DALLAS, Texas — Ho hum, another OU victory over Texas. No, sorry I am not going to take this approach, because I have seen to many heartbreaks covering my 24 years straight of OU/Texas battles that I never take them for granted. However, OU so thoroughly whipped the Longhorns for the fourth straight year that there is no doubt who the better program is and who has the better players.
"I don't know," said a disjointed OU Texas Head Coach Mack Brown in the post game press conference when asked who now has the better players between OU and Texas. "I really don't know, but I will take the blame for this loss and all the others. Don't blame my staff or my players, I am the head coach and this loss falls squarely on my shoulders."
Don't worry Mack, you are going to receive plenty of blame for the latest massacre in the Cotton Bowl against the Sooners. However, the difference this year from all the rest is now the entire country knows that OU has more talent, all but Texas mouthpiece Roy Williams.
"I wouldn't say OU has more talent. In fact, I think both teams have great talent," said a puzzling Williams during the post game press conference. "They just played better than us today and caught a few breaks. Games don't always come down to talent, but sometimes just a few plays in a game can turn it and today Oklahoma caught all the breaks."
Say what Roy? Did you watch the same game that we did? Oh yeah, you played in the game didn't you? Williams was, once again, held in check by the OU secondary catching only seven passes for 89 yards and no touchdowns. In fact, if you want to know how OU can clobber Texas every year and make them look like the worst team in the Big 12 than look no further than Williams.
Williams has been given the label of team leader for the Longhorns and it couldn't go to a guy more undeserving. Until this past off-season Williams was a noted lazy dude in the summer and often times didn't show up for a week at 'Mad Dog's' (Texas Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Jeff Madden) off-season workouts. Of course, if you saw the heavy set Mad Dog running out of the tunnel and losing steam just before getting to the Texas sideline you would probably say Williams was better off not making it all of his workouts. Wasn't it 'Mad Dog' that got the first oxygen on the Texas sideline Saturday and an IV before the game even started? I was kind of blocked off up on the press box from the Texas sideline, but I noticed that one end of the bench was tilted up and it look like Mad Dog was getting medical attention on the Texas sideline. However, I could have been mistaken.
Regardless, you can't mistake the fact that OU is always in so much better shape than the Longhorns, and the OU players totally believe they are going to win because they know they are in shape.
"We work so hard in the summer that at times it seems like it is ridiculous," said junior wide receiver Mark Clayton after catching an OU setting single game record 190 yards in receptions, eight catches and one touchdown. "We believe in what coach (Jerry) Schmidt is doing for us in the summer and are totally committed to his program. We have never lost a game at OU because we are not in condition or because we are tired. Every game we have won was because of our shape, strength and speed are a major factor for us. So, when the fourth quarter comes around we are totally ready to play at our best, because we know that we are in great condition."
Let's see... would you rather have a totally in shape, five miles a day Jerry Schmidt leading your team in workouts? Or Mad Dog, who looks like he never met a Quarter Pounder with Cheese or a Ding Dong that he didn't like. Mad Dog may be the strongest dude on the planet and he may run a 10.4 100 meters and a sub 5.0 minute flat mile, but he sure doesn't look like it. And for a strength coach to look as heavy as he does, it sure doesn't bode well for the image of the Longhorns. Let's face it, when your strength coach looks like he would have to pull 80 just to play on the offensive line then the conditioning image of your team takes a major hit.
However, all the Longhorn athletes have to do is just show up in street cloths or t-shirts to realize how athletic they really look. As Mack Brown was joined by Williams, Vincent Young, Nathan Vasher, Kalen Thornton, Derrick Johnson and Dakari Pearson, if you didn't know better you would think that they were Greek Gods are something. Each guy was big, physical, muscular and physically impressive.
Of course, nobody is more physically impressive than Williams himself. At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Williams is the prototype that the pros are now looking for at wide receiver. That was even pointed out in a recent Sports Illustrated article when Williams was grouped with four others, including OSU's Rashaun Woods, as the new age of receiver that the NFL is drafting. However, that is the main problem for Mack and his Longhorns, they look like Tarzan, but play like Jane.
