OU-Texas Tech Locker Room Report

Bob Stoops, Mike Stoops, Brent Venables, Chuck Long, Jason White, Teddy Lehman and Tommie Harris recap OU's 56-25 win over Texas Tech and take a look ahead to the Big 12 Championship game against Kansas State. OU QB Jason White (pictured left) has thrown 18 touchdown passes and no interceptions in his three games.

LUBBOCK, Texas — Oklahoma had just finished off Texas Tech 56-25 and the Sooners were in a celebratory mood, and why not? The Sooners had just taken all that [b]Mike Leach's Red Raiders could offer and had just rung up a perfect 12-0 regular season. Nobody else in college football could go through the regular season unbeaten, and the Sooners knew they had just done something special.

However, just like every game before them the Sooners weren't celebrating, but holding something back. They were holding something back, because their job was not done. Most programs don't think like Bob Stoops' Sooners, and most programs don't look at the overall big picture. While 12-0 is a big accomplishment, that isn't what the Sooners are shooting for. The Sooners still have bigger dreams ahead and know that they still have the two biggest games of the season still to play.

That said, the Sooners still took what amounted to a victory lap around Jones field after the game as the Sooner team saluted the Sooner fans that have been tremendously behind them all year. The fans were throwing Mardi Gras beads to the players and many put them on. And as they ran up the tunnel they were around the necks of many of the top Sooners.

All-American Tommie Harris was one of the last players to leave the field on Saturday. It is obvious that Harris is leaving for the NFL as the end of as he is soaking in every waking moment of what is left of his career at Oklahoma. Harris looks around more at the game, looks into the crowd, watches the cheerleaders a little more and certainly talks to his teammates more during a game. There is no question that Harris is already thinking about life after Oklahoma, but he has not forgotten what possibilities remain this season.

"Hey Oklahoma, our jobs aren't done yet. Our jobs aren't done yet," Harris screamed as he sprinted up the ramp towards the Sooner locker room. "You guys take those beads off man, because it is not time yet to wear them. It is not time yet to wear them. We still have a job to do and we still have a game to win before we get to wear those beads. Take those things off, because now is not the time. Let's get the North and then wear those things around Kansas City."

This is what is great about this Sooner football team and it reminds me of the days in 2000 when that group of Sooners said the same thing. OU has a job to do and they will not be satisfied until the final deed is done, and that is to win a National Championship.

"At this point, if we don't win the National Championship then our season isn't a success," said senior quarterback Jason White. "Our bar is set pretty high, and now that we are in a position to win the National Championship anything else would have to be a disappointment. We control our own destiny and are one of a few teams in this position. At Oklahoma, this is all we play for really, and when we don't reach that goal then we are not a success. That doesn't mean our season wasn't good, but it wasn't a total success. At this point it is National Championship or bust I guess, because we have come to far to expect anything else."

***

The Sooners face Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship game, which isn't a surprise to many among the top-ranked Sooners. In fact, I reminded Co-Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables today that in our preseason interview for SuperTalk 930 WKY that he predicted that Kansas State would win the North.

"When Kansas State is healthy they are a very talented football team and one of the very best football teams in the country," said Venables as he worked on the Wildcats Sunday afternoon. "Ell Roberson and Darren Sproles are two the better offensive players in our league, if not the country, and they know what they want to do on offense and they do it better than anybody in the country right now. They are a very physical football team and they are very well-coached. Our players are going to get a few days off this week, but we as coaches will not. Both of us get some extra time to prepare, because we concluded our regular season this weekend. I can promise that Kansas State went right to work on us and they are working on us today. So, we won't let down either. We will take Thanksgiving off, but for the most part it is going to be business as usual for us as we come up with the best gameplan we can for Kansas State."

