NORMAN, Okla. -- Both press conferences were over and Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium was almost empty. An hour earlier the No. 1 ranked Oklahoma Sooners had put on a tremendous display of football destroying 14th-ranked Oklahoma State 52-9, and the game wasn't that close.
I had just finished with 12 interviews with the Sooners and it was time to head to Campus Corner where Super Talk 930 WKY was set up for our post game coverage. I was coming onto the walkway which would take me out of the stadium when I noticed Cowboy Head Coach Les Miles was making his way to the bus.
I have often told all of you that the reality of my journalistic coverage is that I have several good friends that are coaches at OSU. They all understand that I am a beat reporter for OU and that I am blessed to cover an athletic program that I love with all my heart, but that I would also treat OSU and every other team fair and call them as I see them. Sure, I always see things with the glass half-full look, but that didn't keep me from telling the truth or from picking OSU if I felt OSU was better.
Les Miles is one of those friends from OSU. When Miles was the Offensive Coordinator for Bob Simmons he often came on my radio show, despite warnings from Simmons not to. Miles always worked with me giving me insights into the program that was very beneficial to my reporting ability. He didn't give away the gameplan, but he gave me enough to sound credible on the air. When Miles went to Dallas we kept in touch and he often came on my show to talk about the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL. After Simmons was fired and the search was on for a new coach at OSU I pushed hard on the radio for Les Miles to be the guy. In fact, when it appeared to all at OSU that Dirk Koetter wasn't going to be their new head coach it was me who first called Miles to tell him that I had confirmed that Koetter wasn't going to take the OSU job and that he was headed to Arizona State instead. I was the first to tell him to get his campaign team back together and to keep pushing, because the OSU job was still on the market.
Before I went to KREF I attended the Les Miles press luncheon each week for KTOK/WKY and Coach Miles always treated me with tremendous respect. Once, I went to KREF I didn't attend the press conferences any more, but he would come on my show at least six or seven times throughout the season and then several more times during the off season.
When I moved from KREF to SuperTalk 930 WKY my time slot changed. I went from doing the morning show to afternoon's and that pretty much took me out of getting Coach Miles on my show on a regular basis. However, again Coach Miles proved to be a good friends by coming on my new show the second day it was on the air, and he has been on several times since.
So, when I saw him coming up the ramp, with his son at his side and two Stillwater Police Officers behind him, he saw me as well and waved me over. I shook his had and gave me a pat on the shoulder and asked how I was doing. He told me to walk with him as he walked to the bus. Now, there were still a few Sooner and Cowboy fans standing along that path and I could see in all of their faces the disbelief as they saw me walking with the OSU coach and he didn't have me in some kind of choke hold.
We didn't have a lot of time, but he said that he heard good things about my show and I said I hoped he still understood that I always tried to be fare, but that I am the beat reporter for OU and that I didn't get a chance to cover his team as much as I would like. He then told me not to worry about that it and that he understand what my job was and that I did it better than anybody. He said that neither he nor anybody in his program had a problem with me and that in fact they pay attention to what I report on college football and in recruiting.
I was very glad to hear that, because relationships can get splintered when you don't have much contact or communication. I have always liked Coach Miles and I know him well enough to know where he was coming from when he was quoted last week questioning who was the number one team in the country getting ready to play on Owen Field. That why I didn't wig out on the comment, because I know him too well and the tough job he has at OSU.
As we approached the bus I told him that he had a good football team and told him to go beat the hell out of Texas. I told him that we all can hate those dirty, rotten, scummy Texas Longhorns. Miles then reached over and got very close to me and whispered.
"James, OU is a damn good football team, and they were great tonight," said Miles. "You can go on the radio on Monday and tell all the OU fans that in my opinion they are the No. 1 team in the nation. If there is some team out there that can beat that team that beat us tonight I don't know who it is. We are a good football team, but we were no match for them. That takes a great team to do that to us."
And with that Coach Miles, his son and the two police officers boarded the bus and headed back to Stillwater. However, I don't think Coach Miles realized at the time that his question about who was the number one team on Saturday actually fueled the Sooners preparation all week. Privately, not publicly, the Sooners were furious about some the comments from Coach Miles the week preceding the Bedlam battle. They felt that the Cowboys coach wasn't giving them enough respect and basically calling them out for a duel.
