Road Warrior: Sooners roll as expected

Week one of the Road Warrior's chronicle of the 2004 season.

Kind of a weird thing for me, writing this column in the comfort of a Sunday afternoon. I'm used to cranking these puppies out in the wee hours of a Saturday night/Sunday morning. I've written this column in rental cars and hotel rooms, on airplanes and at post-game tailgates. I can't count the number of times I've fallen asleep with my head on the keyboard after struggling to get out 1,000 or so coherent words, only to awaken an hour before a 7 a.m. deadline to discover that 250 of them were incoherent gibberish.

So, for me, the best thing about this whole new setup with Sooners Illustrated is that I don't have to kill myself to get this thing written before 7 a.m. Sunday morning every week. Now, it remains to be seen whether the quality of the final product is better or worse because of the more comfortable time frame in which it will now be produced.

But enough about me and my newfound license to go to bed early on Saturday nights. After all, the season is now underway. Although it didn't seem like it before the Bowling Green game, it now seems like just yesterday I trudged disappointedly out of the Louisiana Superdome after the Sugar Bowl. That disappointment seems a long ways away now, in the optimistic light of a new season and the certain realization, after watching the pathetic mess that was LSU against Oregon State, that it will be another 50 years before the Bengal Tigers and their piglike fans will taste any part of another national title.

Anticipation was high coming in, and I was up at 5:30 in the morning to get to the tailgate and get breakfast started. I should have known we were in trouble when it took us two trips on Friday afternoon/evening to get all the food and stuff down there.

Here's a tip for all you tailgaters out there – don't try to do two different ones in the same day. We had the bright idea of cooking breakfast before the Bowling Green game and lunch afterwards. Maybe it was the excitement of the season opener, maybe it was pure hubris, and maybe it was sheer stupidity. Nobody knows for sure. Had we had any good sense, we would have realized that it's hard enough to cook one meal for about 60 people using portable equipment, let alone two.

Don't get me wrong – the party was a huge success, as always. However, it was a lot of work, mostly for my wife, who never goes into the games and this time didn't even get to sit down and watch it on TV. Kinda takes a lot of the fun out of it when it becomes more like work.

When I walked into the stadium and caught a load of the Bowling Green team, I could have sworn that we were playing UTEP again. Their uniforms are exactly the same. I hate orange in any form, but this was that bright orange, which is among the worst, behind only puke orange and that nasty neon orange that Tennessee wears. And in case you didn't get to see it close up, the falcon head on their helmets was brown. Yes, their colors were apparently orange and brown. Of course, it still beats Wyoming's brown and yellow duds. There are a plethora of scatological jokes to be made there, but I'll leave that to your imagination.

A couple of notes on things you may not have seen or noticed – first, the Pride has changed their famous OU formation. It never used to have the top part of the left side of the U on it – it actually looked more like an OJ than an OU. This year, however, they changed the formation and now it looks like a proper interlocking OU logo. And there was a guy driving around campus in a boat. Not a boat on a trailer, just a boat. With wheels. He drove by our tailgate on Jenkins both before and after the game. Strange.

The new design on the press box gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from here. The lettering on the face of the box with the national titles and such is far classier looking than those old banners that were up on the side towers. The new pregame video, however, not so much. Maybe its because we got spoiled by the very cool James Garner-narrated opening clips from the 2000 season and the "This Ball" videos from last year, but this new one just wasn't up to snuff. It didn't get the crowd fired up like those other ones, and it just wasn't as cool.

Just like the day itself. Oh, to be sure, it was a glorious day for a season opener, but I could have done without the searing heat. It wasn't 106 degrees, but it wasn't very comfortable. I kind of figured it would be a bit more tolerable after it was 75 degrees every day for a good chunk of August.

As for the game itself, it went about like I expected. I thought we'd win about 45-17 or something like that, in a game that was fairly tight early. Bowling Green is a good ballclub, and certainly better than about half of the Big XII, I'd estimate. They'd blow Texas A&M off the field, but that's not really such a great accomplishment these days. After the Sooners went up 37-10, the wind kind of went out of the place, and the defense appeared to lose interest and gave up a long TD drive. A quick pick for a TD, and all of a sudden the Falcons thought they were back in the game.

It wasn't true, of course, as the Sooners were dominant on the line of scrimmage all day, and used that dominance to grind almost nine minutes off the fourth-quarter clock and kick a final field goal. It was one of those games where you never really thought there was a possibility the Sooners could be seriously challenged, but you knew the opponent wasn't going to quit. All in all, it was a much better opener than taking on some uber-patsy who isn't going to give you any idea of where you are and where you need to improve.

That doesn't figure to be the case next week when Houston comes to town. The Cougars were held to only 212 yards of offense and eight yards rushing in losing 10-7 to Rice (yes, Rice) today. On top of that, they had a 99-yard drive in the final minutes of the game that accounted for their only points. Before that, they were only able to muster 113 yards. Against Rice. It's gonna be a looong evening for the Cougs next Saturday night. The good thing for you out-of-staters is that TBS won't have another game to switch to, so you'll get to see the rout in its entirety.

Oh, and a final tip for those of you (you know who you are) who ended up looking like crimson and cream raccoons after the sizzling sun baked your flesh yesterday – get some of that aloe vera gel with the built-in pain relief drugs. It works wonders, at least on a temporary basis. See you next Saturday night in Norman.

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The Road Warrior is your typical OU fan in the stands, with one notable exception. He's been in the stands for every Sooner football game, home and away, for 155 consecutive games, dating back to October 12, 1991. His views appear in each issue of Sooners Illustrated.

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