Players weren’t afraid to say it. Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops didn’t mind bringing it up. When it came to the 2014 season, a year in which OU finished a disappointing 8-5, a play or two in three of those games and everything turns out differently.
Some years you get the breaks, some you don’t. And sometimes you just have to create your own as OU finally reached down into its bag of tricks to erase a 17-0 deficit on the road in front of 102,000 fans and defeat Tennessee in double overtime Saturday night.
Stoops said the key phrase – “Sooner Magic.” It has been a while since that has been tossed around in describing the Sooners and definitely been a long time since Stoops himself has uttered those words.
But there was Stoops just minutes following the major comeback saying this might be his favorite win of his career. Not the biggest, but favorite.
“It’s mental toughness and discipline to keep playing hard and having the faith that things will work, will come,” Stoops said. “It was a little late, but they came. That’s what you appreciate as a coach – your players’ mental attitude and their toughness and character.
“For them to hand in there in that environment, in that situation and to come through like they did, that’s pretty special.”
The stage was set for Tennessee to return to national relevance, but the manner in which the Sooners pulled off the comeback has people talking about the crimson and cream once again. This time around, though, in a positive light.
For most of the game vs. the Vols, it was the opposite of Sooner Magic. Devante Bond forced a fumble, but Dominique Alexander couldn’t recover it in time. Wide receiver Dede Westbrook had a pass go off his hands for an interception.
Charles Tapper forced a fumble and tried so hard to recover it and run with it that he wasn’t able to ever corral it in the first place.
Missed opportunities seemed to be the theme to the game, but OU found a resolve that it didn’t have during last year’s tumultuous run.
“Somebody in that group is going to make a play,” center Ty Darlington said. “The defense had to trust the offense. The offense had to trust the defense.
“Last year we didn’t find it (mental resolve). We were in a lot of these types of games last year and couldn’t find a way to pull them out.”
It’s no joke as yes, OU was blown out in two of their five losses but the other three were by a combined eight points. Games decided by one or two plays just like Saturday but in the opposite direction.
Stoops’ go-to memory is always the 2000 battle at Texas A&M, and he was talking about that one once again following Saturday’s victory.
We’re a long way from that, but the early seeds have been planted. Last year, OU got to see three schools celebrate on Owen Field. The script was flipped at Neyland Stadium.
“It was awesome,” Stoops said. “You love the last play and guys go running around. It’ pretty special at home, but on the road, it’s pretty good, too.”
The disappointments of 2014 are now being chalked up to lessons learned, and a big reason why OU was able to fight back, not fold its tent and persevere in front of the largest crowd ever to see the Sooners in action.