Miles' bulletin board material coupled with the fact the Cowboys destroyed the Sooners a year ago and had won two straight years, got the Sooners in the right frame of mind for the Cowboys in 2003.
"There is no question that we have suffered a lot of pain over the last two years and we wanted redemption today," said Co-Defensive Coordinator Mike Stoops in the Sooner locker room. "They called us out and we came after them today. The kids responded like we thought they would. We totally shut them down today. We had a good plan and we always had them in long yardage. That was really the key, because at one point they were 0-for-10 on third down and that was the key to the game. We got them into some situations that they didn't feel comfortable with."
The Sooner defense deserves the 21 gun salute. The Sooners held OSU to just 161 yards total offense and to just 62 yards passing to a team that was averaging over 400 yards a game. Junior defensive end Dan Cody played with an injured ankle and set the tone early with a sack of Cowboy quarterback Josh Fields that caused a fumble, which the Sooners recovered. Cody came up with three sacks on the night and totally took the Cowboys out of their game plan.
"We had to change some things in our offensive gameplan, because we couldn't block them at the line of scrimmage," said Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Mike Gundy. "When you can't keep them off of your quarterback at the line of scrimmage you can't run double move routes with your receivers down field. There isn't enough time. So, Josh had to throw the ball quicker than he wanted to and the receivers had to go to shorter routes, which are easier to cover for the secondary. We couldn't block them tonight and that was the name of the game for us."
The Sooners front four put pressure on the Cowboys all night. OU finished with four sacks, but it was the constant push they managed to get on Fields and Cowboy tailback Tatum Bell that shut down the Cowboys offense."
"Dan Cody has played great all year and he showed us a lot of guts tonight," said Mike Stoops after the game. "He didn't practice much this week and to get three sacks was phenomenal. He has had a great year and the whole d-line has played extremely well, and that is probably the biggest difference in our team. That and of course Jason White."
Coach Mike was fired up after the game. He is a tremendous competitor and doesn't back down from anybody. He can also charm with the best of them, and that coupled with his tremendous knowledge of football is why I think he will be a great head coach for somebody.
After the game Coach Mike wanted to let everybody know that if you are going to talk you better be able to play.
"There was a lot at stake today wasn't there," said Mike Stoops after the game. "We consider the game a shutout for us (OSU scored all nine points off of mistakes from the offense), and why shouldn't we? We wanted to disrupt their tempo early and we changed some things to create some pressure. We didn't want to sit back and let them dictate the game. We came after them with some different zone blitzes and they never really got it going."
"It was hard to listen to the media all week," Stoops continued. "You would have thought that they were the seven time national champs and the 38 conference champions. That was hard to take and our guys did a great job of just staying focused on what we wanted to do. The media wanted to paint a whole different picture and our kids were not going to back down from anybody. We got backed into a corner and came out fighting. From a coaching perspective - when you back kids into a corner they usually come out fighting and our kids responded like champs."
"There was no question that we were backed into a corner," Stoops continued. "They talked all week, but you have to walk the walk once you talk the talk. Our kids walked the walk today. That just added extra incentive to the game, but we come to play no matter what."
If you think that players don't hear the trash talk or smack from the opposing side then think again. In this day and age of intense media, hardly anything gets by anybody.
"Oh yeah, it always fires you up," said senior quarterback Jason White after the game. "Anybody that wants to put bulletin board material up, then we are going to listen to it. In fact, a lot of guys get motivated by that kind of stuff. Things were said about our defense all week and they proved themselves tonight. Shoot, the only points that were given up were because of me. I think I was their strongest offense tonight. Our defense played great tonight and our coaches got us ready to play. They prepared us all week and the coaches told us that this was our best week of preparation so far and it should.