"I think Kansas State will come out of the North," said All-American senior linebacker Teddy Lehman after the game. "They are an excellent football team, and in my opinion one of the top teams in the country. Every time we have played them since I have been here it has been a very tough football game and it is always the same kind of game. They play physical football just like we do and they immediately come out of the locker room and try to hit you in the mouth. That is how we play so you have two teams that are trying very hard to inflict their will on their opponent, and that is not going to be any different in a couple of weeks."

What is interesting when Lehman was giving this assessment of Kansas State he had no idea who was going to win the game between the Wildcats and Missouri Tigers, which was playing that evening. However, Lehman was so confident that Kansas State was going to win that game that he just went ahead and gave his own personal scouting report on the Wildcats.

The fact the Sooners are playing Kansas State is no surprise to OU Head Coach Bob Stoops either.

"It is no secret that Kansas State is a great football team and one of the very best in the country," said Bob Stoops Sunday afternoon. "They are an excellent football team and I can't say at all that I am surprised. They came in as the favorite to win the North and they really showed the last six games why they were. They do an excellent job coaching and their guys play hard. They have a lot of athletes and will be another major challenge for us. We will have our work cut out for us."

***

Mike Stoops may be the next Head Football Coach at Arizona, but he never quit coaching the Sooners even after the game was over. I overheard Mike Stoops talking to one of his favorite players - Brandon Everage - right after Texas Tech had thrown for 230 yards passing and finished with 359 yards total offense.

"Man, when was the last time we played this bad," quizzed Mike Stoops as he and his prized safety were walking off the field. "We just didn't seem to do anything right. What do you think 'Book'? Heck, they had a couple of drives where they would still be going if they didn't reach the end zone. Man, we can play a lot better than that."

Before the game the big question wasn't whether the Sooners would win the game, but how well Texas Tech's offense would move the ball against the number one defense in the country? Tech did have some margin of success as the Red Raiders became the first team to score on the first possession against the Sooners this season when they kicked a 31-yard field goal with 9:29 left in the first quarter. However, the Sooners did come up with five interceptions in the game, four which led to OU touchdowns. And in reality, they held the Red Raider offense in check most of the game.

"Texas Tech is a very hard defense to hold in check with all the little things that they do that is a little out of the ordinary," said Venables after the game. "They are a very good football team and that is the best team that they have had our here without question. I think they do a great job on the perimeter and their offensive line and their run game in the best that it has been since Mike (Leach) has been at Texas Tech."

"They make you defend the entire field and that is the nature of their offense. They are good at doing it," Venables continued. "They are the best in the business at doing it, so they just stress you. What you have to limit is their big plays, but we had to be advantageous on offense and keep the ball away from their offense. We had to make them work the field and for the most part today that is exactly what happened."

In reality, it the was the Sooners who came up with the big plays against Texas Tech (five picks, four Jason White touchdown passes and 21 points in the last 2:45 of the first half), which is always a must against the Red Raiders.

"Yeah, those interceptions were everything," said Venables. "As frustrating as it was at times with their little zone play, little handoff sweep, little arc play on the perimeter and little quick play which got them four, five, six or seven yards a pop, you have to remember the big picture. Limiting the big play and limiting them and keeping them out of the end zone on a regular basis is always a key to beating Texas Tech. We were able to stop them when we really needed to. And again, our offense doing their job and punching it in when they needed to."

***

It was a great game for the OU safeties and Brodney Pool continued his rise to stardom with two interceptions and Everage came up with one.

"They played a tremendous football game," said Venables. "They never got beat behind them, their positioning was great, they tackled well and they had a bunch of plays supporting from the ally. They did a great job picking the football, reading the quarterback and their positioning was really solid."

"We have received great safety play all year, not just in this game," said Bob Stoops. "We have always had good safety play since we have been here and that has certainly continued with this bunch. Brandon has always been a quality safety for us, and when we recruited Brodney and Donte (Nicholson) we felt they would be quality safeties as well."

***

Out of all the interceptions, however, the best was by senior cornerback Derrick Strait, who raced out of the Sooner end zone dodging Red Raider after Red Raider only to run out of gas and get caught at the OU three-yard line. With a little help from his friends, Strait would have made it all the way into the end zone.

