarter that led to the go-ahead touchdown making it 20-13 with a little over 5 minutes to play.

Bad quarterback play killed us against Kansas State.

Bad defense killed us against Notre Dame.

Many sportswriters have blamed Tom Wort for the 62-yard run in the first quarter. However, watching the game live, it was Javon Harris who Bob Stoops zeroed-in on after the play. Whatever Harris was supposed to do on the play, he didn't do it according to Coach Stoops and Harris received an earful on the sidelines.

On the fourth quarter 50- yard bomb, Demontre Hurst was the corner beaten on the play. But a closer look reveals that Javon Harris had deep cover responsibility and somehow missed his read.

Sounds familiar?

Sooner fans will remember Harris' many busts in 2011 that caused Stoops to move him to strong safety this year.

Whatever the reasons, two big plays Saturday night were killers and four total on the year have resulted in the two Sooner losses this year.

2--Poor Offensive Game Plan

Before the game, the obvious weakness in the Notre Dame defense was the secondary.

After all, they had gone through injuries losing key starters and were using converted wide receivers in the defensive backfield.

So it was clear that the major part of Josh Heupels' offensive game plan to beat the Irish would be to attack the secondary deep. Correct?


Because as obvious as this solution was to everyone else, Heupel thought otherwise and only attacked the Irish with a deep ball three times the entire game. And, one of those deep throws was on the meaningless last drive of the game to Kenny Stills.

In fact, most all of the 52 passes OU called were of the dink-and-dunk variety over the middle.

Of course, Jalen Saunders had a record-breaking night by catching 8 first quarter passes and tied Ryan Broyles school record 15 passes total.

However, most were underneath the Notre Dame coverage and the longest reception of the night, the 35-yard completion to Saunders in the fourth quarter, was an underneath pass that he split right up the Irish secondary.

So what happened?

Obviously, Heupel felt that the imposing Notre Dame front seven could not be held long enough for Landry Jones to wait for the deep ball to develop. Otherwise, he would have called more deep throws.

However, Jones was only sacked two times and was comfortable most of the night.

And, to not try and attack the opposing teams obvious weakness is a sure sign of waving the white flag and was the most disappointing outcome of the Sooner offense Saturday night.

The result was that Notre Dame stayed in their base 4-man defense or 3-4 formation most of the night. They never went dime which caused Oklahoma to adjust their playcalling. They basically said here we are let's see what you can do!

Also, Heupel's calls are dysfunctional. I don't know how else to describe them. One minute he'll have the Irish defense on its' heels with a series of up-tempo passes and the next minute he'll send Brennan Clay crashing into the Notre Dame front seven for a 1-yard loss.

You would think by the seventh game that Heupel would have found a rhythym in the Sooner offense. However, he hasn't mastered the Kevin Wilson symphonic display of up-tempo play calling and he's killing the Sooners momentum on key drives.

And, the incessant stopping and looking over at the sideline delays and then Landry Jones scrambling up and down the line changing the play has become somewhat comical among Sooner fans. And disastrous to the Sooners. More on this later.

One person on the blogosphere Saturday night called Heupel's play calling reminiscent of the driver who hurredly speeds up and then suddenly brakes only to gun the gas once stopped only to brake again.

I agree.

3--Momentum Killer Calls

Bob Stoops said the Sooners were on the wrong side of a couple of judgment calls. He was right.

Struggling to tie the game right before halftime, Blake Bell's Belldozer finally scored with a minute remaining in the first half. However, a late flag from the opposite side of the field came in and negated the play.

How weird was this late call? ABC's Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit thought that it was a unnecessary celebration penalty that would be tacked on to the ensuing kickoff.


The backside official called a holding penalty on Sooner lineman Bronson Irwin. Replays showed Irwin taking his Notre Dame defender to the ground well after Bell had crossed the goal line. Obviously the action had no impact on the outcome of the play.

Borderline call?

Of course if you consider that when two 300-pound behemoths get tangled up on a play anything can happen.

Sooner fans would have preferred a no-call but the Big East official had other ideas. OU settled for a field goal and instead of being tied at 10 with the momentum going into halftime, the Sooners trailed 10-6.

The second momentum killer call was the interception with just over 3 minutes remaining which resulted in a Notre Dame field goal that put the game into a two-score comeback for the Sooners.