After surprising the nation and deciding to return to Texas for his senior season Williams reportedly worked harder than ever to get ready for the season. Of course, that meant that he at least showed up to the weight room, where as in years before the Texas strength coaches would not see him for a week at a time. So it goes without saying that his attitude was an improvement for Williams. Williams also said he wanted to come back and lead the Longhorns to the National Championship and finally do what they should have done during his entire career, which was to beat OU.
However, those statements came in the summer and once the season began Williams didn't say much. In the season opening loss to Arkansas the Longhorns disgruntled team leader was seen sitting on the end of the bench all by his lonesome as the game was winding down. As sympathetic teammates came up to talk to him he would bend their ear by shouting that the Texas offense wasn't getting it done and they should throw him the ball more. Gee Roy, as if that would have solved all the Longhorn problems against Arkansas?
So, as the Longhorns marched on toward the annual battle with the Sooners, not a braggadocios thing was said out of the Texas camp. In fact, the Longhorns became very gentlemanly doing nothing but praising their opponents. That was especially true during the OU-Texas week as Coach Mack Brown and his team went out of their way to praise the Sooners every step of the way. Not even the confident Williams uttered a single word that point towards a Longhorn victory.
On Saturday, outside of redshirt freshman Vincent Young, the Longhorns played a like a team that knew they were going to lose. Young and middle linebacker Derrick Johnson were the only two players that played up to their press clippings and both players were great. Young was the best running pro-set quarterback seen since Brad Smith last year, but he may be an even better athlete than Smith. Sure, Young made some mistakes, but you can bet that OU is not looking forward to playing him in the future once he learns the offense more and gets better in the passing game. Johnson thought about signing with the Sooners out of high school, but OU had to back off when it looked like he wasn't going to qualify. Johnson was probably going to sign with the Longhorns anyway, and when he somehow qualified academically the Sooners were still left wondering how.
Make no mistake about it, Williams is focal point of this year's Longhorn team. He is the poster child and the one that all the Texas media wants to talk to. That might change with Young taking control of the Texas offense, but probably not as Young is still pretty shy with the media, which is just the opposite of Williams.
All but Williams was uncomfortable talking to the media Saturday after the game. It is understandable that the Longhorns wouldn't be to happy to talk to the media. I mean, what do you say when you just were just slaughtered by 52 points after coming into the game as a six-point underdog?
Young answered his questions with three word sentences. Mack answered most questions with ‘It is my fault and just blame me" or "I don't know" answers. However, Williams had a smile on his face and looked like he was enjoying the press conference.
Maybe I shouldn't be taken back by a guy that is just good with the media, but his actions made me feel sorry for the rest of the Longhorns. It was shortly after the Longhorns had arrived at the press conference that a young woman asked Coach Mack Brown, "What did Oklahoma do to take Roy Williams out of the ballgame?"
With that, Williams became wide-eyed and got a smile on his face. He began to give a look to the woman of disbelief that she could even think to ask such a question. The rest of us in the media knew what she meant and Mack did as well. Sure, Williams had seven catches for 89 yards, but for the fourth straight year the Sooners did not give up any big plays to Williams, which the Texas offense so desperately needs.
Two questions later Williams was asked what he thought of the question, and immediately the lopsided Texas defeat wasn't as important as defending his game performance.
"I wasn't taken out of the game at all. I had a very good game today," said a smiling Williams as he stared down the young woman. "I caught several passes over the middle and we did a good job of throwing where OU was soft in the secondary. I caught several passes today that led to big plays for us. Seven catches is a good day for everybody. I certainly don't think I was taken out of the game in any way, so I don't know where that came from."
Granted, I am not around Williams and the Texas program everyday, but most of the media that witnessed that performance agreed with me. Williams is into the Texas program and college football for his own benefit and it has nothing to do with his team's benefit. If you need more proof then take into consideration Williams answer to a question about Mack taking all the criticism for the Texas loss. The reporter implied that maybe the players should take some of the blame as well.
"Sure, Coach isn't totally to blame," said Williams. "Hey, let me tell you guys something — the players have to execute. We have to execute no matter what plays are being called and no matter if we like them or not. We have to even turn the bad plays into good plays and we didn't do that tonight."