"I am not going to lie to you and say that we don't hear what OSU was saying this week," said All-American defensive tackle Tommie Harris. "We were already totally motivated heading into the week because we had lost the last two years, but then you hear that they are gloating about it, well that just gets you more focused. For the most part their comments weren't real bad, but it does call out to your manhood, so to speak. If you notice usually nobody says anything bad about an opponent, no matter how bad they are. You just say good things and go on, but when a team does step forward and question how good you are, then if you have any pride you are going to suck it up and prepare, and play at the best of your ability. We were motivated this week and it showed out on the field. We didn't want to give them anything and we didn't give them anything on the scoreboard."
"I don't want to say that their talk was what totally motivated us, but it was something that we added to the motivational package," said junior defensive end Dan Cody. "Our coaches have trained us and I buy totally into it that we shouldn't listen to anything coming from our opponent. I would say for the most part we don't. This game was a little different, especially for the players that grew up in Oklahoma, because we didn't talk to or see anybody that didn't have something to say about the game. Our friends and family would tell us what OSU was saying, so we could help but take it in. I won't lie and say that it didn't hack me off a little bit and I really wanted to show our fans that what happened last year was a fluke. I think we did that tonight."
"We have great leaders on this team and in our program," said Head Coach Bob Stoops. "We have great young guys in our program that are focused on winning and winning championships. They understood that his game had a lot running on it and what it meant to our program. We prepared for it, and again all the talk and all that stuff doesn't mean much. It gets down to being prepared for the moment and then going after it. I like how our guys did that."
Cody was having a spectacular year, but he still wasn't on the national map. Well, that was until yesterday when the Cowboys had to shut down their game plan, because they couldn't block him. Coming into the game the Cowboys had given up less than ten sacks and the Pokes weren't ashamed to admit that they would max-protect and send out Rashaun Woods to beat the secondary, basically by himself. Cody and his teammates knew coming into the game that they would going to upset Mr. Field's world.
"You are obviously always going to look at the quality of the offensive line each time we make up our game plan, and I don't think we ever at any point in the week when we were watching film thought they could block us," said Cody. "We have been so good up front, especially rushing the passer. We have some guys that are playing phenomenal. I can't say enough about Dusty Dvoracek and what he is doing this year. I am kind of one-dimensional, because I don't know how good I am against the run, but we have some guys across the board who can play the run and pass rush when they have to. They set their play up and I feed off of them."
Cody's sack of Fields and subsequent fumble set the tone for what the Cowboys offense could expect the rest of the game. And Cody's play the rest of the game firmly established himself as a star on the major college football scene.
"That was really big getting him back," said Bob Stoops after the game. "Dan is a really good player and he has been one of our special guys getting pressure and sacks. To get him back meant so much to us. He was still struggling and at mid-week we didn't know if he was going to play. It wasn't until Friday on the team bus that he told me that he was beginning to feel really good and that he could play this weekend. He told me that by tomorrow he would be right back to where he has always been and he was."
Cody may look at himself as a one-dimensional player, but the rest of the team doesn't.
"Let me tell you something - Dan Cody is one of the best players and one of the best athletes on our team," said Harris. "He is really a four-dimensional player, because he is a great pass rusher and he is very good against the run as well. If we wanted to put him on offense he would be a great tight end, because in practice he catches everything that is thrown at him. They could also put him at fullback and he would do a great job there. Don't let him tell you anything short on his abilities, because Dan is a very good football player, one of the very best in the country."
Junior Gayron Allen got the starting call at linebacker yesterday after pre-game warm-ups. Wayne Chambers was limited during the physical portion of practice, but he had going through the game plan work with the hope was that he would be ready to go on Saturday, much like Cody. However, at game time he couldn't go and Allen got the call earning a game ball for his performance.
"Gayron is one of the smartest players on our football team and he just has a knack for making plays," said Co-Defensive Coordinator and linebacker coach Brent Venables. "You can't look at Gayron's size and just determine that he can't play. He has always been a good football player, and he has always been a success at every level that he has played. Saturday was his first chance to get any real playing time and he was outstanding and earned a game ball for his effort. I have always had confidence in Gayron. He has waited for an opportunity and he took advantage of it."
If Chambers could have gone he would have been the starter and that will still be the case against Texas A&M. However, if he can't go the Sooners will be happy to put Allen back in the line-up.
