It has been repeated time and time again. If you’re Oklahoma and need motivation to play in the Capital One Orange Bowl against Clemson, you have some problems.
But if you know OU’s history, even under such a great coach as Bob Stoops, sometimes that has clearly been an issue. OU hasn’t always been at its best in bowl games and the last two years exemplify the drastic differences.
One year is a memorable upset of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The other is a disaster in every sense of the word in a loss to Clemson.
“There isn’t one way to approach it,” said Stoops about how to prepare for a bowl game after the layoff. “As much as anything, a lot of it is on the players. How much are they willing to remain in the moment?
“Meaning, you’ve got seniors who have graduated, thinking about what they’re going to do after the game. Some players are going to get trained after the draft. Are they staying in the moment? A lot of guys are thinking about coming out as a junior. What is the family saying to them? So there are a lot of (things).”
This bowl game remains different than any other OU has played because it’s not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. This is only the semifinals of the college football playoff. The best is yet to come.
Following OU’s loss to Texas, Stoops talked a lot about he couldn’t control whether or not the team was prepared and ready. He said the coaches did their job. Sometimes it’s up to the players to do theirs. He echoed that sentiment regarding the bowl game.
“I’m not afraid to put pressure on the players,” Stoops said. “What is their mindset going to be? How mature are they going to handle it? I can do my part in making them aware of it. But it’s up to them to choose to stay there. And have the right mindset.
“Everything could be taken off the players and put on the coach. But when you’re dealing with 19-to-22 year olds, we’re not dealing with eighth graders. A lot of it is their choice and how they’re going to remain in the moment or not.”
It hasn’t always been sunshine in bowl games. Sooners Illustrated reflects on four quality bowl performances and four duds from the Sooners during the Bob Stoops Era.
2001 Orange Bowl (No. 1 OU 13, No. 2 Florida State 2)
Duh. The Sooners claimed their seventh national championship, taking out the Seminoles in Miami. OU’s defense carried the day with three turnovers and limiting FSU to 27 rushing yards. A turnover in the fourth quarter finally allowed OU to score on a Quentin Griffin 10-yard touchdown run and cement a perfect season.
2003 Rose Bowl (No. 8 OU 34, No. 7 Washington State 14)
OU’s only trip to the Rose Bowl was a banner one, led by quarterback Nate Hybl and running back Quentin Griffin. Hybl threw for 240 yards and two scores, while Griffin added 144 on the ground and another score and let the defense do the rest against a high-powered Cougars offense.
2005 Holiday Bowl (OU 17, No. 6 Oregon 14)
When is 8-4 considered OK? This could be the lone exception. The Ducks were 10-1 and OU was starting to find its groove with a healthy Adrian Peterson and quarterback Rhett Bomar. OU took control in the second half and an interception by Clint Ingram helped seal the deal for the Sooners.
2014 Sugar Bowl (No. 11 OU 45, No. 3 Alabama 31)
Forever going to be known as the Trevor Knight game as he was sensational throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns. Eric Striker and Geneo Grissom gave the Tide’s offense fits, culminating in Striker’s third sack of the day and Grissom picking up the fumble and scoring the game-clinching touchdown.
2005 Orange Bowl (No. 1 USC 55, No. 2 OU 19)
After the Mark Bradley turnover on the punt return, it was all downhill as few remember OU was actually up 7-0 in this one. Quarterback Jason White threw three interceptions and OU committed five turnovers in what was the finest moment for the Trojans.
2008 Fiesta Bowl (No. 11 West Virginia 48, No. 3 OU 28)
This one still doesn’t quite make sense. The Sooners had just defeated No. 1 Missouri in the conference championship but appeared disinterested in this one. Pat White combined for 326 total yards of offense and two scores, while Noel Devine added 108 on the ground and two touchdowns.
2013 Cotton Bowl (No. 10 Texas A&M 41, No. 12 OU 13)
The Johnny Manziel show. Coming off winning the Heisman Trophy, Manziel accumulated more than 500 yards of total offense, throwing for two scores and rushing for two more. A&M was only up 14-13 at halftime, but the Sooners simply had no answer at all in the second half vs. the Aggies.
2014 Russell Athletic Bowl (No. 18 Clemson 40, OU 6)
Last year. Perhaps the spark for this year’s resurgence. The Tigers jumped out early, and OU never ever tried to fight back. Sooners get second chance vs. Clemson in the Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 31.