At that point if I could read Mack's mind. I would bet that he is saying, 'Hey, well thanks Roy for the support and, oh my gosh, I have now seen the problem and the problem is us.'
While Williams is known by many of the pro draft expects as the best wide receiver prospect in the country, right now he is not even the best receiver in the Big 12 Conference. After Saturday that honor falls to Mark Clayton, and I will give equal nods to OSU's Woods and Texas Tech's Wes Welker. However, I can say with no hesitation that Clayton was certainly the best wide receiver on the field Saturday.
Clayton's exceptional and exciting play separated the Sooners from the Longhorns early in the game. His tremendous effort never goes unnoticed from the Head Ball Coach.
"As I watched the game unfold I caught myself just staring at how hard Clayton plays," said Sooner Head Coach Bob Stoops. "I know I have told our media back home a number of times, but I just watch in amazement how hard Mark competes. I found myself just shaking my head about how hard he is plays. He is the best player I have ever coached after he catches the ball. Mark was running so hard tonight that he carried the fight for us early. Our offensive line watched Mark run hard and started to play harder. The same goes for our running backs. They watch Mark scratch and claw for every available yard and they can't be undone. Isn't that right Renaldo (as Works nodded in agreement up on the Sooner podium). He deserved the record and he still has a lot of games to play at OU, so he just might break it again."
While Williams is the most boastful under-achieving player in the country, while Clayton is the most humble star in the country. In the Sooners spread-the-wealth passing game, Clayton wasn't even looked at in the go-to status until Saturday. Remember, early in the year Clayton was banged up and Brandon Jones got off to a great start. Now, in game six 'BJ' didn't even start giving up his starting role to Clayton and JeJuan Rankins outside and sophomore Travis Wilson inside. Jones is still in the rotation, but without question the Sooners go-to receiver is Clayton, who is slowly climbing the national charts into the elite status of receivers nationwide.
"We (coaches) were watching film this morning and some of his runs after the catch we would play it back several times just to watch it," said OU Offensive Coordinator Chuck Long. "Usually, you play it back to make corrections and grade and all of that, but after our grading was done we still ran it back a few times just to watch Mark run after the catch. He is exciting when he gets a ball in his hands. He has great vision and Mark always has his head on a swivel while he is running full speed. That is hard to do. Mark has great vision and knows when to cut and he has Quentin Griffin type of vision. He sees those guys from far away and that is what makes him special in open field."
Heading into the Texas game a year ago the Sooner coaches made a decision to get Griffin the ball more often and that sparked the Sooners to a Big 12 Championship and a Rose Bowl Championship. So, have the Sooners thought about putting Clayton at tailback so that he can get the ball more often?
"Yes, we have and that is no joke," said a chuckling Long. "We have thought about all the ways that we might be able to get the ball into Mark's hands more. That might be something that is down the road. Last week against Iowa State we ran an end around with him. You may see more of that."
Another key to Clayton is his deceptive speed. Sooner coaches have always bragged about the blazing speed of Brandon Jones and Mark Bradley, but in football pads Clayton is the fastest Sooner on the field.
"Mark Clayton is the fastest player on the ball in college football," said OU wide receiver coach Darrell Wyatt. "Getting off the line of scrimmage, there is nobody better than Mark. He is explosive off the ball and runs harder than anybody on our football team. With pads on he is the fastest player that we have, or at least the fastest wide receiver that we have. I think he is the toughest competitor in college football."
"Mark has game speed," said Long. "Some guys time well in the forty, but slow down when they get the pads on. Mark speeds up. He has a good forty time, but he gets faster with his pads on. We had some good balance going with all of our receivers, which makes it hard for teams to double any of our receivers. There are a lot of football teams that have one go-to guy and teams go into game trying to double him and take that one guy away. It is hard to do that against us, which opens things up for Mark. So, yesterday he got single coverage and just ran away from their defensive backs. However, the reason he got single coverage is that if you double Mark then there is B.J. or JeJuan Rankins who can burn you. Now, Will Peoples is getting back into the act and so who do you double? You have to play a balanced defense against us and that is hard to do, which we are going to end up getting single coverage on somebody."
