The OU coaches tried to tell us. In every interview, in every private conversation, and in every press conference the OU coaches and players tried to tell us that Kansas State was a good football team and that the game on Saturday was going to be a barn-burner. Of course, we didn't listen. We all watched as Kansas State got blown out by Fresno State and lost to Texas A&M and Kansas. I know that I was drawn into a false sense of security as well.
What disappoints me about this is that I have a chance to talk to the OU coaches and players every day throughout the week. And to a man, they all told me that Kansas State was going to be a load and that they would give the Sooners a great fight. So, what did I do? I went out and said the Sooners would win 45-14. I stupid or stubborn? Well, either one isn't good, so let's hope I just had a bad week.
It shocked nobody on the Sooner sideline that OU had to fight and claw to beat Kansas State 31-21. I realize that many Sooner fans were disappointed in the defense in the first quarter, and disappointed that the ground game didn't do the same damage that it did against Texas. However, considering the circumstances the Sooners showed great character and tremendous ability in coming back from a 21-17 deficit to beat Kansas State.
"I am proud of how we fought through a lot of adverse situations. Not many things went our way that way" said Bob Stoops following the Sooners win. "We hung in there and our guys never panicked. Everybody was always focused and they responded in the second half, and in particular in the fourth quarter as our offense came up with a great drive. Hopefully, it builds more character and shows a degree of toughness that we can win in different ways and come from behind away from home. We can do whatever it takes to win the game."
"I want to complement Kansas State as always," Stoops continued. "Kansas State is a tough team and we knew they would be persistent. You can say what you want about them, but they haven't lost too many games in this stadium for a long, long time. I know they have lost a few games this year, but that is not like them. I knew they would continue to fight throughout this year and they will do just that. We knew we would have to play for four quarters, and I am proud of our guys that we did and did it in a good way."
Going into the game all eyes were on freshman running back Adrian Peterson, the newest darling of college football. AD deserved all of his press clippings going into the game and he didn't disappoint with a tough, hard-fought effort of 130 yards on 36 carries. However, Kansas State didn't hide the fact that their defensive game plan was to stop AD, and he earned every single yard fighting through a Kansas State defense that always seemed to have eight to nine men in the box.
I stated before the game that I felt that senior quarterback Jason White was ready for a breakout game. By their own admission, the Sooners had been concentrating so much on establishing the run game that the passing game took a bit of a back seat. However, you just knew as the season progress and AD kept racking up 200-yard games, that he would eventually become the focal point for all opposing defensive coordinators.
The Sooners worked hard to establish the run game early, and it was tough going. With Wildcats all over the line of scrimmage, AD could only manage nine yards on six carries, forcing the Sooners to find some space in the air. White got off to a good start early hitting four out of his five passes, including a beautiful 17-yard touchdown pass to emerging junior wide receiver Travis Wilson.
The second quarter didn't get any better for the Sooner run game as the Wildcats swarmed all over AD holding him at the half to a season low 26 yards on 14 carries. However, White picked up the slack as he continued to chip away at the Wildcats, and in fact he kept the Sooners in the lead again finding Wilson this time for a 14-yard toss. A Trey DiCarlo 26-yard field goal gave the Sooners a 17-14 lead.
Jason White is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and his legend is already pretty secure and well written. However, he added another chapter in the third quarter after he threw one of the biggest 'bonehead' (his own words) passes of his career right into the hands of Wildcat linebacker Brandon Archer for a 27-yard interception return. I had to blink twice, because White threw a similar interception last year against Kansas State. But there was a difference in that pass and the one that just took place. This year White was determined to make amends.
"I was real proud of the offense at that point, and I was mostly proud of Jason," said Stoops at his post game press conference. "He realized that the deficit was on him, and in fact he said something on the phones to Coach (Chuck) Long that he wanted the ball right back and to put it in his hands, and we did. We went right down the field and scored. He had a lot of nice throws in that drive and a lot of nice throws throughout the second half. He responded well and overcame a bad play, but you are not going to go through a 60 minute game without having some bad plays."
After the interception, White admits that he couldn't wait to get back on the field.
"Yeah, I got on the phone and told Coach Long I just wanted the ball back," said White following the game. "We were throwing the ball pretty well and I just made a bonehead mistake. That didn't mean our passing game wasn't all of a sudden not working. It was my mistake and my mistake alone. I rushed to the phones and just told him I wanted the ball back and for him to let me go back to work. I am fortunate that Coach Long has a great deal of confidence in me. He called my number, and fortunately it worked out for us getting that touchdown pass to Mark (Clayton) at the end of the drive."
