OU-Houston Locker Room Report

Bob Stoops, Chuck Long, Kevin Wilson, Brent Venables, Bobby Jack Wright, Jason White, Adrian Peterson, Mark Clayton, Mark Bradley, Dusty Dvoracek and Larry Birdine talk recap the Sooners 63-13 win over Houston. Pictured left: Junior defensive back Brodney Pool. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

NORMAN — While most of college football goes through a parity crises, the Oklahoma Sooners look like real National Title contenders. For the second straight week, the Sooners played an out-manned opponent and did what was expected of them, and that was roll to a decisive victory.

When the Sooners finished off Houston 63-13 the Sooners didn't do any wild celebrations in the locker room or dance on the Owen Field. Instead, the Sooners knew immediately that they were one step closer to reaching their ultimate goal.

"These are the kind of games for us where so much is expected of us that if we even win by 28 points, nationally we would be considered a failure," said senior defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek following the game. "At this point, we need to just play our game and do what we can do. If we do that, then we are going to get to where we want to go. Tonight, we played a very solid football game and took care of business, so our goals are intact. That is the best thing that happened in our game tonight, outside of the fact that besides that opening drive we played some pretty good defense."

"Houston played us very tough and got after us pretty well, but I am very happy how we responded in the game," said senior quarterback Jason White following the game. "We got behind early and came right back and scored. We never go into a game considering how good or bad a team is. We work hard for every opponent that we are playing. I am not saying that we don't realize that some games or more important to us than others, but we don't work on those teams any more than we work on teams that aren't big rivalries or conference championship games. We do have big goals and every time we win we get closer to those goals, so we can never let down. Vut we know the other teams are going to play hard against us."

Even the young guys understand that you have to beat the Houston's of the world just like you have to beat the University of Texas.

"Every game we play is important to us. We can never let down in a game because you can just look at some of the scores across the country and see that any team can be beaten in any game," said freshman running back Adrian Peterson following the game. "Our coaches always tell us that the only important game is the one we are getting ready for, and I think we did that tonight. We were fired up and played hard."

So, while many of the nation's top 10 teams are already struggling this year, Oklahoma is doing what it is supposed to be doing, and that is winning football games.

"I felt very pleased with it all for the most part from top to bottom," said OU Head Football Coach Bob Stoops following the game. "The way the guys executed and played was very pleasing. Defensively, outside of the opening play when we had a busted assignment, for the rest of the game they were solid and we played well. Offensively, I felt the same thing as I like the balance between the run and the pass."

Coach Stoops also found a number of individuals that played well last night.

"Jason was outstanding again.I always caution people to not take him for granted," Stoops continued. "You look around the country and you watch other people play and pay attention and you find out he is pretty special. That is a major understatement as Jason was exceptional again today. He showed everybody again that has improved mobility and his accuracy is incredible. Again, Mark Clayton makes big play after big play. It is fun to see the young tailbacks get in there and make such a strong impact. Adrian just keeps coming on and D.J. (Wolfe) has really done well also. When he was in there he made some nice runs and is strong as well. So, that was a positive for us again. Antonio had another big return and is such a big weapon. It was a solid performance overall."

***

White was outstanding hitting 14-of-18 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns, and for the first time in a while he almost snuck into the interview room. Could it be that despite Coach Stoops' consistent warnings, the media is beginning to take White for granted? He has another brilliant night and he practically sits by himself in the media room? Knowing White as I do, he doesn't give a hill of beans whether anybody notices him or not. But considering who he is, Mr. White should command his own press conference.

White was great in the passing game once again, but for the second straight week everybody wanted to talk about his new-found wheels. White no longer wears braces and he looks like a kid in a candy store. White acts as if he is looking for opportunities where he can run and he is throwing well on the run. White showed off his as he scrambled out of several tough situations to avoid sacks, and he proved that he is equally adept at throwing on the run as from the pocket.