The most fight Texas showed in the game came before the opening kick-off. Again, Roy Williams tried to shake hands with the Sooners secondary assassin Brandon Everage and he would have none of it.
"Roy Williams came over and said something to Brandon Everage or shake his hand and Brandon and he got into a verbal altercation," said Co-Defensive Coordinator Mike Stoops. "It was just a verbal dispute with both of them just jawing at each other. Then their players started crossing over into our players and then you know that we responded to that. You know how that goes. Usually, the officials were there to not let something like that happen, but they were nowhere to be found. I don't think Brandon wanted to shake Roy's hand. We were getting ready to play a game we were not out there socializing. I don't know if they were trying to intimidating us or not, so I am not sure what they were trying to do."
Stoops and the officials appeared to get into an argument as Coach Stoops was working to separate the players.
"Well, the officials were yelling at us when it was there job to keep that from happening," said Mike Stoops. "There they are crossing over our mid-line and there are no officials there. That makes absolutely no sense. That is poor management of the game, especially in a rivalry game. The officials need to be well aware that something like that could happen, especially when they are standing at the fifty-yard line and our guys are warming up close to there. The official was yelling at me to break it up and I told him that I wasn't going to get into the middle of that."
As you might expect, the Sooner locker room was happy and the Sooner post game press conference was just as happy. Just about the entire team surrounded Coach Stoops on the podium on the fair grounds and all were having fun. In fact, at times Coach Stoops directed questions away from him to players who weren't getting much attention form the press.
On the running game he had captain and senior Renaldo Works answer that question. On my question about Jason White and the passing game Coach Stoops turned that over to White with an added question. A question came up about Derrick Strait and the secondary play, and Coach Stoops asked Strait what he thought of the secondary play.
Stoops was having such a good time with it that one member of the media asked him if he was looking for a career change down the road.
"I really hope it doesn't ever come to that," said a smiling coach. "I kind of like my job right now."
The Sooners went into this game with a quiet confidence and they left it happy. This was the fourth straight time the Sooners have whipped the Longhorns and the second time this group of seniors have put 60 plus on the board against Texas.
"We celebrated after the game, but to be honest I liked our locker room after the game," said Bob Stoops. "It wasn't anything overjoyous and guys appreciated the win, but there was nothing overblown or overly done. It was very controlled and it was a good win. It shows that the guys expected to win and it tells you to that they are focused on more. Beating Texas isn't the end all for us. We are after championships here and that is what we focus on. So, they understand that there is more to do. So, sure there isn't anything to jump up and down about, and I say that with a great deal of humility. We still have a lot more to do."
As we get to know Brodney Pool we have learned two things. First, he is a great player and is only going to get better. Before he is through he will be an All-American, and we are watching the beginning career of a future first round draft choice. Second, we are learning that Pool is still an innocent young kid that is having the time of his life, and that he still can't believe that he is wearing an Oklahoma uniform and playing the OU-Texas game.
"You can tell that Brodney is still a young pup," said Coach Bob Stoops with a big smile on his face at the postgame press conference. "You can see that Brodney is the only player who wore his pads over to the press conference. This is his first interview at the OU-Texas game and he didn't know that you didn't have to come over in full uniform. Brodney is still smiling from ear to ear. That is great isn't it? You know he is already a real good football player, but maybe I shouldn't bring that up because he doesn't know how good he can be, which means he is going to get a lot better."
Once again the Sooners secondary came up big against the famed Texas secondary holding the Longhorns to 15 catches for 156 yards. The Sooners picked off three passes on the game, one returned for a touchdown by junior defensive end Jonathan Jackson after it was tipped in the air by junior defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek. Senior Derrick Strait was incredible, leading the Sooners with 11 tackles, one interception and two fumble recoveries.
Pool's hit of Young on the Sooner goal line started a momentum swing in the Sooners' favor that they never gave back. Antonio Perkins is playing the wide side corner in outstanding fashion and Donte Nicholson is living up to all of his preseason press clippings.
"We came up with a lot of big plays in the game," said secondary coach Mike Stoops. "Derrick Strait and Brodney Pool both had exceptional games. We just played really well. We were sound for the most part and our coverage was good. You know our run support was good for all but a couple of plays. We were really happy with the way we played. Overall, I thought those guys did a good job."