There has never been any question about Coach Long's confidence in White. Maybe fans lose confidence or the media started to question whether his star was still burning bright, but Coach Long never lost confidence in his senior signal caller. In fact, when White asked for the ball Long was glad to deliver it.
"I thought yesterday was one of Jason's better games that he has played since he has been here," said Long from his coaching office. "Statistically it won't show up that way, but there are some things that happened in that game. He kept his team on edge the whole game, on the sideline he was great with his team and on the phone during the game he was dialed into what Kansas State was doing defensively. Then, he showed a lot of resolve, or tenacity, when he threw that pick to come back an engineer that 74-yard touchdown drive."
"As a coach, you really enjoy those moments," Long continued. "He came off the field after he knew he made a mistake and he asked me right away give him the ball again and said that he wanted to take them down the field. That was one of his better games since he has been here. Of course, he threw four touchdowns on top of it and made some great throws. Just witnessing stuff like that getting that feeling from him makes you feel so good for him."
On the drive, White was 5-for-5 including a 23-yard pass to J.D Runnels on third down and a seven-yard completion to Brandon Jones on fourth-and-two from the 21.
"Jason was incredible on that drive," said senior wide receiver Mark Clayton. "I have seen a lot of great drives put together by Jason and a lot of good throws, but I don't know if I have ever seen him more determined. When he came into the huddle he just had an air of confidence about him that gave us incredible energy. He had to make some clutch throws on that drive as well, but we never panicked because we knew that he would come up with something to get us the first down or the touchdown."
"Jason was a man on that drive," said junior offensive guard Davin Joseph. "He was juiced when he came back into the huddle and it gave us some great energy. He was so determined, and that determination spilled over to the rest of the offensive unit. We knew that if we could keep him clean (lack of sacks) that we would go down the field and score, and that is exactly what we did."
You would think with a Heisman already on his resume and a lot of wins under his belt, that White would have a lot of those golden moments. But we forget that in reality he is in only his second year as a starting quarterback.
"I think that is one of the few times that it has happened because last year we didn't have to many times that we were even behind," said Long. "Last year was his first year to start. I think Alabama was another game where he made some big throws, but he didn't have any long drives like that. He had some big touchdowns throws in that game. Yesterday was one of those games that we hadn't had to many times in his career. He has not been a three to four year starter, he has only been a two year starter. So, he is just now getting into some of those games."
"Last year most of the games were out of hand by halftime, so you never knew anything about him," Long continued. "We knew that he was tough and mentally tough, but you have to go through things like that. We don't want to go through them all the time, but it does help a quarterback along the way to have those types of games. That is what I enjoyed so much about yesterday — was that he came back from a mistake and engineered a touchdown drive to go ahead and on the road no less."
Kansas State is notorious for hurting Sooner quarterbacks. That history has been well-documented, and it looked like White was hit more than usual. But not to worry, he came out of the game OK.
"Just another day at the office," said White immediately after the game. "My offensive line did a real good job protecting me. I really don't think that I was hit all that much today."
As for Adrian Peterson, he continues to impress this reporter more every day. On a day when Kansas State loaded the box and had every intention of intimidating him, AD was stronger in the fourth quarter than he was in the first. Peterson had only 26-yards at halftime, but he didn't get discouraged and didn't get down. He kept pounding away at the Wildcat defense, and in the fourth quarter rushed for 64 yards.
"I just got more comfortable with what was happening in the game and I started to let the game come to me," said AD after the game. "I started to see the holes a little better and I just kept running hard."
Peterson's best running came after the Sooners regained the lead. Leading by three (24-21), Peterson showed his true toughness carrying the ball seven times picking up his biggest gains of the game of 15 and 13 yards. However, his biggest gain came on a third-and-six from the Kansas State 31, when he bulled his way for seven yards and a first down late in the fourth quarter.
"I guess you could say that was my biggest carry of the game," said Peterson. "I had some longer runs, but that may have been the most important. We needed to keep the ball and I just tried my best to keep my feet moving and keep driving. I think the last couple of yards I had to carry some guys, but that is something that I do pretty well."
It is the sixth straight game Peterson has gone over 100-yards, but without question his toughest day yet. But even with the going tough, he impressed his fellow coaches and players.