"I have always felt that I was pretty good throwing on the run," said White. "Last year we all forgot about that because I never took much of a chance to throw on the run. I tried to stay in the pocket all the time. That was one of the reasons why I put in all that work this summer because I wanted to bring back some of things to my game that I like to do and that can help our offense. There are going to be times that I am going to get flushed out of the pocket, and when those times occur I need to be able to still make plays."

Could White's running ability mean some additional offense for the Sooners?

"Jason's ability to run and move around in the pockets has done a number of good things for our offense," said Offensive Coordinator Chuck Long. "He is able to buy time by scrambling, and with the addition of bootlegs we are able to put more offense in this year. We still want to keep him healthy, so we have to pay attention to that. Down the road will there be some quarterback draws, you never know. That is something that may happen and it may happen quicker than you think. The big thing is rollouts, bootlegs and the ability to scramble and buy a little bit more time will help us out. It has already helped him out as well as our offense. Last night we had three to four scrambles that resulted in big plays. I think we probably had close to 100-yards or more based off of his scrambles alone."

Now that White is scrambling around, that means the rest of the team has to understand how to react when he is on the move. Back when White was a young buck the Sooners used to work on scramble drills and now those drills are back in the Sooner practices.

"We do practice the scramble drill every week so that the offensive linemen are prepared and our wide receivers," said Coach Long. "There is a point and time during the game or season when you have to scramble and make a play with his legs, getting a first down with your legs. However, the aim of the rollouts and bootlegs is to give another way to take the edge off of the defensive pass rush. You do it with the run game and the draw play, but the rollouts and bootlegs are ways to take that edge off that pass rush to. It not only helps our quarterback, but our offensive line as well."

The Sooners have a talented and experienced wide receiver core who also has to make adjustments for Mr. White's scrambling ability.

"Jason's ability to scramble is definitely becoming an asset for us," said All-American senior wide receiver Mark Clayton following the game. "Jason's running ability is helping us tremendously. By him moving it gives us a chance to get open, and I know Jason, with his accuracy and arm, is going to find us. That was just what we were able to do tonight. When he is moving we stay on the move. We do a scrambling drill each practice and everybody is on the same page about what to do. We practice it enough that when he has to scramble in the game all of us feel like we have experience as to what to do."

Clayton is so incredible that it is easy to marvel at his abilities, but he is also so humble as well that he marvels at the abilities of his good friend and quarterback.

"Jason throws a great ball on the run," said Clayton. "Sometimes I am not sure if he doesn't throw a better ball on the run than from the pocket, and we all know how good he is throwing from the pocket. Jason has worked incredibly hard, harder than I have every seen an athlete here at OU work. I am not surprised that he has improved as an athlete this year, and I can guarantee you that he will improve next year for whoever he is playing for in the NFL. Jason is a driven person and he is a great teammate. He is always working to make himself better because he knows that makes us better."

***

Speaking of Clayton, he was his typical superstar self coming down with five catches for 122 yards, with most of his yardage coming when he made adjustments to White's scrambles. The Sooners finished with 583 yards total offense, but Clayton says they can still do better.

"This was a good game for us," said Clayton. "After last week with the turnovers, the big thing coming in was that we didn't want to turn over the ball. We accomplished that and we were just as efficient in the running game as well as the passing game. We played pretty good."

Clayton was spectacular last season when he caught 83 passes for 1,425, which were both single-season records for the Sooners last year. But he has even better this year.

"Mark has improved in a lot of ways," said OU wide receiver coach Darrell Wyatt. "Mark worked very hard in the summer on his pass routes and just learning his craft," said Wyatt. "Mark is a great athlete, and when you combine that with his work ethic then you realize what kind of great player that he is. He has the best hands in college football and nobody is better at running after the catch. Nobody ever talks about his blocking ability. He is one our best down field blockers. Throw on top of all that his great leadership ability, and you have one of the very best players in the country."

