For Oklahoma, beating Texas Tech 30-13 was a very satisfying win. The Sooners heard all the talk about Red Raiders being red-hot. They also heard the skeptics who predicted that the Red Raiders would upset the Sooners.
However, this is a totally different Oklahoma team that went to Lubbock, Texas this time around than the one that went to Texas Tech two years ago and lost. In Stoops first year, the Sooners were just learning how to win and they were still trying to find their way. Now, the Sooners are the best at finding ways to win football games and they enter each game with such tremendous confidence, that they feel anybody that picks against them has to be totally off his rocker.
Plus, the Sooners love beating Texas Tech Head Coach Mike Leach. The Sooner coaches still like Leach a great deal, but they still realize that Mike is so confident that he becomes cocky and that gets at the Sooner staff sometimes.
OU was very confident going into the game. They knew that Tech runs many of the same schemes that the Sooners run on both sides of the ball. The way the OU coaches figured it, nobody runs them better than they do so why worry? OU had better players and OU had better schemes on both sides of the ball.
The Sooner defense was dominant throughout the game and once again Roy Williams and Rocky Calmus played as if they were too good to be true. Williams finished with 12 tackles and Calmus 10, and both had total control of the game.
No doubting Nate
To this reporter, the offense struggled in the first half, however the Sooner coaches gave Texas Tech credit.
"I am proud that our offense had the confidence to fight through some bad plays," said Head Coach Bob Stoops. "In the first half we would have liked to have a few more plays, but then to come back and move the ball as well as we did shows a lot of character and a lot of toughness, in particular with Nate (Hybl). Not many people understand that it isn't easy to play that position (quarterback). It's a difficult position the way teams defend anymore. You are going to have some bad plays, but stick with it and stay tough and you are going to get your plays. He eventually did with the big throw at the end. He gets hit right as he throws it and hits Mark (Clayton) for the touchdown. Nate stuck with it and was really tough. Nate had a good game."
Hybl finished 33 of 50 for three touchdowns and two interceptions. Not bad for a guy who everybody was mad at in the first half.
"Your quarterback needs to be tough for four quarters and not just be tough when things are going good," said Stoops. "Even when things are a little bit tough on him, Nate doesn't get down on himself. He keeps competing. In the end, he makes plays to help us. His touchdown in the fourth quarter is a perfect example of that. A guy that gets discouraged or down on himself would not have been able to hit that pass in the fourth quarter. I think people think too much of the time that it is easy to set back in that pocket and just deal the ball. We are playing in a pretty good league and it's not easy. I think Nate is doing a great job."
While those in the media and fans doubt that Hybl can lead the Sooners to the promised land, that isn't the case with his football team. Now, before you say, ‘well, they are his teammates what are they suppose to say', let me point out that I have been around to many football teams to count, and you can tell when they don't have confidence in the man under center.
From this reporters standpoint, I have no doubt that this football team is totally behind Hybl.
"There is no question that he is the guy that can lead us to a national championship," said All-American strong safety Roy Williams. "Hey, I have faced him in practice every day for the last couple of years and he is a great quarterback. So he makes a mistake every once in a while, so do I. I know people don't see it as much, because I don't play quarterback. If you notice he recovers and makes great plays either on the next play or later in the game. Bottom line is that Nate plays well enough to win every game and he is tough. He takes a tremendous pounding, yet he gets up after each play and gets right back in the huddle. He is a great leader and always is saying something positive. Believe me, Nate can lead us to a championship and I have no doubts about that."
As you know I have always been a positive thinker when it comes to Hybl. However, I also get frustrated in the first half, but where I am different than many is that I always believe that he will figure it out and deliver on the money on his next pass.
So, if Roy Williams can believe in Hybl can't we all believe in Hybl?
One man wrecking crew
Speaking of Williams, he was the single biggest forces in front of the Red Raiders on Saturday. Williams finished with 12 tackles, knocked down two passes and had one sack. He would have had an interception if it weren't for the aggressive play of Brandon Shelby.
Williams had batted his second pass up in the air and had positioned it such that it was going to fall right in his arms. However, Shelby in his enthusiasm, reached down for the ball and before it got to Williams, botched it for both of them.
Williams gave Shelby an ear full as they headed off the field and when you are playing next to greatness, you have to realize that it's tough to measure up.
