OU-KSU postgame locker room report

The latest news and notes from inside the Sooners locker room following Oklahoma's 38-37 win over Kansas State

Despite the nail-biting finish, a great Kansas State comeback, spotty play in the secondary and unusually poor tackling day for the defense, the bottom line is that the Sooners beat a very good Kansas State football team 38 to 37.

Yes, there are many things that we can look at and question with Oklahoma. All of a sudden, there are more questions about the Sooner defense than since the start of the Stoops era. However, don't forget that it was a very good Kansas State team that was making it tough on the Sooners.

Ell Roberson is a very highly regarded quarterback who is a tremendous athlete. And Josh Scobey is one of the best running backs in the Big-12. Give Kansas State plenty of credit here. They are a top 10 program that totally believes in Head Coach Bill Snyder.

They believe in their system and what they are doing. They are a very good football team, disciplined and they played like it. They never quit and they are good enough to get back into games.

The Oklahoma players and coaches were very thankful for the win after the game. Almost to a man they were thrilled to beat a very good Kansas State team, but because of the fantastic play during their 17-game win streak, certain expectations are expected and in some cases they weren't met.

"I am thrilled to leave our stadium today with a victory and that is certainly something that I don't want to diminish," said Co-Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables immediately after the game. "However, I would be lying to you if I said that I am not concerned with some of the things I saw on defense. We had a poor tackling day today. It was just like we were playing Jamar Toombs last year and I don't think (El) Roberson is Jamar Toombs. That is correctable, but we have to stay fundamentally sound and we weren't in the tackling department against Kansas State. We also busted several times in the game in the secondary and that will cost you against a great team like Kansas State."

"The good thing is that we can correct every single mistake that we made against Kansas State," continued Venables. "There wasn't a single play out there that we would say was a weakness on our part, or that we can't make that play. It is something that we can correct, and another good thing is that our players want to correct them. We don't have to tell Roy Williams or Brandon Everage that they made some mistakes in the game. You don't have to tell Rocky Calmus that. Our players are very disciplined in our system and know how to play it. We as coaches know they will work very hard this week to correct things."

For those of you who are disappointed in how the Sooners played remember this. Oklahoma has now beaten Kansas State three times in the last 12 games. In each game they have been ahead in the game, at many times in control of the game and in each game had enough points to hold off a rally to win. In two of the three wins Kansas State scored late in the game to make the score look more respectable on the scoreboard.

The Sooners have now beaten top ten ranked Kansas State three straight times, which is a tremendous achievement when you think about it.

Hybl passes the toughness test
Quarterback Nate Hybl is finally a big time, Division 1, college quarterback. Hybl stood in the pocket and took Kansas State's best shot and didn't blink. He didn't fold despite an all out attack from one of the most physical college football defenses in the country designed to take him out of the game.

Oklahoma quarterback Nate Hybl threw for 283 yards including two touchdown passes Saturday against Kansas State. (APPhoto/Jerry Laizure)

"Hey, give Hybl all the credit in the world," said KSU Defensive Coordinator Phil Bennett. "Our game plan was to make it rough on him. We wanted to get to him on every play and hit him on every play if we could. Nobody knew going into that game what Hybl was all about. Sure, you knew he could throw the ball and you knew that he was intelligent, but you didn't know how tough he was. Well, you know now and to me he is as every bit as tough as Josh (Heupel) was a year ago. Hybl stood in and took the most vicious hit we could deliver and still threw a touchdown pass. That is as tough as it gets for any quarterback."

On each pass play Hybl knew he was going to take a big hit. KSU was making sure they were going to bring one more defender than the Sooners had blockers. OU was ready for, and had a counter as part of the game plan to handle KSU's blitzes. However, that counter depended on Hybl recognizing where the hit was going to come from and find the open man in the depleted area.

However, on each blitz he was going to take a hit, he knew it and he had no choice.For the offense to work he would have to get a big throw off before he took the hit. Saturday was a man's game and no man was bigger than Hybl.

Hybl had one funny and somewhat embarrassing moment in the Sooner post game. Twenty to thirty reporters, including two women, one Lisa Munn who is a beautiful model, and a regular covering the Sooners, surrounded Hybl. I asked Hybl if there was any part of his body that wasn't hurting?

"Well, my tongue isn't hurting right now and my teeth are OK," said Hybl.

"Heck, everything else is hurting…and I mean everything else is hurting…if you know what I mean."

At this time Hybl looks up and realizes that two women are among the large group of reporters. Mr. Hybl is trying to tell us that he took a shot in the family jewels, but being a southern gentleman like he is he is trying to point this out without embarrassing the ladies. However, as Hybl's face turns red and the women aren't flinching a muscle, it's obvious the only person getting embarrassed is the big, bad quarterback. He also realizes that nobody is moving and that he has to finish his comment.

"I can't even mention some parts that hurt. I mean I took a shot and I hope they didn't put that on TV, because I couldn't help but grab…"

"I mean I took a shot right on…you know, my…you know, right there (as his head drops towards his waist). You know, right where it hurts…well, hurts guys.