***

White wasn't the only quarterback story on Saturday. For the first time we had a chance to see redshirt freshman Tommy Grady in action. Poised beyond his years the, 6-foot-6 Huntington Beach, Calif. native was a cool 8-of-9 for 50 yards and one touchdown.

"I thought he looked very good," said Stoops. "He was very poised and threw the ball very well and very accurately. He handled situations real well, as well as the huddle. I was very pleased."

Grady is man of few words, but as far as we could tell he was happy with his performance against Houston.

"It was great to get into a game and play well," said Grady. "I have a lot of things I can work on, but it was fun being the game."

OK, that was about it from Tommy, and that is OK with me. Tommy does his talking down on the field and he looked like a great young quarterback.

We all have our favorites who be the starting quarterback next year, but right now it is too close to call. You can go with experience and a great athlete in Paul Thompson, who has the confidence of his teammates and brings the added dimension of the run game with him. Or you can go with Tommy and get the kind of play you watched yesterday. Or you can go with Rhett Bomar, who is the most complete quarterback of the bunch, and who also has already won over his teammates. It's going to be fun to watch the quarterback battle next year.

***

OU played the offensive game against Houston close to the vest, except they unveiled the double wide receiver reverse that Mark Bradley took to the house. Of course, the double wide receiver reverse is nothing new to the OU offense, but they could have kept it under wraps until later in the season against more competitive competition. So, why did the Sooners run the trick play?

"The big picture of that was that Houston was a team that over-pursues hard and that is the reason we put it in this week," said Coach Long. "It was off a play that we used last week against Bowling Green, so we showed the same formation, same motion, same handoff and then here comes the reverse. Then in the bigger picture other teams have to prepare for it now. They have to spend time in practice preparing for the reverse, which takes up time. So, that is the bigger picture. Now, there are some that you save until the right time and then there are others that you don't mind bringing out so that our opponents have to work on them. This is tough to explain, but we show some and we don't show some all to set up some big plays down the road."

Bradley has been such a special talent for the Sooners that his brief time on the field has created some big moments. Bradley is unique in that he has scored the first time he has touched the ball at OU on a kickoff return, pass reception and now a run. Knowing that you would think the Sooner coaching staff would be coming up with every way possible to get him the ball.

"Kenny Mossman (OU SID) gave me that stat and then told me that we should get him the ball more," Long said laughing. "Mark is fun to watch and fun to game plan for. He has great speed and he excellent athletic ability. It is fun to find ways to get him the ball, and he has fun with it. He gives us endless energy after he makes a play like that, and guys on the sideline have a good time with him."

It is obvious that Bradley is a special talent and that fact alone makes his career an amazing one. Coming out of Pine Bluff High School in Arkansas, Bradley wasn't offered by the University of Arkansas. And in fact, he did not receive one D-1 scholarship offer. Bradley signed with Arkansas Pine-Bluff where he started for a year and a half before suffering a torn ACL.

Bradley then decided to chase his dream and play football at OU. With his father, former Sooner starting quarterback Danny Bradley behind him and footing the bill, Bradley started out at cornerback before switching to wide receiver during fall camp in 2003. Knee surgery following the 2003 season stalled his progress at wide receiver as Bradley couldn't go through spring or the majority of summer conditioning. Now, he is back at full speed and trying to make up for lost time.

"I never look back and say that I made this mistake or that mistake," said Bradley. "My dad said that doesn't do us any good, that you have to do the best you can do and the most intelligent thing you can do and then do it with the best of your ability. I didn't get offers out of high school. And yes, I couldn't believe it when Arkansas didn't offer me. You would think they would offer me just as an athlete because I set the state record in the high jump and won the decathlon in the state meet. You would think just on athletic ability alone that they would scholarship me, but I was a pretty good football player as well. Wverything works out for the best because I have had nothing but good times here at OU and I love what I am doing. If I keep working hard good things are going to happen for me."