"You take out two plays and this game was one of our best defensively," Mike Stoops continued. "They got almost 100 yards on two plays where we had a missed assignment on the first 60-yard run or that is a dead play. Our guy goes the wrong way, but they are going to make plays. I think overall you take the scrambles out of the game and we played as well as we can really. All for except a couple of run plays that we missed, but overall we played as a group and played really solid. This team is playing really good on defense right now. We have some great players on defense and it is pretty obvious right now."
Against UCLA the Sooner coaching staff decided to switch Nicholson and Pool in the Sooner nickel defense. Nicholson took over the Roy position near the line of scrimmage and Pool switched back to the strong safety position. That move has added more stability to the secondary and put everybody in their best position.
"The adjustments we made in the secondary are really helping us," said Mike Stoops. "Brodney is playing really well right now and he is covering a lot of ground in the safety position. Donte is getting comfortable at the line of scrimmage and making those little adjustments have really helped us there. The front guys continue to play well and we are playing hard and good right now."
The Sooner offense continues to be great on their first possession. OU has scored in every game on their first possession this season (four field goals and two touchdowns). The Sooner defense is pitching a shutout on first possessions forcing four punts and coming away with two interceptions. Saturday, Strait picked off the first pass thrown by Chance Mock (Mock's first interception of the year) that led to Works' six-yard touchdown run all within the first minute of the game.
Another humble Sooner is Works. To get Works to talk about himself is tough, even if you have known him since he was a sophomore in high school, like I have.
JH: Renaldo great game for you, don't you think?
RW: "Thanks you Mr. Hale. You are always very kind to me."
JH: Thanks Renaldo, but no really, you had a great game today didn't you?
RW: "Oh, I guess Mr. Hale. But you should to talk to my offensive line, because they did all the work for me."
JH: Sure, the offensive line was great Renaldo, but on your 54-yard touchdown run you cut back and made a lot of people miss didn't you?
RW: "Oh, I guess Mr. Hale. But did you see the hole that I had to run through? I guess I did have to cut back, but that is no big deal. Once I get into the secondary I am supposed to score, so I was just doing my job."
JH: OK, Renaldo, but I still think you had a great game?
RW: "Hey, thank you Mr. Hale. And thanks for all of your kind thoughts.
That is humble from a guy that just rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns in his senior season against Texas.
The Sooners finished with 189 yards rushing and they are averaging 145 rushing yards per game. Not bad for a team that is supposed to be struggling rushing the football. However, there is always room for improvement.
"I think the stats are screwed and messed up a little bit," said Run Game Coordinator and offensive line coach Kevin Wilson. "At times when we didn't look that good we weren't that far away, and then after yesterday everybody was all excited. We were a little sloppy and cut some guys clean. We didn't do some things that are pretty easy, and even though we got some points and the game kind of snowballed on them, it wasn't like we just lined up and played as good as we can play. We were sloppy as we have been and missed on a couple of things. We also got our QB hit a couple of times pretty good and we don't like that. We gave up a couple of sacks, which isn't good. We did have a pretty good day rushing the football, but we could have had even a bigger day if we had just cut off the backside defender. I didn't think we were that bad when you guys were ripping us. And now you guys are going to tell us how good we are and I don't think we are quite as good as you are going to make us sound."
So, what looked like the Sooners best game of the year for the offensive line wasn't really the case.
"Not really up front," said Wilson. "I think J.D. (Runnels) always plays well at the point of attack and I think we are doing things that are better for our running backs. I think we have a good mix in what we are doing. The way that the offense has evolved in how we move our pocket, throwing quick and throwing deep, makes us much harder to defend. We keep defenses on their heels and we are not quite as predictable. We do have certain formations that indicates that our runs are going to the right or left, but in general we have some good personnel groupings that we put out there that makes our offense work. We have fast guys that are tough to cover. We have J.D. who is a great blocking fullback. Our tight ends are doing a great job blocking and they are versatile enough to line up at fullback, which can cause a big problem for a defense. So, we can make things difficult for a defense, but we can also play a lot better."
