Oklahoma-Oregon Locker Room Report

An in-depth look at Oklahoma's win over Oregon with qoutes from Bob Stoops, Chuck Long, Kevin Wilson, Jason White, Adrian Peterson (pictured above), Brent Venables, Bobby Jack Wright, Jackie Shipp, Lynn McGruder, Carl Pendleton, Lance Mitchell and Dan Cody. (AP Photo/Jerry Laizure)

NORMAN — Following the Sooners' 31-7 win over Oregon there was a strange set of emotions that engulfed the team. One one hand, OU was very happy to beat and control a good, talented Oregon team and win by a decided margin. The Sooners were also giddy about the emergence of Adrian Peterson as the next great Sooner running back, which gives them a bell cow that they can ride to promise land.

On the other hand, there was a sense of loss, a sense that something wasn't quite right. For the first time since the dismissal of former team captain and senior defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek, the players and coaches were talking about what it was like to play without their emotional leader on defense.

"It was certainly something that I noticed throughout the game," said his best friend and All-American defensive end Dan Cody. "It was strange not playing alongside him. I mean, he has been such a vital part of our defense for so long. He has been here as long as I have and then all of a sudden he is gone. Not injured gone, but gone off the team like he was never even here. That was strange, real strange."

"It was weird not seeing him in front of me," said senior middle linebacker Lance Mitchell. "I thought about it a lot at the beginning of the game, but as the game went on I just got into the flow of the game and didn't worry about anything else. It is strange talking about the fact he is gone and no longer on the team."

***

As big as that story is, it wasn't as big as Adrian 'AD' Peterson establishing himself as the next great Sooner running back. Before, it was all hype and potential. And yes, I know that he teased us with two 100-yard plus performances in the first two games. However, in those two games Kejuan Jones was still considered the man that would get the Sooners through the tough times on the ground, and he was still the man that the Sooners would turn to in the fourth quarter to win the game or wear down an opponent.

On Saturday, that all changed as AD ripped through a tired Oregon defense in the fourth quarter for 72 yards and a touchdown, seemingly running at will against a gallant but overmatched Duck defense.

Following the offensive line's zone blocks like a seasoned veteran, AD finished with a career high 183 yards (I think we are going to say this several times this year) and two touchdowns.

"When I take the handoff I just trust that the hole is going to be there," said Peterson following the game. "I am just waiting for the holes to open and then running as hard as I can through them. Coach (Cale) Gundy just told me to go in there and don't cut and smash it in there, and that is what I did. We ran a lot of zone plays and I just crammed it in there. The little creases seem to be there for me and the big holes were there also, and I just hit them. Our offensive line was doing a great job dominating the game in the fourth quarter."

It was a given going into the game that AD was good running the football, but it is the fact that he is working hard to become a complete back that has afforded the Sooner coaching staff the confidence to leave him on the field.

"Adrian has improved in his pass protection so much that we can keep him on the field now," said OU Offensive Coordinator Chuck Long. "I think in the first two games we didn't have a great deal of confidence in him in pass protection, but he has already improved in that area a great deal. Adrian was excellent in the fourth quarter, but that was why we wanted to establish that run game. It may not be open early, but if you stay with it, then eventually it will wear the other team down. That is what happened — they missed tackles and Adrian and our offensive line was strong there at the end."

***

The zone play is becoming the key play in the Sooner run game. It is a play where the offensive line blocks the area in front of them and the running back takes the handoff and chooses the hole he wants to run through. In the fourth quarter, the Sooners were running the zone play and dominating the Ducks.

"Adrian is getting so much better at running the football and finding the right holes to run through," said Long. "He is doing what we call 'pacing' it better. When he first got here he would just take the ball and blast right in there (line). Now, he is letting his blocks develop. He is pacing the play so much better now, and because of that he is having much more success than he did early in the year."

The offensive line played without starting left guard Kelvin Chaisson, who missed the game with mononucleosis. Utility man Chris Bush took Chaisson's place in the starting line-up and the Sooners didn't miss a beat.

"I thought when Adrian started to make those guys miss, our blocking was better," joked Run Game Coordinator and offensive line coach Kevin Wilson. "It took us about a quarter to figure out some of their adjustments, where their backers and safeties were, and we had a few negatives in the first half. We had two busts in protection and one bad call on my part as far as the protection scheme. Our protection wasn't perfect, but it never is. It could have been better. It gives us something to build on."

"I think we made some good adjustments, in both our run blocking and our pass blocking. And Adrian was running well," Wilson continued. "Kejuan (Jones) was doing well before he tweaked his ankle, and D.J. (Wolfe) was solid and doing very well. Adrian is a very talented, a great kid and a great worker. He is getting better and better every week, and that is something to build on."