Bradley is going to make big plays all year and he knows the reverse is something that was going to have big success.

"We practiced it throughout the week," said Bradley after the game. "It was wide open, the offensive line did there job and I just did my job, which was run from them. I give all the credit to the o-line."

***

Not only is Bradley valuable to the wide receiver core for the Sooners, but he is also the holder on field goals and extra points and one of the better all-around special team players on the team.

"Mark means a great deal to this football tea, because he is on just about every special team we have," says OU defensive end coach and special team coordinator Bobby Jack Wright. "He is a great gunner running down on punt coverage and on our punt returns. He is very physical and he can block the daylights out of you. I am sure 'Perk' (Antonio Perkins) thinks that Mark is his best friend."

That was never more evident that on Perks' record tying eight punt return for a score against Houston. While Perkins used several moves to move 20 yards, he was escorted the final 20 yards by Bradley, who blocked the last defender all the way though the sideline.

"Yeah, I need to give Mark all kinds of credit for that block," said Perkins following the game. "I think Mark is still blocking that guy and he still isn't going to get near me. I have a great punt return unit and they take pride in getting me into the end zone. I feel bad when I don't score or don't come up with a big return. Mark is one of the best I have ever seen blocking in the open field, and that includes when he is on offense. He is one of the better down field blockers for our running backs and he is certainly one of the best blockers on the punt return."

Throwing that block meant as much to Bradley as scoring that touchdown.

"There are a number of things that go into winning a football game. It is not just scoring touchdowns," said a smiling Bradley. "I know you have to score to win, but not all of us can carry the football. When I don't have it in my hands, what can I do to help us score touchdowns? When you play my position the only other way you can help is to block and either block or make tackles on special teams and I have fun doing all of those things. I love it when I can make a block helping Perk get into the end zone. I really don't think he needed it, but I threw it for him anyway."

Perkins is now going to go down as one of the best punt returners in college football history, but he is not ready to accept that distinction.

"I don't worry about those accolades, " said Perkins. "I just worry about getting the job done week-in-and-week-out. My blockers always strive to block well for me, and on this one they did all the work."

***

The freshmen running backs took over in the second half for the Sooners, which is really what the fans wanted to see anyway. OK, it is what most of the media wanted to see as well. You can't blame any of us, because it is fun watching gifted young phenoms like AD and DJ. (You have to love this team, because it is a team full of guys with initial nicknames).

AD was swarmed by the media once again after the game for the second time in his career.

"I am not satisfied where I am at because I still have so much to learn," said Peterson following the game. "I don't think about any records or anything. It is not a goal for me to set individual records here. I want to win championships and then everything else will take care of itself. I know that me, DJ and Donte all played well in the second half, and KeJuan was great in the first half."

For AD it was his most extensive action of the season getting 25 carries for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Houston tried to take it to the super frosh and they got him pretty good at times, but AD just kept on lugging the ball.

"Every day in practice we go up against Lance Mitchell and those guys, and they are some of the best players in the country," said AD. "So, when we go against our opponents we are not going up against anything that we haven't seen in practice. It is not something we are not used to."

On AD's cutback run, he felt that he got into the end zone. But to the young man's credit, he just flipped the ball to the official and then took it in a couple of plays later. AD said that he will never question an official about a call, and that is good to hear in this day and age.

Fellow frosh D.J. Wolfe got his first extensive action of the year and looked fantastic. Wolfe finished with 13 carries for 63 yards along with two catches for 31 yards, impressing the Sooner offensive coaches.

"D.J. is a good hard running back. And like I have been saying, he is too good not to play, " said Coach Long. "We have to find ways to get him into the game and then find ways to get him the football. It was good to see him get some snaps and do well."

Wolfe's extended play erases all the talk that he will be shutdown for the rest of the year. In fact, it looks at if the Sooners will try to play three running backs with KeJuan losing a few of his carries.