"I think he is learning all the time. I am sure those other games (easier) have taught him something as well," said Stoops. "It is not always going to be easy. The persistence and how you play, especially in the fourth quarter, is all that matters. I loved the fact he was very physical and kept playing hard in the fourth quarter. He never got discouraged and he really made the difference in those fourth quarter drives. The third-and-six pickup was big and he had a bunch of other plays to. He and Jason, with the throwing and runs together, really complemented each other well. And that last drive was really special."
After a 36 carry day Peterson didn't look the worse for ware. In fact, when asked if he can carry the ball more AD gave his customary answer.
The Sooner wide receiver core continues to show the nation that it is one of the deepest in the country. Mark Clayton proved once again that he is one of the nations' very best catching five passes for 52 yards and two touchdowns. However, another wide receiver is beginning to emerge as a star, and that is Travis Wilson, who hauled in five catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns.
"Travis is just carrying on from his improvement from this summer and during training camp," said OU wide receiver coach Darrell Wyatt. "Travis had a great summer and was even better in two-a-days. He has just carried that over into the season and his improvement has been tremendous. Travis has always been fast, but now he is running faster out of his breaks, which allows him to run better routes. He has also improved his pass catching ability. Travis is one of the hardest working players on this team and that hard work is paying off for him."
Kansas State couldn't match up with Wilson all day, and the fact that he was dominating the Wildcat secondary opened things up for Clayton and the other Sooner wide-outs.
"I know when the game started I was drawing double coverage, but after Travis got hot they switched the double coverage to him," said Clayton. "For most of the game I had single coverage thanks to the game that Travis was having."
While Wilson may have been double-covered most of the game, he was able to get some single coverage on his two touchdowns, and he made the Wildcats pay.
"On the first touchdown it was boot and the second one was man-to-man coverage," said Wilson. "I just looked for the one-on-one coverage, which is what receivers live for. When I saw they were going to give me man coverage I got real excited and knew I was going to get open."
While the Sooners have been establishing their running game early, the wide receivers were getting more recognition for their blocking than receiving. However, Wilson knew it was only a matter of time before their pass catching ability became a major factor again in the Sooner offense.
"We stated at the beginning of the season that we wanted to come out and let the pass be effective," said Wilson. "As we have established the run and with them crowding the box, that just gives us (wide receivers) opportunities to make plays. I just happened to be in at the right time when the big plays were called and just did what we have been practicing all year, and I found myself open."
The Sooner offense had to pick their spots and while the Wildcats worked hard to shut down the running game. Wilson and his receiver mates knew that it was only a matter of time before they could make a difference in the game.
"It was a game where we had to stay very patient," said Wilson. "It seemed like a chess match, or a game of checkers, to see who would make the wrong move. We have to be patient at receiver and then wait for our number to get called. Once that it is called, we have to make sure we get open because you know the coaches have been setting something up and it is up to us to make sure we can make it happen."
No matter how you look at it, Wilson has become a major factor in the Sooner offense.
"I think at any given time any of our wide receivers have cropped up," said Long. "However, he is playing so well that it is really just an extension of his training camp. He had a great training camp. He came to play, he worked hard and he was focused on his task and winning a job and he did that. Now he is playing in a big way, because he has had such a good year. You could also sense that Jason was feeling him more. He was feeling his confidence and his route running is crisper, and Jason is starting to hook onto him more because of that. He is becoming more confident in Travis in the way he is running routes and that is why he is getting the ball more. It is a feel thing for quarterbacks. You feel guys and he certainly feels Mark because they have grown up together in this system, but here is Travis emerging and Jason can feel his confidence and now Jason has become confident in him."
The Sooner running game was tested on Saturday by a physical Kansas State defensive front. The Oklahoma offensive line had their work cut out for them, but had a wining day.
"They had a solid day," said Long. "They had a good front and they were putting some guys in the box on us. That is why we were throwing the ball as well as we did. I thought our guys kept going at it, and finally in the fourth quarter they kept at it and kept at it and finally the holes busted open. That was a big fourth quarter. Our guys are pretty steady and they are steady throughout. They are in good physical condition, which has really helped those guys. We only had one sack and that was on a bootleg. Jason was running with the ball and he just didn't get back to the line of scrimmage. You take that away and there is really no sack for three weeks in a row or so."