"It was one of those no, no, no, oh yes, yes, yes kind of returns that Derrick has done so often for us," said Venables after the game. "That is not the first time he has done that, but you wanted him to stay down in the end zone initially. We are going to have to talk to his teammates and see what is up. Right at the end of his run they are already doing their celebration touchdown dance and they let Derrick get caught. It is a lesson that we have to learn, because some game we may need that touchdown."

Strait has had some amazing returns during his star-studded career at OU. On most of them he likes to cut back across the field, but this time he couldn't get the angle. But this return will go down as one of his best, despite the fact that he admits that he just flat ran out of gas.

" I just try to get it and run with it and try to put the offense in the best field position that I can, or try to put it in the end zone," said Strait. "I tried to cut back, but one of their offensive lineman was in my way, so he made me stay back on that one side, but I tried to take it over there. I was just dead tired when I got down to our goal-line, because I ran so far at the beginning running side-to-side for an extra 40 or 50 yards. However, that happens and our offense did the rest."

Those blocking for Strait realized that they would hear about this return on Monday.

"Oh man, we blew that one," said senior captain Teddy Lehman. "I can't believe he didn't score, and I can't believe we didn't let him walk into the zone. We just lost our focus or concentration or something, because we had about five of our guys all around him and they only had a couple trying to catch him and we let them catch him. That is pretty stupid and a terrible play on our part. I don't look forward to hearing from our coaches for that dumb play on Monday."

***

Just like Mike Stoops, Lehman wasn't happy with the Sooners defensive effort against Texas Tech.

"We gave up way too much, just way too much," said Lehman. "We gave up too much yardage and too many points. They are a hard team to get into a groove with, but we just missed on so many tough plays and we didn't get enough pressure on their quarterback. We did a great job in the secondary and came up with some picks. I am glad we did because that saved us today."

Lehman didn't get one of the Sooners five picks, but he did get his hands on two of the interceptions.

"Man, I have no hands anymore," said a smiling Lehman after the game. "I can get my hands on them, but I can't hold onto the ball and they go right through my hands. Fortunately, my teammates always seem to be around to catch the balls that I miss."

***

There was also a Lance Donley sighting on Saturday. The senior from Weatherford, or any tight end for that matter, had not caught a pass since the Missouri game on October 18. Donley finished with three catches for 50 yards and had one fantastic run that set up a Sooner touchdown.

"It felt good to finally get the rock another time," said Donley after the game. "I had all kinds of energy stored up because I had not caught the ball in some time. Hey, I am just glad I got open and they threw me the football."

"What we did was let all the teams forget that we actually could throw to the tight ends and then surprised them today," said Bob Stoops after the game. "No, actually we always throw to whatever receiver is open and we have been doing so well with our wide receivers that we haven't used our tight ends as much, but today we showed you that they are still very much apart of our offense."

***

Once again ESPN seems to be back on their anti-OU campaign. Mark May rated White third in his Heisman voting behind Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald and Michigan running back Chris Perry on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Perry wasn't in May's or anybody's top three just a couple of weeks ago, but after a big day rushing in the Wolverines victory over Ohio State, May has put him ahead of White. Of course, May is a little biased in his thinking as he graduated from Pittsburgh and is an East Coast guy, but that doesn't stop ESPN from calling his bluff.

White drops in the polls despite the fact that he had another banner day going 22-of-32 for 394 yards and four touchdown passes. For the season White has 40 touchdown passes against only six interceptions, yet some feel he is no better than third in their Heisman ballots.

"Probably a major factor that his helping Larry Fitzgerald is ESPN's campaign. Doesn't ESPN broadcast Big East games?" asked Bob Stoops on Sunday. "You guys tell me, but I heard that they did. Well, that would only help the ratings and I am assuming that for some channels that is all that matters to them. However, I am confident enough that people will want to look at numbers, productions and wins and Jason White sticks out above everybody."