Wolfe is thankful to get into the game and thankful to be at the University of Oklahoma.

"It feels great to get out there and get a couple of snaps," said Wolfe after the game. " It feels good to be a part of the offense and the fact I was able to contribute tonight. I want to thank Coach Gundy and the coaching staff for trusting me and believing in me enough to get me into the game. I knew that we have great quarterbacks and receivers, but I just know the more experience that I get the better off I will be in the future. If they are giving me that chance I am going to take full advantage of it."

Wolfe knew when he came out of Lawton halfway through his senior year that he was going to face great competition at OU. He even helped recruit Peterson. During the recruiting process, Wolfe always said that he just wanted OU to be the best team they can be. And if AD can help the Sooners be better, then that is what he wanted. Wolfe still hasn't changed his tune.

"Yeah, it is our job as individuals to make each other better and we do a good job of that here," said Wolfe. "I think that the seven of us (running backs) can all play. We need to push each other every day in practice and when our number is called, we need to step up and show what we can do."
v Wolfe already knows who to praise if he wants to continue to have great success in the future.

"The offensive line had a great day blocking, and as running backs all we had to do was hit the hole," said Wolfe. "That is our job, so they did a good job for us today and our offense was exceptional."

***

The offensive line played without one of its best players as junior Davin Joseph was held out of action to rest his aching knee. Sixth man Chris Bush got the start at right guard and gave a pretty good account of himself.

"Chris did pretty good. I haven't had a time to grade the tape like I want to yet, but he played really hard, really physical and really well," said Run Game Coordinator and offensive line coach Kevin Wilson. " We still miss Davin, the player who I think is our best lineman. We were OK without Davin, but we are better with him that is for sure. Chris did real, real well. I would still like to get Davin going this week, but we will have to see how his knee responds, especially with the open week coming up the following week."

"Jammal played very well," Wilson continued. "We ran it OK, but quite honestly the schemes that we did with the fronts that we got, we didn't get much inside movement. And that is again where Davin being a big, strong guy could have helped us. But Chris played hard in there. Houston really did a good job and tried real hard to not give us the outside plays for the most part. In some of our schemes we did not get the inside movement and we had some penetration. We had some cuts we missed, so we still have some work to do to keep coming along up there."

Like the rest of us, Coach Wilson has been impressed with Peterson's performance through the first two games. But he points out that as he learns his craft he will get even better.

"He is making a lot progress. The more he plays in game speed, even though you practice hard, he will get a little quicker, a little more range and a little more exciting, " said Wilson. "He is so fast that sometimes he will miss a potential big play. He makes plays because of his sheer speed, size and talent. But as a young running back, once in a while he will miss something that was ther, because he might be a little too fast. Cale's big coaching point every day is to pace to allow the blocking to happen and the play to be in synch. But last night I thought it was our fault for allowing penetration and we weren't as clean as we used to be. So, that screwed up his timing and our timing at times. However, he is a naturally fast guy and we are coaching him that there is a time to use his speed. He needs to understand the timing of the play, and for all the blocks to happen. It is also true that when you have a fast guy you don't have to block forever. You don't want him to wait too much, because we don't have to hold blocks as long when he is running the ball."

***

The Sooners' defense only gave up 282 yards, but when you have been as great as the Sooner defense under Stoops, they can't stand to give up an opening big play and opening drive. And they can't stand it when the reserves give up anything at the end.

"We had too many mistakes against a crazy offense, to say the least," said Co-Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables."Sme of it, the mistakes, was predicated on things that were out of our player's hand. But all that being said, I am glad that game is finished."

For the second straight game sophomore Rufus Alexander saw most of the playing time at weakside linebacker, but that still doesn't mean Gayron Allen won't see playing time in the future.

"Rufus came back and had some good plays and played well at times," said Venables. "He made some young mistakes in alignment and some assignments mistakes, which is again to be expected. You have to try to eliminate those. I wanted to get Gayron more playing time than he had last week, just because he and Rufus are both good players. I wasn't able to do that as it kind of got away from me a little bit. Rufus is doing a good job and he is going to continue to get better as he continues to play."