Bush may be the best offensive line sixth man in college football, and he is making a bid to become a starter.

"Chris did well. And like I said after our first game, I really like Chris's attitude and toughness. I really felt Chris was going to battle Kelvin for that left guard spot," said Wilson following the game. "He did a great job at left guard, and like I have said all along he is our sixth starter. He started our last game at right guard and had our second best grade. It looked like he had another good game today."

Chris Messner also saw extensive action for the first time this season subbing in the second half for senior Wes Sims who went out with a minor knee injury.

"You would like to think by Texas Tech that we will get Kelvin back," said Wilson. "Wes banged his knee and came out a series, and then didn't play in the fourth quarter. Chris did well, but he did get called for the holding on a touchdown. But like I told my guys, I would rather get a 15-yard penalty than get Jason hit sometimes. Even though holding looks bad, a 10 yard penalty is not as bad as Jason getting hit to me, especially as good a player as Jason is. He was 17 for 23 again today and that backs up what I am saying right there."

Bush's efforts have also not gone unnoticed by the Head Ball Coach.

"Chris is really a very versatile guy and he has played well," said OU Head Football Coach Bob Stoops. "In the last two games, he has played two different positions, played virtually the whole game in both, and he has done very well with it. He has been really good that way."

***

The Sooners made the emphasis to the running game in the off-season. And already through three games, that extra work is paying dividends for the Sooners.

"It is giving us some big plays as well," said Stoops. "What Adrian has done, specifically with some big plays, has given us those in the run game. It helps and it makes a big difference, especially when we have been fortunate to have some leads and you want to be smart with the ball and use clock. To do that and still pick up yards and big plays is a big boost."

"I thought he just had some great runs and he would just move the pile," said Long. "Guys were just jumping on his back and he was moving them. You could just tell that they were beginning to wear down in the fourth quarter and he was fresh and running strong. I think one of his best runs was in the second half when he had nothing going, so he bounced off and went five yards back and ended up with a four and five yard gain out of it when there was nothing there. It was a great run. It was only a five yard run, but it was probably the play of the day."

With AD coming into his zone the guy who should benefit the most from it will be Jason White himself. A year ago, defensive coordinators built a game-plan to stop White and the Sooner passing attack, something that they can't do with AD and the Sooner running game becoming a force.

"That is going to be a big plus for," said White following the game. "Adrian is really coming into his own and Kejuan started off the game today very well. Both of them had great days. That is what we are really focusing on this season. The off-season, we worked on establishing the running game and thus far we have. There is still room for improvement. and that is what is good about it. But it has helped out so far. The O-line has done a great job up front with the run blocking and the running backs are running hard. J.D. Runnels is doing a great job and the tight ends are also doing a great job. It is always great to have a run game and that will only help us set up the passing game in the future."

***

Coming into the game the Sooners figured to score some points against the Ducks, but Oregon played inspired football. Mixing their defensive alignments, the Ducks forced the Sooners into some bad plays, but OU had too many offensive weapons to match up with. A number of players stepped up and played well for the Sooners offensively.

"Brandon Jones had a really good game as he jumped on a fumble early and made three catches," said Long after watching the OU/Oregon game film. "They were very competitive catches and BJ blocked well. Mark (Clayton) obviously had a good game and broke the record (all-time career receiving record at OU). J.D. Runnels had a nice game and Bubba Moses had another nice game at tight end. He really blocked the corner and the edge well. Vince Carter really led the pack for us up front. He did a nice job. Of course, you know about our running backs and Jason, but those other guys really stood out."

AD's performance also gives the Sooner coaches a number of things to work with as the season unfolds.

"I believe that we have great potential along with experience now," said Long. "It enables you to stay with your plan and enables you to play through bad plays. We have guys that can correct tough situations and they are not always going to be perfect situations. We have guys that can get us out of that and it is nice to have that. That makes us complete. That is when we can get down the road and take more chances, knowing that we might get into a second-and-10 and still have a chance to get a first down with a big play from one of our guys."

***

The Sooner offensive coaches have always wanted a balanced offense. And despite a national perception that OU is a passing team, the Sooners have always thrown it just about as much as they have run it. Toward the end of last year, the Sooners lost that balance going with White's hot hand and a hot receiver in Clayton, but now the Sooners might have their shot at balance with tremendous weapons in both the passing and rushing department.