Dan Cody has been playing great through the first five games, but against Texas it was 'JJ' (Jonathan Jackson) who stole the headlines. Jackson finished the game with six tackles, one sack, constant pressures and one interception return for a touchdown.
Jason White's 17 for 21 performance for 290 yards and four touchdowns certainly pushed him to the forefront of Heisman race for those covering the OU-Texas game. The Sooners outstanding Sports Information Director Kenny Mossman is doing all he can to push White for the Heisman with video, post cards and e-mails going out every week to Heisman voters. Mossman has also gone to putting White up on the podium with Coach Stoops at press conferences, and that has drawn more specific attention to White.
White is also finally getting into the act, but not at the sake of his team.
"I really think that the Heisman is a team award and I have always thought that," said White immediately following the game. "You folks can make me a Heisman candidate, but realize that I am going to take my offensive line with me, my tight ends, my fullback, my wide receivers and my running backs. I am going to take my defense too, because they always get the ball back in good field position for us. So, as long as all of you realize that I will be representing our total team that I don't care if you put my name out of front. That will be OK with me."
Jason, count me in. If White is not the leading candidate for the Heisman right now, then I want to see the guy who is. White is having a similar magical year that Josh Heupel had in 2000. Both quarterbacks have come out of nowhere to have big years leading the number one or two teams in the country.
Coach Long was asked to compare the two as White goes into his seventh game of the season.
"They are both excellent quarterbacks," said Sooner Offensive Coordinator Chuck Long from his office on Sunday. "I told the guys (coaches) today that he (White) is just like Josh. They both have tremendous talent, but they played the game with their heads. That is the biggest difference in Jason right now is that Josh played with his head and was excellent quarterback. Jason had those raw skills, probably has more talent than Josh, but now is playing with his head like Josh did. That's the similarity between them right now. He is smart like Josh. He can feel things like Josh and he has excellent anticipation like Josh. He is into that realm right now, where he is playing very, very well just like Josh did in 2000."
"Josh was the type of guy that you felt you could call any play and he would make it work," Long continued. "Well, Jason is entering that right now. He can make plays work, Not every play you call is going to be a great play, because defenses are going to counter or they are going to line up in something different that you would expect. But great quarterbacks can get you out of those things. Jason is doing just that."
The OU defensive coaches are burning the midnight oil trying to get ready for another great running quarterback in Missouri's Brad Smith. It just so happens that Smith and his Missouri Tigers are coming off their most impressive game to date, whipping previously undefeated Nebraska 41-24. The win broke a 24-game losing streak for the Tigers against the Cornhuskers and left the Tigers 5-1 overall and 1-1in the conference.
Smith tied a school record with four touchdowns, three on runs and one on a touchdown pass from a halfback option pass. Smith rushed for 123 yards on 18 carries against Nebraska's 'Black Shirt' defense.The Sooner coaches remember Smith blitzing the Sooner defense for 213 yards on 26 carries a year ago, but hope to play him better this year.
"The greatest thing that could have happened for us is for Nebraska to lose to Missouri and Brad Smith to have another great game," said Co-Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables. "As a coach you look for anything to make that Monday meeting important enough so that the players are sitting on the edge of their seat. Not only with the way he played against us and beat it up and down the field last year, but now he has beat an undefeated Nebraska team will get our attention as well."
So, get ready Sooner fans as the Sooner defense will match their skill against Mr. Smith and the suddenly hot Missouri Tigers. Kick-off is set for 6:00 p.m. at the Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium.
Finally, Mike Stoops was nowhere to be found after the Texas game. Was he secretly meeting with Arizona or some other college program? Great question. He could have been just celebrating with family, but it is unusual that Mike doesn't meet with the media following a big game. Where there is smoke there is fire. We will have to see what we can find out later this week and see if there is anything up at all. Mike Stoops was at the coaches office early Sunday morning getting ready for Missouri and says nothing is up at the moment. Let's hope something is, but nothing that can disrupt the Sooners momentum as they head towards their eighth national championship.
One other thing. Early projections of the BCS computer poll, which comes out after next week, show that Miami would be number one and OU number two. Nobody voting in the polls believes that, but it just goes to show that those computer polls can put everybody on edge.
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