Can we still consider Allen at least a part-time starter at WLB?

"It is a rotation and he has earned the right to be in the rotation," said Venables. "We trust him a great deal. He is dependable and accountable, and when he has been in there he has not made as many mistakes as Rufus has. There is give and take and it comes with experience as well. We can just try to work him in the rotation and both guys are going to play in the future."

***

Redshirt freshman Carl Pendleton was a surprise starter at defensive tackle. This was a situation where Pendleton put in a much better week of work than senior Lynn McGruder and earned the start.

"We said coming out of spring that Carl had an excellent spring," said Venables. "Carl is a real technician out there and his has practiced extremely well and deserved the right to start yesterday. He played well in the game, but again he is young he will make some young mistakes. He is going to be a very good player in time. It is amazing to me that Carl starts his first game at OU and the story in the paper is on Moe Dampeer, who didn't even suit up for the game. The story should be on an in-state guy getting his first start at the University of Oklahoma. Sometimes I wonder what is going on with you guys in the media."

The disturbing thing about the Sooner defense on Saturday was the fact that they gave up two big pass plays, especially the 63-yarder on the third play of the game which set up the Cougars' first score. Later in the first half, Cougar wide receiver Vincent Marshall was uncovered coming off the line of scrimmage.

"We just had a guy in man coverage (Shelby), who didn't cover his man," said Venables. "He just kind of blew a gasket and blew the assignment. On the other play, we just didn't line up where we needed to be and it looked as if we didn't even cover the wide receiver. We were late getting the personnel on the field and we were late getting the call on the field. We didn't have the urgency to get lined up like we should. Last night they were sending four and five guys out at the last second, some of it the referee shouldn't have let that many guys come onto the field. They do a lot of things to window dress and try to create match-ups."

***

The front four couldn't win for losing against Houston. The Sooners finished with five sacks, but that wasn't close to the nine that Rice put on the Cougars the weekend before. So, despite a good effort by Jonathan Jackson and company, the Sooners couldn't match-up with the mighty Owls.

"Whenever you got out and play you want to create havoc and have fun," said Jackson. "Getting sacks is like getting an extra bonus at the end of a play. It is a great feeling when you get a sack, but when we don't get one it doesn't mean we didn't have a good pass rush or didn't do our jobs. The defensive line, as a group, just wants to go out and have fun. I think we had a lot of fun tonight. Rice put in a lot of work for Houston and spent a lot of time on them. Houston also had a chance to correct their mistakes against Rice, but we still got great pressure on them."

***

Sophomore defensive end Larry Birdine is beginning to emerge as the great player that so many predicted him to be. Birdine was once again all over the field and once again a major factor in disrupting the Cougar offense. It is amazing what happens when a great athlete matures a little bit, then he gets more opportunity.

"I guess you could say that I got a little of both," said Birdine following the game. "I have gotten bigger and faster and I went through my best two-a-days and summer recently. It is a little bit of both, but it is a about time."

***

Finally, I want to apologize to the security guards that work events at the University of Oklahoma and to Carol Stoops for a segment of my locker room report last week. I heard Saturday that several members of the security group were offended by some of my comments, and I understand and I know that Mrs. Stoops wasn't happy either.

To be honest, I am not happy either that those guys aren't happy, and I sure would never write or say anything in an effort to upset Mrs. Stoops. I know a great number of the security people who work Sooner events and I am friends with many of them. I hope they realize that I would never say anything to intentionally hurt them.

The same goes for Carol Stoops, who has always been kind to me and is a person who I enjoy talking to. I will work harder in the future to try to make my points in a more distinct manner. And to make sure that my point is not misunderstood and certainly that it doesn't offend the good people at the security force at OU Athletic Events and Carol Stoops.

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