Sooner wide receiver Jalen Saunders was hit from behind just as the ball hit his hands which caused the ball to deflect up and into a diving Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'os' hands.

Ruling on the field was a clean hit and pickup. Notre Dame ball. Ball game.

Sooner fans screamed for pass interference. The Big East official ruled otherwise despite protests from an obviously animated Sooner head coach Bob Stoops.

These plays didn't cost the Sooners the game. However, they certainly were momentum killers and had a huge impact on the outcome of the game.

4. Third Down Conversions

Any offensive playcaller will tell you that the key to winning close games is to be successful on third down conversions. The Sooners were an awful 4-14 Saturday night.

Not all were the result of bad calls. Two of them were set up by the result of self-inflicted mental lapses on plays preceding the third down (see below.)

However, any way you slice it, the Sooners were awful on third down on Saturday and you have to credit the Notre Dame defense for winning the line of scrimmage battle and imposing their will on the Oklahoma offense.

5. Poor Quarterback/Center Exchanges

Ala the Kansas State game, every Sooner fans worst nightmare was Landry Jones scrambling in his own end zone after a loose ball with Notre Dame defenders closing in.

Happened twice Saturday night.

First time occurred on the Sooners first drive of the game. After reeling of several sterling passes to Jalen Saunders the Sooners found themselves at their own 46-yard line with a first down.

The weirdness happened when incredibly the Sooners let the game clock dwindle down to 3 seconds with Landry Jones scrambling up and down the line apparently trying to change the play.

Junior center and Sooner captain Gabe Ikard incredulously snapped the ball to no one and after a mad scramble Sooner running back Brennan Clay recovered. The resulting 19-yard loss created an insurmountable 2nd and 29.

One has to wonder what Ikard was thinking but for a junior center and team captain to make such a crucial mistake is hard to swallow for Sooner fans.

The second mistake was almost as bad as the first. Trailing 23-13 late in the game, Ikard again sent a wayward snap right through the legs of an unassuming Landry Jones.

Just incredible.

Two of the most experienced offensive players, a fifth year senior quarterback and junior center, both captains, made two of the most critical mistakes in the game.

The resulting scramble was nothing short of miraculous. Probably the most athletic play of Landry Jones career.

The Sooner quarterback ran back toward his own endzone after the wayward snap with Notre Dame defenders hot in pursuit.

Not knowing whether Jones was going to fall on the ball or attempt to kick it out of the end zone for a saftey, he incredibly scooped up the ball and completed a sideline pass to Brennan Clay to avert disaster.

However, the play resulted in a 9-yard loss that led to an insurmountable 2nd and 19. OU would turn the ball over on downs which led to the final Notre Dame touchdown.

Again, these two plays didn't in themselves lose the game for the Sooners. However, they were critical in their timing and contributed to the overall demise of key momentum at critical times.


Saturday's game will go down in the memory banks of Sooner fans everywhere for all of the pre-game hype, excitement, national attention and "big game" atmosphere the Notre Dame game brought to Norman.

I have been going to Oklahoma football games in Norman since 1979. Admittedly, I missed the 2008 Texas Tech game but for my books no other game elicited the type of electricity that Saturday night's game created.

This was one of the few games that the on the field performance matched the pre-game hype for intensity. This was a heavyweight slugfest with two of the more tradition-rich and successful football programs standing toe-to-toe until the final minutes until someone blinked. Unfortunately, it was the Sooners who blinked first.

Too bad the outcome didn't turn out the way we wanted. But according to The Daily Oklahoman, Bob Stoops' Sooners are now 0-14 in games where they trailed in the fourth quarter since the Missouri game in 2007. A trend that is as dissettling as it is confusing.

No one will claim that this group is the best unit Bob Stoops has fielded. However, it's an awfully gifted team that except for four plays out of 979, could be undefeated and playing for a national championship.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bob Stoops Notre Dame Pre-Game Talk

Ok men, listen up.

The officials just came in and we have 10 minutes until we take the field.

Game captains, we are going to defer if we win the toss and kick from the south end zone if they decide to receive.

Really excited about our opportunity tonight against a really tough team over there. Coaches have you well prepared. You know your responsibilities. Watched alot of film. Know their tendencies. What they do really well. Enough said.

