With the suspension of Dusty Dvoracek and the decision of Tommie Harris to leave one year early for the NFL, the Sooners' defensive tackle group was an unknown commodity going into the Texas game. Many felt the Sooners didn't have their usual talent and certainly didn't have the depth that they liked to play with.
The Oklahoma defensive tackles didn't like hearing, or reading that so they went out and played their best game of the year with Lynn McGruder playing his best game as a Sooner. Playing the three-technique (away from the nose), McGruder is emerging as one of the best defensive tackles in the Big 12 and seems to be getting better every game.
McGruder, who has also become an emotional team leader and loves talking OU football, sat down with this reporter for an OUInsider.com Extra interview.
JH: Going into last year's Kansas State game, were the Sooners coasting a little bit?
LM: "I wouldn't say coasting, but it was obvious we didn't play harder than them. I think I can certainly say that."
JH: Can revenge be a motivation Saturday against Kansas State?
LM: "We can go there with an attitude, but not with revenge on our minds. We have to go up there and play smart and play hard. You can always say that this team is a rival, or this team we need revenge against, but what we really need is to take the same attitude against each team. This Saturday we can't worry about the game we lost last year, we have to go play them this season with what we have and give everything that we have."
JH: Did Kansas State sneak up on you last year?
LM: "I don't want to say they snuck up on us, because they just beat us. I wish I could say that, but we can't say that. We are always out there together 11-om-11. They just played a better game that day."
JH: Saturday against Texas was a great leap forward for the defense? How did that happen?
LM: "We were just challenged. We were men who accepted responsibility to not get whipped and to play to the best of our ability. Everybody said that Cedric Benson was going to come in and run all over us the whole game, and as a man you can't accept that at all. You can't accept anyone telling you that they are going to do anything to you and disrespect you. I think we all accepted a challenge and came up and took care of business."
JH: You lived in Texas and have family there. Did that motivate you some?
LM: "Family always motivates you, but it was still deeper than that. We just left it all on the field. You can't explain the atmosphere in that game, but you have to play and that is what Texas/OU is all about. I grew up wanting to play in that game all my life, and when the time comes you have to play you can't leave anything at home. You can't worry about family or fans or anything else, but your team."
JH: The defensive coach's game plan for Texas was outstanding wasn't it?
LM: "We had a great game plan and I congratulate the coaches for working so hard with us so that we could understand it. Then we went out and executed it, and you can't say anything better."
JH: Coach Stoops said you had one of the better games played by a defensive tackle since he has been the head coach at OU. Did you feel you played that good of a game?
LM: "I was just excited to be out there and to be able to perform. Our whole focus was to be disruptive and stop the offensive line and the running back game. It came out to be a big game for me, and I certainly can't be disappointed with that."
JH: After watching the film didn't you think you were pretty good against Texas?
LM: "The film really didn't show it. The film showed it at first, but I did a lot of bad things as the game went on that I need to work on. I can't just pat myself on the back about that at all."
JH: Did you think much about the Kansas State loss after the season was over?
LM: "That game set the tone for the end of the season. It was hard to go to the bowl game with that on our minds. We had a month to work on LSU, but we just got beat by K-State. And not just beat, but beat bad. So, I thought about it a lot especially right after it. Now we have had just one week to get ready for Kansas State and nobody is talking revenge, but we want to win this game real bad."
JH: You are saying that revenge is not a motivating factor, but the loss certainly is motivating you?
LM: "Losing does motivate you, because nobody likes to lose. We can't wait this week to turn a loss into a victory."
JH: Was there much trash talking in the Texas game?
LM: "No, not really, and that surprised me. Both teams just played hard."
JH: You have played in both Florida/Tennessee and now OU/Texas. Would you say one is better than the other as far as a rivalry goes?
LM: "No, not many players can say that have played in both games. Both of them have their perks."
JH: The Kansas State game will be your first true road game. Are you worried about that?
LM: "We are ready for it. I got comfortable and relaxed being at home so much. Going on the road is different, but we are ready. I have played a lot of road games since I have been in college and most of the guys on our team have. It is really the same as playing at home in that you just have to go play and not worry about what is going on around you."
JH: You always say as a team that you just take games one game at a time, but since you lost to Kansas State last year can you honestly say that this year's game means the same as just any other game does it?
LM: "You are right in many ways. We still have to go out and out prepare for them and out work them, because evidently that wasn't right last year."
JH: What are your thoughts on the Kansas State offense?
LM: "They are very good and they can run the ball at you in so many ways. They have a great offensive line and receivers, but it is (Darren) Sproles that can really hurt you. We have to be disruptive and stay in our schemes. If we do then everything will go well. I know our coaches have prepared for them in the best way and we just need to execute the game plan. We will be ready to play on Saturday."