"Well, I liked Shelby's effort, but he needs to make the play," said Co-defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. "Roy has made a brilliant play and is in perfect position to finish it off and Shelby reaches down around his knees and tries to catch it. He needs to realize what is going on in that situation and notice that Roy has the play made. If he is going to get involved he needs to catch the ball and make a play."
Man, that's tough. However, you have to realize that we are watching quite possibly the greatest defender ever to wear a Sooner football uniform. Yes, better than LeRoy Selmon, Rod Shoate, Brian Bosworth, Randy Hughes, Tony Casillas or Jerry Tubbs.
The Great 38
Wow, we are watching the greatest single player to ever play defense at Oklahoma!
"We see Roy make great plays like he did Saturday, about every time we scrimmage them or practice," said Bob Stoops. "The plays that he makes, we see them and still shake our head in disbelief. Roy has so many plays that are so exceptional that you realize you may not see a player like him again."
"For instance, on his second deflection Roy isn't content to just deflect the ball," Stoops continued. "He deflected it in a way that he is going to get it. That wasn't the first time. Remember early in the game he deflected one to Kory Klein and he is also was set to do it himself until we break it up from him. That's the poise and the talent that he has. I have never been around another player that has his ability in both."
Is Williams a Heisman candidate?
Williams great play continues to bring up the question, 'Why isn't Williams a candidate for the Heisman Trophy?' Good question!
None of offensive guys are really dominating. Miami's Ken Dorsey and Florida's Rex Grossman appear to have the best shot. Fresno State quarterback David Carr and BYU's Brandon Doman are also in the hunt. Do any of these guys excite you? Do any of them dominate a game more than Williams?
I know he is on the defensive side of the ball and only Charles Woodson has won the trophy from a defensive position. Woodson had to go also play a little wide receiver and return all kicks to impress the voters enough to forget that his main position was defensive cornerback. However, Williams also dominates on special teams and he has also found the end zone this year from his strong safety spot.
With the way the game is played today a defensive player would seem to have as good a chance to win the trophy just as his offensive counterpart.
"It would, because nobody else has come out and taken control of it," said Stoops. "Look at what Roy does for this team that continues to compete and have a chance at a National Championship. The difference he makes and the way he dominates a game... I thought he showed that again this Saturday. If you think about it he goes up against Chris Simms (Texas) and throughout the game has better stats than him. Simms was getting Heisman hype. Mike Leach likes to claim that his quarterback Kliff Kingsbury should deserve it, but look at the difference Roy Williams makes in that game compared to the difference he made in the game. I believe that Roy's statistics badly outweigh anything that they did."
"The points that are created through field position, turnovers and the plays he makes certainly turn into an offensive weapon for us," Stoops continued. "I think, because of the overall greatness of his game and the way that we are winning, that you can make a strong case for him."
One more year?
The question on Williams is whether or not he will return for his senior season. Williams figures to be a top 10 to 15 pick in the upcoming NFL draft and that means a three to four million-dollar contract. Still, the question of whether Williams returns or not is still very much up in the air.
"That is something that Roy, his family and us will sit down and discuss at the end of the year," said Mike Stoops. "It's really not an issue for Roy and for us right now. Roy is totally focused on winning a national championship and he has never even brought up the NFL draft. When the season is over we will sit down and gather all the information that is available. We will be able to talk to officials in the pros that can give us a realistic idea of where is projected in the draft and what kind of money that would mean. Roy has a lot of friends and he loves college life. He has a good time playing college football. However, Roy is going to make the best decision for him and his family and we will help him make that decision any way that we can."
Stuffing the spread
The spread offense is designed to offset the defensive pass rush. Three-step drops and quick throws usually will neutralize any defensive rush. Unless it's Oklahoma's.
Against Texas Tech the Sooner defense put all kinds of pressure on Kingsbury. The Sooners sacked him three times and batted down eight passes.
Williams had the most spectacular pass rushes, but Teddy Lehman and Bary Holleyman also recorded sacks. Jimmy Wilkerson and Cory Heinecke were super off the edge and the in the middle the Sooners super frosh (Tommie Harris) was playing havoc with the middle of the Red Raiders offensive line.
"Sometimes you don't realize that the d-line is doing much and then you go back and look at tape and realize somebody is playing really well," said Bob Stoops.