"I want us to be a balanced offense. I want us to be a 50/50 type offense," said Long. "When you look at us over time. And to teams that won championships, the most common factor among all of them is great balance in their offense. And that is what we want to be. Not so much as pass team or a run team, we will keep it balanced. I know there are certain games that you will go in there and slant some things a little bit more than the other, but as it turned out yesterday we are pretty competitive with our balance right now. It is pretty even for the year."

Bob Stoops always wants his team to have the ability to eat up the clock late in games, and the Sooners now have that ability more than at any time during the Stoops era.

"We recognized the fact that the Oregon defense had been on the field for a long time," said Long. "It was in the fourth quarter and we needed a time consuming drive with a touchdown. And yes, we did slant our play-calling that way. We do have to pay attention to how they defense us and how long they have been out there. We don't go out there in that situation and try to throw bombs, or throw percentage passes because now you don't have any clock movement if you throw incomplete.

"We went out there with a mindset that we had to move the ball. Our guys had a good mindset about moving the ball. We moved the ball in the first quarter, but we just stubbed our toe. That is why we went to the ground game and we were very successful at it. We took a shot in there and we got a pass interference in there. You pound on them and pound on them, then take a shot. And many times that works out for you."

Now, the Sooners get an off-week and a chance to look ahead and look inside.

"This week is going to be used for preparation and look at some opponents down the road, and also Texas Tech," said Long. "We will also work on getting better on our end and working on things to can make us a better offensive unit."

***

After the game, Peterson went through his third meeting with the press. Coach Stoops is still not allowing him to talk to the media after practice, but as long as AD is making big plays in games he does allow his super frosh talk to the media following games. AD is still a 'yes sir' 'no sir' type of young man, which is refreshing. But there is no mistaking the confidence he has in his offense. He didn't feel the Ducks had a chance on Saturday.

"The Ducks had a pretty good defense, but we felt we were going to wear them down," said AD. "When just kept pounding the ball against them and kept running it right at them, we just felt that eventually we were going to wear them out, and that is what we did."

***

On the other side of the ball, the Oklahoma defense was once again putting up a good account of themselves. Battling expectations against their own past greatness, the Sooners went out, and for the most part, controlled a very good Duck offense limiting them to 321 yards (140 yards rushing and 181 yards passing).

The bar is set so high for the Sooner defense that sometimes you feel they don't have any chance at all of reaching it. So, while many feel the Sooner defense didn't play up to standards or only had a so-so night, they held a good Oregon offensive team to just seven points.

"I was very pleased how well we played defensively. When you hold any team to seven points we have a very good chance to win that game," said Stoops after watching film. "Oregon has put up a lot of points for a lot of years and they are very good with their schemes and what they do. They had a returning quarterback and returning skill players, so that was a good day."

Yet, it was a day of mixed emotions according to some of the players. Dvoracek was not only a great player, but a good friend to the entire team and certainly one of their leaders on defense. The team knew that Dvoracek wasn't going to play against the Ducks as he has been suspended early in the day on Friday. But later in the evening, Coach Stoops announced Dvoracek was dismissed from the team and that was a shock to a number of players.

"It was, that really was. I didn't really hear about it until this morning (Saturday)," said Cody following the game. "Dusty tried to call me Friday night, but I was already asleep and didn't get his phone call. And then today, with it being gameday, I didn't get a chance to call him back. Our entire team would have given a much different reaction if it had been a Monday morning."

***

Without Dvoracek, defensive tackle coach Jackie Shipp played starters Carl Pendleton and Lynn McGruder and reserve Remi Ayodele for almost the entire game. Normally, Coach Shipp likes to use a four-man rotation and usually he will slip a fifth defensive tackle in the game.

"We were a little short-handed yesterday, but for the most part our guys held up real well and played a good game," said Shipp. "Lynn did a good job and played with some of his best technique of the year. Carl played well and showed good speed and quickness. Remi can play better and needs to continue to work on his technique. Now, we need to go out and get Mo Dampeer ready to play and get more experience for Steven Coleman and see if they can become a factor for us. We are going to be alright. Some of those guys that aren't playing much need to step up and grab this opportunity, because it is an opportunity."

With Dvoracek out, McGruder becomes the elder statesman among the defensive tackles.McGruder was the third DT last year and had a great off-season to earn a starting job this season. McGruder says the defensive tackles have to stay strong mentally as they go through the rest of the season.

"We knew that we were going to be missing a great player, and whoever was going to play that spot would have to step up," said McGruder. "It is hard to replace that type of person on the team spiritually, physically. He (Dvoracek) is hard to replace. Guys have to step up and get the job done. We, as players, have to stay within ourselves and not try to be Dusty. That was part of his game and you can't replace that, but you have to step up your game and whatever you do, you have to do the best. We have to stay aggressive and just take advantage."