"Part of that is because we are running the ball more," Long continued. "However, to give up no sacks, no matter how you look at it, is impressive. To not have any penalties, especially on the road with a loud crowd is impressive as well. You can't often hear the quarterback. I know we have a silent count in the shotgun, but when we are underneath the center we are voicing it. I thought that was really good as they showed some good discipline."
After a shaky first quarter, the Sooner defense settled down and had one heck of a game. In all, the defense gave up only 247 yards total offense and just one yard on the ground. Eighty-four of the Wildcats total yard came in the first quarter, and 169 was in the books by halftime. From that point on, the Wildcats couldn't move the ball. And if it wasn't for the defense getting six, they were never a threat to score.
"From the first quarter on we played some of our best defense this year," said Stoops. "They played the last three quarters as close to as well as you can play. Their game is running the ball or getting the ball to (Darren) Sproles, and we took him out of it. Other than that, we made a lot of plays and gave the offense the ball in at lot of really good field position. We created turnovers and got pressure. We really played well."
The Wildcats surprised the Sooners early by going with an empty backfield and other formations that they had not seen, but once the Sooners got an angle on what they were doing they played lights out.
"You have to get a feel on what they are doing because you don't want to just start calling stuff by reaching out of the air," said Co-Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables. "You have to make sure that your players are sound in your adjustments because they showed certain things when they were in desperate situations, but that hasn't been their 'MO'. We found out early in the game what they were going to go with and we had to put together a package on the sidelines."
Senior defensive end Dan Cody picked up right where he left off from his tremendous Texas game by dominating the Wildcats as he lived in Kansas State's backfield.
"We were successful because we used a lot of different defenses against them," said Cody. "They lined me up in the linebacker slot and they moved me around. It wasn't just me, we had guys slanting all different directions. We knew that coming into the game they had not seen the zone blitz package that we had, so that is what we tried to put on them today."
OU was able to hold Sproles in check as he finished with 34 yards on just 13 carries.
"Kansas State didn't try to run the ball and they didn't give him the ball," said Cody on why the Sooners held the Heisman Trophy candidate in check. "That says a lot about why we did so well against him. It isn't just our defense, even though our defense played well against the run. We knew they were going to get him open on some screens and we were looking for that all day. We didn't have to have calls on for screens, but it is something that look for in certain formations. When we saw it and we saw him stepping in there, everybody on our side slowed down and let it come to him."
The Sooner defensive coaches have lined Cody up both as a standard defensive end and as a stand-up linebacker/defensive end. The versatility seems to have rejuvenated Cody's season.
"I don't know what it is because he has prepared hard and worked hard," said Venables. "He is obviously a very good player, so he has been in a position to be more disruptive. You saw K-State drop back a lot and you saw Texas drop back a lot, and when teams do that they expose themselves. When teams are max-protecting, or slide protecting or even sprinting out and throwing 3-yard hitches, you are not going to notice Dan Cody nearly as much. So, early he was a victim of circumstance and he is playing well now. He was playing well then, but from a statistical standpoint you weren't able to notice him as much.
Coach Stoops is another that says Cody has been good all season.
"Yeah, he has been excellent all the way through, "said Stoops. "You have to understand how a few teams played us early to just hang around and not hurt themselves and not score a lot. But in the end, they didn't challenge a whole lot. However, as you get into the meat of the conference and the meat of the schedule, they have to throw the ball deeper and run more conventional offenses. That has given Dan more opportunities. He played in a great way not only with the sacks, but with all the pressure that he had. Even when the quarterback threw the ball away so many times, he was hitting them as he did it."
The Sooners best player on defense was Rufus Alexander. Before Alexander injured a knee in the third quarter, he was dominating the Wildcats from all angles. Carl Pendleton also suffered a knee injury, and their status in the future is critical for the Sooners success.
"They are doing pretty good today," said Stoops. "I don't think we can say just yet if it is weeks or if it is a week at all. I think there is a decent change that both have a chance to play this week. It is a little early to determine that. I think they both have a legitimate chance to play this week."
Gayron Allen came in for Alexander and Moe Dampeer saw his first action of the season. Remi Ayodele also subbed for Pendleton.