"Tommie Harris had an outstanding game. He had constant pressure on the quarterback making him move out the pocket. Tommie had great pressure all day and even if he didn't make a sack, he was usually pushing the guy to somebody making a sack. He had just an incredible performance.
If Harris sticks around for four years he will have a great opportunity to be the Sooners first four-time consensus All-American.
The Texas Longhorns are becoming a joke. Sure they are a good football team and a good program, but their obsession with OU is becoming the laughing stock of college football.
Six current Longhorns, led by screwed over backup quarterback Major Applewhite, drove seven-and-a-half hours hoping for a Sooner upset. They sat near midfield on the first row and rooted for their kin from West Texas.
If the Sooners didn't know that the entire state of Texas was against them, they did now!
Of course they left Jones SBC Stadium unhappy and to a course of catcalls and boos from Sooner fans as Oklahoma pulled away from the Red Raiders in the second half.
The episode is something out of Saturday Night Live and Oklahoma couldn't figure out what the Longhorns were trying to accomplish attending the game.
"Texas does more things that kind of make you chuckle," said Bob Stoops immediately after the game. "Why would they come to this game? There appearance doesn't motivate the Tech players, I wouldn't think. That is sort of like the little kid in the neighborhood that gets beat up by the big bully. Then he goes and gets his big brother to cheer him on while he is fighting the bully. The way we look at it is that those Texas players are not going to make a difference in this game. Bottom line ...we are playing tough and that is all we are concerned about."
Who would have ever thought, that big, bad Texas with all their money and all their grand alums would resort to following Oklahoma all around in their effort to be as good?
Sooner great passes away
The passing of the great Billy Vessels hit all that have been apart of Sooner football hard. Vessels was the grand ambassador of Sooner football and one of the most loyal Sooners ever. Sooners loved him from coast-to-coast and his love for Oklahoma was equally returned.
Vessels was the Sooners first Heisman Trophy winner in 1952 after rushing for 1,072 yards and scoring 108 points.
Noted for his great speed, Vessels was known as the Cleveland Comet, because he could run a 9.4 100-meter and he grew up in tiny Cleveland, Oklahoma.
"I am always recognized for my football ability, but I will let you on a little secret, I would have gone to OU even if I wasn't an athlete," said Vessels in an interview in 1987.
"Oklahoma provided me with an education that is taking me further than anything I did on the football field. I had the privilege of playing for the greatest coach in college football history in Bud Wilkinson, and he laid a foundation of success into me that I will never forget. We played hard, played with poise and played with a fundamental soundness. Playing at Oklahoma, making the friendships with my teammates is truly the greatest experience of my life."
Vessels had been suffering from a lengthy illness. He had been battling prostate, heart and lung problems. Despite living in Miami, Vessels was too ill to attend the Sooners Orange Bowl victory over Florida State. However, the next day Co-Defensive Coordinator Mike Stoops took a game tape to Vessels home where they watched the game tape.
"It was the first time I ever met him and it was such a wonderful day," said Mike Stoops. "It was a great evening for me and one that I will always remember. It was very soothing and very relaxing. I felt very comfortable around him. He was such a likable person and I could see his personality. He was a guys, guy. Billy was very easy to speak to and I enjoyed his company."
"It is really sad for Coach Vessels family and all of his friends," said Bob Stoops. "He was a good friend to all of us and we always enjoyed seeing him. Our prayers will be with his family. In Sooner Country, we will always have a place for Billy, that is for sure."
Vessels was the first of three to win the Heisman Trophy. Steve Owens followed in 1969 and Billy Sims in 1978.
"I think Billy Vessels was the greatest running back to ever play at Oklahoma," said Owens. "Now, he would tell you that he wasn't even the best player on his own team, but that was just how humble he was. Billy had tremendous speed, was a tough inside runner and had the ability to make defenders miss. However, Billy was a better person than a football player.
He was a consistent ambassador for the University of Oklahoma and would do anything for a former teammate, the football program or for his family. The biggest complement given to me coming out of high school was that someone compared me to Billy. He was truly one of the great Sooners of all time and will be surly missed."
Basketball recruiting update
One final note, Stroud's 6'9 power forward Kevin Bookout will sign with the Sooners sometime this week. My guess is it will be Tuesday or Wednesday.
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