Which at this point drew laughter from everybody, including the ladies. Credit Mrs. Munn here, who politely tapped Hybl on the arm and said that they understood.

"Yes, thank you I appreciate that. I am glad you understand because, well I am just glad you understand. I need to be careful and not go there any longer. I need to understand who I am talking to."

No, Nate you don't. In this day and age with women covering men's sports and men covering women just about anything goes. If we in the media are going to cross over and cover the other sex then we have to live with the opposite sex, if you know what I mean.

Coach on the field
Once again Jeff Ferguson is making a difference with his mind as well as his foot. Since last year's Orange Bowl we have come to realize that Ferguson is an intelligent football player, who is poised under pressure. Saturday was another perfect example with time running out and the Sooners forced to punt from their own end zone.

OU Punter Jeff Ferguson takes the safety in the end zone in the fourth quarter. (APPhoto/J. Pat Carter)

The Sooners had run down the clock to 13 seconds and called timeout. Ferguson and the punt unit went over to the sideline to talk things over the with the Sooner coaches and Coach Bob Stoops picks up the story.

"To be honest I am on the headphones frantically talking the situation over with our coaches when I hear faintly out of right ear something Jeff was saying to me," said Stoops. "I kind of put him on hold for a second and told him to wait a minute, but he kept saying coach, coach so I finally look at him and said, ‘what?' Jeff is very calm and he says why don't we take a safety? For a brief second it is as if time stops, because I am staring at my senior punter and he has just suggested something that sounds perfect and I haven't even thought about it. He looked so confident in his suggestion too and I told my coaches, ‘Hey why don't we take a safety?' And all of a sudden I had nine different coaches screaming hey ‘good idea'…'great idea.'. Yeah, it was a great idea and Jeff called it and it was the perfect call in that situation."

Trick-or-treating in September
It was great to see Coach Stoops once again dig into his back of tricks on special teams. His gambling nature during his first year at OU set the tone for his coaching legacy. That first year Stoops became known as a coach that would do everything he could to win and he would be very innovative in the process.

After gambling several times that first year, Stoops didn't call one special teams fake last year. Stoops often said that he had been criticized for the one failed fake attempt against Ole Miss, that he got a little gun shy. However, while the Sooners weren't calling any fakes during their national championship year, they continued to work on them during practice and Stoops finally found the right place to call the fake again.

"That was the same fake that we tried against Ole Miss, that didn't work, but should have worked for a touchdown," said Stoops. "If you remember in that game, when Brandon (Daniels) caught the pass from Patrick (Fletcher) if he had thrown the ball back to Patrick he would have scored just like Hunter (Wall) did."

"However, I made a mistake with Brandon and gave him the option of throwing the ball down field. So, once Brandon got the ball the last thing he remembered was that I told him he could throw the ball down field if it was open. So, he didn't even look back at Patrick and throws it down field into triple coverage and got it intercepted. If he had thrown it back, Patrick could have run 200 yards to score."

"I promise Antwone (Savage) was given the option of throwing the ball down field. We told him to look down field to sell it, which he did a great job of, but his number one option was to throw it back and if that wasn't open, he was supposed to run with it. We had a lot of confidence with Antwone throwing the ball, because he was a former high school quarterback and can throw the ball pretty well. However, Hunter (Wall) showed us how great of an athlete that he is. Hunter was a great three-sport star in high school and he has great hands."

"We have thought about playing him at tight end in an emergency if we lose our tight ends in a game. He had to go up high for that pass, but handled it was ease and then what a run. He just calmly weaved his way toward the end zone and I don't think he was touched. Hunter used his blocking so well and got a big block from Rocky at the end to score. That's Hunter's first play for us a varsity member and it is one that he will never forget."

What is amazing that the Sooners worked on that fake and a few others every day in practice since the Orange Bowl, despite the fact they didn't call one fake all last year. That's dedication to coaching and another example as to why the Sooner coaching staff is the best in college football.

Don't forget the Sooners installed a quarterback package for Savage back in the spring. It's doubtful that the Sooners would ever use it, but they still practice it every once in while. Just something for opposing coaches to have to account for.

Staff unity
It's a beautiful things how close this coaching staff is. Despite a staff that is split on different sides of the ball, they all appreciate the abilities of the coaches on the other side of the ball and the efforts of the players on the other side of the ball.

I do a post game show at Brother's Eatery and Put immediately after the game on News Radio 1000 KTOK. Co-defensive coordinator Brent Venables joins us after every game and the offensive coaches rotate on the show with us.

This Saturday we had Steve Spurrier Jr. on with Venables and both were very complimentary of the other unit.

First, Venables on the Sooners 17-play drive that eventually netted the winning field goal and ate seven minutes off the clock.

"That was awesome. That was incredible and was such a clutch drive," said Venables. "I can't tell you how impressive that was and what it meant to us winning that game. This was a game of big plays and we didn't have a lot of long drives, but when we needed it most our offense delivered one of the best I have ever seen.