Not really interested in what they do tonight. It's up to us to do our jobs.

Really proud of the practice time this week. Very intense. Focused. Coaches, players. Really just everybody. The entire team.

Alot of noise out there about this game. Alot of national attention. Prime time matchup. Everyone's gonna be watchin' you tonight.

Alot of history between the two teams. 47-game winning streak. 15 national championships. 12 Heisman Trophy winners. Not gonna spend much time discussin' that. You've heard it and read about it. None of those guys are gonna make any tackles tonight or score any points or anything.

But I did want to talk a little bit about you tonight. Your opportunity. Your time to shine in a really big matchup of top ranked teams.

You know as we have discussed, these games are why you came to Oklahoma. Want to play against the best. Show the world what you're made of. Well, tonight's your chance.

Everyone of you have a reason to be here tonight. Because you were meant to be here. No one ever said this was gonna be easy. Doing anything great takes time, discipline & sustained energy.

And, you can't do this by yourself. Takes alot of teamwork and help from the coaches, trainers and support staff who keep you hydrated, healthy and ready to play.

At your deepest core, what do you stand for? What are your beliefs? What makes you who you are?

Men, you were meant to be here tonight because you were not meant for an ordinary or mediocre life. You do not exist just to get by and cut corners. The only thing that will satisfy you tonight is what you were born to do. You were meant to accomplish something no one else in the world can do.

Because together tonight, you're gonna go out there and do what you do best. You're gonna run your routes, make your reads, fill your gaps, complete that pass, run through the tackle, wrap em' up, hit em' in the mouth. Let em' know who you are and where they are.

Nothing special about tonight. You've done it all before. Remember that first day of spring practice and that 5-foot two by four? You walked right over it without any problems. Just like your practice routines, off-season workouts, two-a-days in August. Just right up through tonight.

Now imagine raising that two-by-four 10-feet off the ground? You might be lookin' around and thinkin' "gosh, that's kind a high. What if I fall?"

Well, I'm here to tell you that you're not gonna fall. Your not gonna fall because you have already succeeded because of what you guys have been through this year and how well prepared you are to execute our game plan. You could walk over that two-by-four if it was 100-feet off the ground.

We've come along way since El Paso. Not gonna revisit the games but you know what I mean. Alot of doubters out there. Media types. Fans. Hell, even Coach Switzer got on the band wagon and said you weren't good enough after Kansas State.

But you never wavered. Never doubted in yourselves or each other. You've responded and answered the critics. Three exciting wins against Tech down in Lubbock. Really satisfied with how you handled yourselves in Dallas. Big Cotton Bowl win. Handled Kansas last week here.

Now it's time to take the next step on that two-by-four and walk down that ramp and play.

Alot of youngsters in here haven't played in this type of match-up. That's ok. Not gonna worry about how you'll respond because we have been through a couple of tough games this year. Seniors have been through these wars.

When I look around the room, I see some of you fifth-year seniors who walked down that ramp in the BCS National Championship game at the Orange Bowl back in 2008. You saw the preparation, the anticipation and the execution. Same thing here tonight. Ben Habern. Landry Jones. David King. Stacy McGee. Casey Walker. Tress Way. R.J. Washington. Joseph Ibiloye. Really proud of all you guys. You've been with us the longest. You're one of the reasons we're here tonight.

The Cali-brothers. Tony Jefferson. Brennan Clay. Kenny Stills. Really proud of your production, commitment and toughness. Your third year here. Tonight's why you came here.

Tom Wort. Jaydan Bird. Corey Nelson. Really proud of your efforts this year. Toughness. Commitment. Need a big game from you linebackers tonight.

The Belldozer. Blake Bell. Aaron Ripkowski. Trey Millard. Geneo Grissom. Taylor McNamara. Brannon Green. That other bunch over there hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown all year. Bet you'll have something to say about that tonight,huh? You'll be tested tonight.

You Oklahoma players. Gabe Ikard. Aaron Colvin. Bronson Irwin. Gabe Lynn. Javon Harris. Dominique Whaley. Julian Wilson. Chance to play before your home folks tonight.

The Texas guys. All of you. Jamarkus McFarland. Drew Allen. Marquis Anderson. Rashod Favors. Aaron Franklin. Demontre Hurst. Michael Hunnicutt. Lane Johnson. Chuka Ndulue. Adam Shead. Tyrus Thompson. Austin Woods.