Allen, in essence, becomes the third middle linebacker used by the Sooners this year. But in reality he doesn't play in the middle. Senior weakside linebacker Teddy Lehman shifts over to the middle with Allen taking over Lehman's spot on the outside.
The Sooner crowd also got some pub from the Head Ball Coach after the game. Some say it was the loudest crowd since the 2000 Nebraska game, and for their effort the crowd earned a game ball.
"I told the players in the locker room that the fans get a game ball," said Stoops. "We will put a game ball in our trophy case somewhere so that everybody can see it."
The Sooners' defensive effort was one of those that will go onto the all-time list. The Sooners now are getting several that rank among the very best. That could not have been more evident in the fourth quarter when OSU couldn't score in four tries near the Sooner goal line.
"That was great to stop them down there and to keep them out of the end zone," said Bob Stoops. "That showed a lot of pride and toughness on our defense. Our defense didn't give up a touchdown the entire day and that is as fine of defense as I have seen us play. It's really just a great job by our coaches. Mike, Brent, Jackie (Shipp) and Bobby Jack (Wright) got them ready and had a great plan and executed it. We have played great defense all year, but that was our best performance of the year. Then to top it off our offense takes us on a 99-yard well-executed drive that was as good as you will see anywhere."
Once again the Bob Stoops led staff proved that in a big game they can out game plan anybody. I also want to add that you may put something over Mike Stoops, Venables, Shipp and Wright once, but you aren't going to do it again. Last year the Cowboys made the Sooners look like a very bad defense and they thought about that all year. The Sooner coaches worked on OSU in the summer and during off-weeks. They came up with the master plan that will go down as one of the best in Stoops' history.
"That game is right up there with one of the best that we have ever had," said Mike Stoops from his office on Sunday. "This and the National Championship game are very comparable. The importance of the game, the magnitude of it and the quality of people that you are defending to is what we look at. We look at how good the offense is too. That was a very potent offense that we controlled yesterday."
A year ago, Rashaun Woods burned the Sooners for over 200 yards and three touchdowns, but Saturday Woods could never get loose and caught just four passes for 25 yards and no touchdowns.
"I thought our position on the ball was good most of the night," said Mike Stoops. "Bringing pressure was important and we brought more pressure from the outside, obviously to pull up all those boots and that was good and real successful for us. The biggest thing was to get them out of rhythm and that was a key. Everything they throw is on rhythm and timing, and we were able to disrupt their timing and that was big with them. They are probably a team that throws more on time than any other team that I have seen, and they were never able to get set."
"The defensive line is always the most disruptive of any part of any defense and that is a very critical area," said Mike Stoops. "That is where I think our whole group is so solid. Tommie is obviously the leader of that group and they have shown remarkable play throughout the year. That is a credit to those guys, but we are doing things together. We have made teams hold the ball, throw it away, pull it down and we are changing things up so that they can't get a handle on us."
It was also great to see Brandon Jones have a big game. 'BJ' was the star wide receiver in the first couple of games of the season, before Mark Clayton got healthy and took over that role. It seemed that 'BJ' couldn't handle being out of the spotlight and went into a funk. The last couple of games it appears that he is back as he ate up the Pokes for three catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns, and he is just missed on a third touchdown as officials ruled him out on a catch in the end zone that television replays showed he was in.
"BJ has played well for us all year, but Mark has been so good that you can't help but try to get the ball to him as often as you can," said wide receiver coach Darrell Wyatt. "So, it wasn't that BJ wasn't playing well it was just that Mark and some other receivers were stepping up and getting the job done. Our offense is never set on just one receiver, so any receiver can get hot in a game. BJ ran some tremendous routes and once again made some big plays for us. BJ has so much talent that he is a big play waiting to happen every game."
Clayton was outstanding once again sparking the Sooner offense with six catches for 96 yards and one touchdown off of an end-around pass from the talented Mark Bradley.
"Mark sold the route so well that I was wide open," said Clayton after the game. "I was just hoping that I didn't run out of room in the end zone. He led me a little bit and I was getting pretty close to the boundary, but fortunately I had enough field left to make the catch. If he had missed me he would have heard from me and the rest of the offense on Monday."