"They did really well, but I will tell you Rufus was lighting it up before he got hurt," said Stoops. "He was having an incredible game. The guy was everywhere. He had third down stops, forced two fumbles and recovered one himself after forcing a fumble and having another pressure. They called it a roughing the passer, which turned out to be a good call because at the time I didn't realize where he had hit him. Still, he had a great game. However, Gayron (Allen) had a good game and he always has a good game. It doesn't matter what position we play him in. Whether it is at WILL, MIKE or wherever we play him, he always plays well. He started a number of games for us last year and always played well for us. He is an excellent player and did very well for us. Moe (Dampeer) and Remi (Ayodele) did a nice job and made some plays and they contributed."
Moe was allowed to practice with the team for the first time in weeks on Thursday when it was decided that reserve Steven Coleman couldn't play because of a turf-toe. The irony here is that Coleman and Dampeer are roommates, and thus the two knew of the consequences.
When Moe was in the game he played pretty well, even though he didn't always know what defense the Sooners were in.
"I think Jackie (Shipp) coached him series by series," said Venables. "Here is what we are going to do big fellow. You do this here and that there. We didn't change our defense because Moe was out there, and say now 'we can't do this and can't do that.' Jackie did a great job getting him ready."
How did Big Moe grade out in the game?
"I thought he was fairly disruptive," said Venables. "He did pretty well for a guy that had not been out there in who knows how many weeks."
There are times when Moe can't seem to get it totally together. He catches a break when he is allowed to travel and he even gets into the game and gives a pretty good account of himself. Then he stays out on the field celebrating the Sooner victory and is five minutes late getting into the Sooner locker room, which didn't please Coach Stoops after the game.
"I don't have any doghouses. Moe Dampeer only played because of injuries to Steven Coleman (turf-toe) and he wasn't able to do much by the end of the week last week," said Coach Stoops after the game. "I didn't feel it was fair to Cory Bennett, a guy who is in a position to redshirt — to have to ruin his year to play before he is ready, for a guy who hasn't done what he is supposed to do for the team. I am smart enough to not cut my nose off to spite my face. And, hey, look I am not going to ruin Cory's year. We were short with tackles with Steve Coleman's injury and Carl went down, so if that is what we have to do we will do it. But he still has a long way to go before he is on the field any time soon or any time regularly."
Today, however, Coach Stoops didn't seem as agitated towards Moe. But no matter how things are shaking out at the moment, Moe is just happy to still be a Sooner.
"I am just happy that I am playing for a great coach in Coach Stoops," said Dampeer after the game. "He is a great guy and is giving me a second or maybe a third chance. Not every coach would do that. I have screwed up in some areas and I have to accept my punishment. I am going to get everything together and prove to this football team that I still want to be a part of it. All I want to be is a solid member of this football team and to help this team win games."
It was another great day for junior fullback J.D. Runnels. Not only did Runnels block almost perfectly, but he also caught one pass for a 23-yard gain.
"J.D. was excellent again. That guy does a great, great job," said Stoops. "He always gets his man canceling him and there are a lot of different ways he does it. He is a very physical player who is an excellent athlete. Everybody pictures athletes as sleek and mean, but J.D. is one of our best athletes. He is a guy who can adjust, change direction and he is physical. Yet, he can catch the ball and he can do it all. He is really a great player."
"Some other guys who played well on offense were Travis Wilson and Mark Clayton at receiver. They both had excellent games," Stoops continued. "Jason White was excellent again. Adrian Peterson had some tough, tough running. He was really physical and attacking them. I like the persistence and I liked the fact that our offensive coaches stuck with it. And then in the fourth quarter, it made the difference. Our offensive line was strong again. Defensively, Rufus made a ton of plays along with Lance Mitchell, Dan Cody and Jonathan Jackson. Brodney Pool had a pretty good game and he came up with a lot of plays. Blake Ferguson had a great day punting and hit the ball well. He placed the ball very well."
While Blake had a great day punting, Trey DiCarlo struggled with one field blocked field goal and two kickoffs sailing out of bounds.
Finally, do the Sooners have two Heisman Trophy candidates? It certainly appears so as many so called experts still claimed that AD was at the top of their list. And you would think that White's performance put him right back into the race.
"I think we have a lot of football left and it is too early to tell right now," said Long. "That thing really doesn't start to take shape until at the end of the year anyway. I think it is too early. I know that a number of media mentioned that he is already out of the race, but that is the media's call because I certainly didn't feel that way. We are not pushing him to win the Heisman Trophy because we are pushing him to win the National Championship. He understands that, but with so much football left you just have to keep on an even keel and see how things shake out. Yesterday was a big bounce back day for him, and he did it on the road. That will go a long way with those people down the road."
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