McGruder was one of the three players that had to play more reps with Dvoracek on the squad, but the 303-pounder doesn't feel that will be a problem.

"It went better than I thought it would, especially with it being a hot day," said McGruder following the game. "I thought it might wear us down, but we are in great shape from a hard summer and we have Coach Schmidt on our side. We endured through a time of toughness this summer and that will carry us through the season."

With Dvoracek's departure, Pendleton earned his second straight start. Pendleton is a very mature redshirt freshman and he said the defensive tackles would handle this situation as well.

"This week was just another game. We prepared for it just like we prepared for any other game," said Pendleton. "We have to keep pushing and try to get better and take everything one play at a time. I got a little tired on those long drives, but our defense would bend but not break. That is what we able to do today. To come away with a win today was great because we were faced with a number of challenges."

Saturday was one of the hottest days of the summer, and if three defensive tackles could handle that day then they can handle just about any day can't they.

"We hope to develop more as the season goes along," said Stoops. "I don't know if it will be as hot yesterday as it will at any time the rest of the year. That is about as hot as it gets during a football season and they handled it well. I would like to see us develop more defensive tackles, but if it had to be in some games then it has to be. I don't know if it will be any more different later in the season than it was yesterday."

Coach Shipp and defensive end Coach Bobby Jack Wright both rotate players more than any other position coach, and you can't expect them to chance how they are going to do things even if they are one All-American short up front.

"We are going to have to depend a lot on our rotation," said Cody. "We are going to have to consistently keep fresh guys on the field. That way we can try to match the intensity that Dusty brought. I was talking to Lynn, Carl and Remi after the game about that. I think they will pick up the slack. The more the season goes on the more confidence they are going to build. That is just something that takes time."

***

Just how much did Dvoracek's departure hurt the Sooners defense against the Ducks? Is there any real way to tell?

"I don't know because there is really no good measuring stick out there for us to use," said Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables. "He was a good player and was a good leader for us. However, we have to go on and we can't let that be an achilles heel for us. I don't know what kind of emotional letdown our team had. After the first half, Oregon had only 80-yards of total offense, so I don't know how it effected our guys were. As a coaching staff, we feel like we played well, but we feel like we can play better. I don't feel like we were emotionally drained by any stretch, or that any success for Oregon had anything to do with Dusty Dvoracek not being out there or our guys feeling bad about that. I think that would be an excuse."

The Sooner defense is never one to make excuses. They never have and never will, but they also know what it takes to be successful. And there is no question that without Dvoracek, adjustments will have to be made.

"On the field we are going to have to step it up a lot," said Cody. "Off the field, around the locker room and around campus everybody is going to rally real well. I can't even describe how many people have come up to me, and they knew that Dusty and I were friends, and have been asking about him saying they were going to call him and asking me to pass along kind things to him. I don't think there is any question that we have the ability to rally around each other and get through this situation."

Dvoracek is not on the Sooner team physically, but he will always be a teammate to the players he played with. And a number of those players will help him cope with no longer wearing the Crimson-N-Cream.

"It is a tough situation, and something that I have never had put in front of me like this," said Cody. "It is just going to take some time. I really haven't had an opportunity to talk to him that much, but it is just kind of hard to tell right now how he will handle that and how I will help him handle it."

***

From a personal standpoint, I am shocked that the Dvoracek situation has come to this. I have talked to a number of players and coaches about Dvoracek and all say that he was a great guy, great student, great football player, great team leader and super teammate. I haven't heard one negative thing about Dvoracek even with allegations swirling around him.

Dvoracek was a very popular teammate and a fan favorite. He was also a media favorite. Dvoracek was candid with the media and never backed away from a question. He didn't put up bulletin board material like the Boz, but he also didn't hide his feelings concerning an arch rival.

Most of all, Dvoracek was the ultimate teammate. When Mo Dampeer was going through trying times early in the season, Dvoracek made sure in every interview that he said something positive about Dampeer hoping that the redshirt freshman would hear it and that the media would start saying good things about Dampeer. All the young players have told me that Dvoracek was always willing to help them and always willing to share knowledge with them.

However, there is another side of Dvoracek that I have never seen. I haven't seen Dvoracek off the field and never been in a social setting with him. It is apparent that bad things happen when he drinks. In every incident that has come out recently about Dvoracek, there was always alcohol involved. I have heard that people that know him call him a 'mad drunk'.