Bradley's performance once again makes you wonder what a guy has to do to get more playing time. Of course, Bradley plays the deepest position on the Sooner roster and his injuries have slowed his progress some. However, the Sooner coaches are looking for more and more ways to get him onto the field, and if it wasn't for a dropped bomb from White Bradley would have had a banner night.
"We have been working on that end around pass for several weeks and all of us knew that it would work," said Bradley after the game. "I thought I sold it real well, because they were all chasing me and when I finally looked down field I saw that Mark (Clayton) was wide open. My first thought was that I better not miss him, because he was so wide open. When I let it go I wanted to make sure I gave him enough room to run to it and man I almost led him to much."
"I want to thank the coaches for giving me an opportunity to play," Bradley continued. "It is such a privilege to play at Oklahoma, and to be able to get on the field in front of all of these great fans is a blessing for me. I am so disappointed that I dropped that ball, but Coach Stoops was great about it and said that we would run the same play as soon as we can so that I can catch a touchdown pass on the deep route, and I promise that I will catch it. It was great to catch a touchdown pass at the end of the game. I hope I made up for that drop earlier in the game."
While Bradley had a great day with the offense, once again he proved he is one of the best special team players on the Sooner roster. Again, on a Perkins punt return Bradley blocked two defenders, and he is always around the football on Ferguson punts. While Bradley may have to share his playing time at OU, don't be surprised if he doesn't make big money someday in the pros.
Once again the Sooners' kicking game was excellent. Blake Ferguson averaged 41.7 yards per punt and did a good job of pinning OSU deep on punts. Trey DiCarlo hit one field goal and most of his kick-offs ended as touchbacks. He did miss one pooch kick that he kicked to short, but Coach Stoops pointed out that doesn't happen too often.
The defense was so impresses that you almost forget that the OU offense rolled up 446 yards of total offense and 52. In other words, for once the Sooners didn't come up with any special team points or the defense didn't score any points.
"After looking at the film it was a very impressive performance by our offensive line, J.D. (Runells) and our tight ends at the point of attack," said Offensive Coordinator Chuck Long. "Our running backs ran hard behind our offensive line and I wanted to make sure our offensive line gets some credit. We preached to them all week about playing physical and they did that. They were playing physical, knocking guys off the line of scrimmage and playing physical. I can't say enough good things about how well the offensive line played."
"That was a goal for us to play physical in this football game," Long continued. "In previous games the last two years we didn't think we were physical enough, but I think we challenged them this time and they came through. We just wanted to come off the ball and run between the tackles downhill at them. Our guys did a nice job and it is fun to be calling plays when our line is playing so well. It is fun to see guys play a little smashmouth football and it took a toll on the OSU defense by the fourth quarter, and we were able to get some big plays against them in the second half because of that."
The entire offensive line got game balls after the game including Chris Bush, who played both center and guard.
How about the speed of Brodney Pool to chase down Cowboy tailback Tatum Bell on his 46-yard run? Pool's determination and athletic ability kept the Cowboys out of the end zone.
As of late Sunday evening there are no new injuries to report and the Sooner coaches hope that Chambers can go next Saturday against Texas A&M.
With Miami beaten by Virginia Tech, the Sooners are the only undefeated team left in the country that can play in the BCS Championship Game. The Sooners will have be heavy favorites to win the next four games. Can you say Sugar Bowl? Just take care of business and the Sooners will play Southern California for the national title. USC is just a guess, but I think they are the second best college football team in the country.
OU-OSU Locker Room Report
Sooners Illustrated Top Stories
Sooner Intel: Chuck FiliagaIntel returns with an update on Chuck Filiaga, visiting OU this weekend.
Sooners Illustrated6:48 AM
Sooner Intel: Evan FieldsIntel returns with a look at Midwest City safety Evan Fields. Is the time now for OU?
Sooners Illustrated6:44 AM
Sooner Intel: OU & the WR searchWeek 2 of the OU search for legitimate wide receiver targets brings about some intriguing possibilities.
Sooners Illustrated6:38 AM
Setting the stage: OU vs. KUBanged up Sooners ready to take on Kansas this weekend.
Sooners Illustrated6:24 AM