All of you were meant to be here tonight.

Some of you are new here.

Justin Brown. About this time last year, hell you were getting ready to play Northwestern weren't you? Come a long way from Happy Valley. But you wanted to be here didn't you? This is why you came to Oklahoma, isn't it? When we met last spring, you said coach can I win a championship here? I said, hell yes. Get on down here and we'll get it done. You were meant to be here tonight.

Jalen Saunders. This time last year you were at Fresno State preparing for Nevada. Right? Well now you get your chance to go up against the big boys and show the nation what you got. You were meant to be here tonight.

Trey Metoyer. You've come along way from Virginia Military Academy. This time last year you were trying to get your head on straight, make your grades and get eligible to play here. Your hard work paid off. Tonight you get your opportunity. You were meant to be here.

Damien Williams. A little bit bigger stage tonight than Western Arizona Juco, isn't it? You wanted to win a championship didn't you? Tonight, you get to up your game and run against the big boys. You were meant to be here.

Sterling Shepard. Your daddy would be proud of you tonight wouldn't he? I've watched you since you were 6 years old. In my camps. At my house. Playin' with my kids. I told your momma that I would give you an opportunity to prove yourself here after your dad died. Tonight's your time to shine. You were meant to be here.

Now, I said I wasn't gonna talk much about the history of this thing. But I got a note from Claude Arnold this week. Played for Coach Wilkinson back in the 1950's. Was on that 1950 national championship team here. He wanted me to tell you this:

"Coach, I played for Coach Wilkinson in 48', 49' and 50'. We won our first national championship that last year in 1950. Didn't play those guys in the gold helmets. But they did end our 47-game winning streak here in 57'. Still bothers me to this day. I know you'll have the men ready. But dadgummit, I sure would like to see a good ole' fashion butt-kickin' Saturday night. Boomer Sooner!"

That's the kind of tradition we have here men. 7 national championships. 5 Heisman Trophy winners. 43 conference championships. 153 All-Americans.

In this room tonight we're represented by a few of those national championships.

Coach Johnson over there. You all have talked to him at one point or another of how much it means to be a Sooner. Well, what you may not know is that Coach Johnson once coached for that team over there. In 1977. Won a national championship there with a quarterback named Joe Montana. But he felt something was missing. Didn't you coach? He had a calling to leave that other school in 1979 and come to Oklahoma. Been here for 33 years. Was a part of the 85' national championship and with us here in 2000. Coach Johnson was meant to be here too.

Coaches Stoops, Shipp, Gundy, Wright, Schmidt and Heupel. All a part of that 2000 national championship. Hell, Coach Heupel played in that game. Led us to a 13-2 win against a really good Florida State team. Coach Stoops' game plan shut em' out on defense. Got a late intentional safety. The coaches were meant to be here tonight too.

Now, not everything is gonna go our way tonight. Need to expect some adversity. But we can overcome it. Nothing they do, you haven't seen already on film. We'll make adjustments and move on. Do what we do.

Only fifth time two top-ranked teams have played here during non-conference play. We've had big games here before though.

Back in 2000 Nebraska came in here ranked #1. We were #2. No one gave us a chance. They came out, punched us in the mouth and got up 14-0. Everyone said see. Just what we expected. Except they didn't know the fire inside each of those players and how prepared they were for the game. Coach Heupel responded and led us to 31 unanswered points and we won on our way to our seventh national championship.

REFEREE: "Coach, you have two minutes."

Ok. Alright. So to close. Let me just say. I'm proud of each and everyone of you. Proud of the way you have prepared, practiced and played leading up to this game. Really proud of the love and trust you have for one another. And not really worried about anything tonight. Just go out there and do what you have been coached to do. Let it all loose. Let those bodies fly around out there hittin' someone. Do what you've been prepared for and play like I know you can play and everything will be fine. We're gonna come back in here at halftime, access the situation, make adjustments and go back out there and bust our tail. And, remember this. You are the player you are because this is the moment you have been preparing for all your life. You were not meant to be anywhere else tonight. You were meant to be here. Because there's only one Oklahoma.

Alright. Let's get in here and go. 1-2-3 Sooners!