"What a gut check for Nate (Hybl) and the guys. He started finding Trent (Smith) on short routes and they started picking up first down after first down. The whole time I am standing on the sideline saying, ‘Come on, hang on to that football. Come on get some more points on the board.' Because, lets face it, Kansas State was moving the ball on us pretty good in the second half and I knew that we were in a battle. I become a cheerleader when our offense goes on the field and I promise you on that drive I wasn't the prettiest one in the stadium, but I was screaming the loudest."

Spurrier on the Sooners fourth defensive touchdown in four games.

"I hope people understand how amazing it is to score a defensive touchdown in every game, and what it does for our football team," said Spurrier.

"To score a defensive touchdown in four straight games is unheard of in college football, yet our defense seems to do it so easily. It takes so much pressure off of our offense for our defense to step up and score. Then we also get a special team's touchdown. Those two touchdowns meant so much to our team today, and heck, it won the game for us."

Freshmen sensations
I have been saying that over the last couple of years that the Sooners recruiting efforts have been getting better and better.

Oklahoma freshman defensive lineman Tommie Harris (97) wraps up Kansas State quarterback Eli Roberson (3). Harris is one of two Sooner true freshman to start on Saturday. (APPhoto/Jerry Laizure)

Proof is, the fact that the Sooners start two true freshman right in heart of their offense and defense.

On defense Tommie Harris is becoming a dominating force, making plays well beyond his years. Harris is the best defensive tackle to wear the Sooner colors since the great Leroy Selmon.
On offense, true freshman Vince Carter got his first start at center and played very well. The OU coaches felt that at some point this season that Carter would take over the center position and it looks like now is that time.

"It's really unbelievable that right at the point of attack we have two true freshman playing key roles for us," said Bob Stoops.

"You don't see that happening very often, but I have always said that we will play our best players, whether or not they are freshman or not, no matter what position they are playing. From my perspective, Vince played very well in his first game and I believe that he made every single call.

"Tommie is just one of those rare athletes that comes along every so often that is just so gifted that you can tell that they are special players. Tommie plays a very physical position as a true freshman and plays it better than almost anybody else that plays the position. I don't care if they are freshman or not, they are great players."

Trading places
Wes Sims is still the starting left guard, but redshirt freshman Cliff Takawana is making a move. Takawana played several series in the game in place of Sims in the second and third quarter. Sims, however, played in crunch time in the fourth quarter.

Competition is also very strong at the H-back spot. Mark Clayton started his first game at OU for the nicked up Josh Norman. Norman did play in the game, but did not have a very good game dropping two passes. Norman has not been able to work out at 100 percent over the last two weeks and Clayton continues to impress the Sooner coaches.

We all know that Norman is a heck of a football player, but he has yet to perform at his junior level. OU likes to alternate two players at each receiver position and it is apparent that Norman and Clayton will be working at the H-back.

The odd man out here is junior Damian Mackey. Mackey is still bothered by a concussion he received in practice. He played in only one play in the Kansas State game and that was as a return man for the kickoff return hands team in the fourth quarter. The Sooners anticipated that they would see an on-side kick from the Wildcats after they scored to make it 37- 34 and Mackey is the deep receiver on that unit. In fact, Mackey had to make the catch as the Wildcats surprised the Sooners and kicked the ball deep.

Woolfolk focusing on defense
The Sooners are also concerned about Andre Woolfolk's two-way role. Woolfolk continues to excel at cornerback, but the coaches feel that going both ways is beginning to effect his receiving. Woolfolk splits time in practice, and that his hurting his execution as a receiver.

It's no secret that Woolfolk prefers offense to defense, but there is also a belief that Woolfolk is a better cornerback and a better pro prospect as a cornerback. The Sooners may make a decision each game to play Woolfolk on primarily on one side of the ball and this week that will be on defense.

With the Sooners facing the great Texas receiver corp and four and five wide receiver sets, OU needs another great cornerback on the field.

Another concern for the Sooners is the play of their nickel back, now that junior Terrance Simms is gone for the year with a torn ACL. Matt McCoy drew the start against Kansas State and had a rough day.

McCoy busted on at least on two occasions, which resulted in big plays for the Wildcats. McCoy did grab his first interception as a Sooner, but his inconsistency is a great concern.

The key question is what options do the Sooners have at the position? OU likes to play a safety type at the nickel spot and that is why McCoy, Brandon Shelby and Brian Hodges are vying for the nickel positions.

Right now OU likes three cornerbacks and they may decide to play one of them at the nickel. My guess is that Woolfolk would be that guy, but that would also leave them very thin at cornerback, since the nickel back is more-or-less a full-time position in the Sooner scheme of things.

Of course, this would put more emphasis on Jarvis Smith to step up and be a big-time player and right now he is still a question mark.

Tackling woes
The Sooner coaching staff is concerned about their poor tackling against Kansas State, but they don't think this will become the norm. The Sooners weren't dominant early last season through four games, but from that point on they may have been the best defense in college football last year.

Camera shy
Hunter Wall missed out on his moment of glory. Wall stiffed the media gathering that wanted to talk to him about his touchdown run. Wall has played in one play thus far as a Sooner and it was that touchdown run on a fake punt.

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