Nobody is perfect, and Dvoracek's mistakes have cost him the ultimate penalty from his standpoint. He has lost his spot on the University of Oklahoma football team. However, this doesn't mean that life is over for Dvoracek. Dusty is an excellent student and is on course to graduate. This also will not keep him from playing football in the NFL. Yes, it may cost him some money and may knock him down the draft a round or two, but if Dusty gets counseling he will get a shot in the NFL. He will test well at the combines, will test well emotionally and he is a very good football player.

I agree that OU Head Coach Bob Stoops had to make this decision. Once it was established that there was pattern of bad public behavior, Coach Stoops had no choice but to dismiss Dvoracek from the team. However, he doesn't feel good about it. And to be honest, nobody should feel good about it that has helped bring to light all that Dusty has been involved in.

The media has a job to report and has a job to do and remember this he is a key player on the Oklahoma Sooners, one of the lighting rods of college football. Dvoracek obviously made enough people mad or angry that when the opportunity was there they spoke out against him. That additional coverage was the final straw for Dvoracek, as far as the University of Oklahoma was concerned.

I feel bad for Dusty and I will miss working with him for the moment. However, I still believe in him as a person and believe he can be a success in life. If he is as smart as I think he is, he will realize that he has a problem and will be taking steps to correct them. I know that he will and next season we will be watching him in the NFL.

***

There seems to be a feeling that the OU defense didn't play very well on Saturday. Coach Stoops addressed this issue earlier, and now we turn to Co-Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables.

"It was a good solid outing. But again, there are some things that we have to get corrected," said Venables. "We need to correct some tackling, some alignments and some of those little things we always talk about. We saw the melting pot from Oregon. That is an extremely well-coached team with a very effective and intelligent offensive system that make you work. They do a good job keeping you off balance and they have really fine football players at their skill positions, and they have a good quarterback. We had pressure at times throughout the day and we let them escape at times. Some things that we were disappointed in were: not getting to the quarterback when we had opportunities to and letting him get out of the pocket. However, Clemens is an athletic guy that can move around pretty good.

"Those guys who stepped in and played in the interior did a good job," Venables continued. "Our front four played very strong. But overall, I thought it was the first time that I thought that we could measure how good we can be. We have room for improvement, but it was a great and real strong starting point.

***

Congratulations are in order for Mr. Mark Clayton, who became the all-time career pass reception leader at OU with his six -catch, 91-yard performance against the Ducks. As expected, Clayton didn't want to take any credit for the record himself.

"I have such great teammates around me that they all share in this record," said Clayton following the game. "I have the best quarterback in college football throwing me the ball and the offensive line does such a great job that they give me time to get open down field. Our coaching staff does such a good job that they come up with plays and formations that help get me open. I am proud of what I have accomplished, but more proud of what we have accomplished as a team."

It is no surprise to his quarterback that he is now the schools' best receiver.

"Everybody knows how good he is," said White. "Mark works hard and he deserves that record more than anybody. And now three games into the season, he has plenty of room to improve it. Mark is going to continue to work hard no matter what record he breaks. He is always going to be the same guy."

***

Before the season the Sooner offensive coaches said that the tight end was going to become a major focal point in the offense. Through three games it was evident that the tight ends were more involved in the offense, but they will still be a secondary target in the passing game.

Finally, a tight end found the end zone as Bubba Moses hauled in a four-yard catch for his first career touchdown.

"It feels great to finally get into the end zone," said Moses. "I have been here for a long time it seems and I have been waiting for this opportunity. That is a basic play that we have on the goal line and it was wide open for us today."

Moses now has three catches for 17 yards on the year, but his all-around play has been outstanding.

"Bubba has really played well for us this season," said tight end coach Kevin Sumlin. "He has been outstanding blocking at the line of scrimmage and he does a great job blocking off the edge. For the most part, he has been outstanding in the passing game, running good routes and catches what has been thrown to him. Willie Roberts played quite a bit on Saturday and also did a good job. I think the tight ends will catch a lot more ball as the season continues."

***

Sophomore Larry Birdine continues to make big strides at defensive end for the Sooners. Birdine was very active on Saturday and he has become a big play player on defense.

"There is no doubt that he has picked up his game since training camp and since last season," said defensive end coach Bobby Jack Wright. "He is an outstanding athlete and he plays with tremendous emotion and energy. He has really come on for us, and right now he is playing as well as any player we have on defense."

***

With the off-week ahead, the Sooners will practice Monday through Thursday and then the players will get the weekend off. The Sooner coaches will hit the recruiting trail this weekend and take two days this week to go recruiting. The team will get back together the following Monday.


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