"He is the best player in the country. Lets analyze it next to Carson Palmer, who just one year won the Heisman Trophy last season," Bob Stoops continued. "Carson Palmer had 33 touchdown passes to 10 interceptions and Jason White has 40 TD passes to six interceptions. In fact, the pass efficiency record by Shawn King was in a year that he had 36 TDs and six interceptions and Jason has even passed that. There is no question that he is best player in the country, but again it all depends what stations have campaigns for certain individuals, and it is hard to combat that. People will look at the overall production — touchdowns and efficiency along with wins will matter more."

What is ironic about ESPN's stance is that Coach Stoops is featured regularly on the all-sports network and OU is one of their feature teams, but still they certainly seem to be trying to turn the voting away from White.

"I don't agree with it, but ESPN doesn't care what I think," said Bob Stoops. "What are they after, they are after ratings? I am sure that people understand that."

***

The Sooners' offense showed what it was made of when Texas Tech rallied to close the gap to 42-25 a minute into the fourth quarter. The Sooners responded by driving 80 yards in 13 plays that consumed 7 1/2 minutes.

"We needed that drive and we made some good adjustments in our run game at halftime," Offensive Coordinator Chuck Long after the game. "We worked a couple of different motions and shifts out of it and it worked. We wanted to get them off balance a little bit and it was really a minor adjustment that helped us out in the second half. After they got within 17-points we knew we needed a long drive here and our guys accepted the challenge, which they have done all year. We went on a nice long drive and put the game away."

The Sooners finally broke KeJuan Jones free on a 77-yard screen pass for their final score.

"We just kept plugging away with KeJuan and then we made a couple of adjustments, even in that play at halftime that got him open," said Long. "They really loaded the box against us in the first half. They brought zero blitz, which is bringing everybody after us trying to get pressure and they left our guys one-on-one. We competed well and finally broke KeJuan on the screen pass."

***

The players said they didn't let Mike Stoops' job possibilities effect their play, but the fact that he may soon be leaving the program wasn't far from their minds.

"Mike is a great leader, determined and has great intensity," said Coach Venables when asked to describe Coach Mike. "He is a great coach and a good man. There is no question that he is ready to be a head coach if he is given that opportunity."

The players were told late last week that Mike Stoops was a serious candidate for the head coaching job at Arizona, but to a man they said it didn't effect their play against Texas Tech.

"Coach Mike has taught me everything about playing cornerback and about being a man," said Strait after the game. "I didn't know anything about playing corner when I came to OU, but he trusted me early and gave me a lot of confidence. He is a great coach, who is always motivating us. If he became a head coach he would do that for the whole team. I thought about the fact it could be my last time to play for Coach Mike during this game and I got a little emotional, but he wouldn't let me stay that way for long."

"We know what is going on with Coach Mike," said Pool. "He is a great coach and we know at some point he is going to be a head coach. If that happens, then I will be glad to just learn what I have from him for the past couple of years. I was a little baby when I came to OU and he has helped me become a man. I will always be grateful to him. Right now Coach Mike is here and he is with us and while he is we are going to get the best from him."

Mike Stoops was in Southern California Sunday night going through his second interview for the Arizona post. Stoops is still considered the leading candidate for the job.

***

Junior linebacker Gayron Allen got his bell rung against Texas Tech, but was deemed healthy on Sunday.

***

Finally, a special thanks to all of you who came out to our remote site in Lubbock at Bleachers Sports Bar and Pub. It was a great place as Sooner fans took over and rocked until late in the night. It was great that a few Sooner coaches stopped by to say hello and the OU Pom and Cheerleader group was a great touch as well.

One thing that all of us fellows have to admit about Tech and that is the ladies of Texas Tech are beautiful and very friendly. So, it was a great trip, lots of fun and again thanks for supporting SuperTalk 930 WKY in Lubbock.

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories