Today's game returns us to Stillwater where the Cowboys won last (2002), back in the days before Jason White. It seems like an eternity ago when Nate Hybl was often caught behind the line of scrimmage and the Sooners were a long shot on third and short. Even with that loss the Sooners got some satisfaction by watching Colorado beat Texas and escaped to play in their first ever Rose Bowl, where Nate redeemed himself with an MVP award.
But this is a far different Sooner team. Stoops and company have come a long ways in the transformation to a balanced, hard to stop offense. Much of the credit should go to Chuck Long, and to Kevin Wilson. However the big difference is in the talent. Jason White is as good as any quarterback in college football and Adrian Peterson is making a run for the best freshman in NCAA history.
It's an ill wind that blows no man good . . .
Looking back, if the Sooners had indeed won would they have been able to make it all the way to the championship game? That's debatable, but in the long run sometimes a loss to OSU is better than a win. How so? Here are five 'monumental' OSU wins that changed OU football forever - for the good:
1) 1945. Oklahoma A&M 47 - Oklahoma 0. The Second World War was just ending and the brief era when agricultural colleges were stocked with farm deferred athletes would also be coming to an end. In Norman, Dewey 'Snorter' Luster was 5 and 4 on the year and playing the Aggies at home to close the '45 season. His Sooner team would lose by the embarrassing score of 0 - 47 and 'Snorter' - hearing the inevitable footsteps, resigned before he left the locker room. The opening was quickly snatched up by one of America's fastest rising coaching stars, Jim Tatum. Tatum brought in hundreds of returning serviceman and a young coach named Bud Wilkinson, who would replace Tatum just 12 months later. The loss in 1945 enabled Oklahoma to usher in a coaching change which would lead to national dominance for over fifteen years.
2) 1965. OSU 17 - Oklahoma 16. Gomer Jones, a good man with a great heart was not cut out to be a head coach. The offensive line coach took over when Bud Wilkinson announced he was running for the US Senate in 1964 and coached the Sooners for two seasons. Jones had a record of 9 wins and 10 losses when OSU rolled into Norman on December 4, 1965. In the end the Cowboys kicked a last minute field goal to win by one, sending Gomer into retirement and bringing in a young coach from Arkansas by the name of Jim McKenzie. McKenzie may have been OU greatest coach ever, but a heart attack claimed him after only one season, and the Sooners were left in mourning with one of the greatest collections of assistant coaches in college football history. On the McKenzie staff in 1966: Chuck Fairbanks; Pat James; Larry Lacewell; Homer Rice and one Barry Switzer.
If OU had of won in 1965, there's a good chance that Gomer would have gotten another year, and Oklahoma would have never crossed paths with McKenzie or members his staff, (i.e. Oklahoma and Barry Switzer would have become a coaching somewhere else).
3) 1995. OSU 12 - Oklahoma 0. Howard Schnellenberger was directing OU football backwards at a pace not seen since Gomer Jones did his magic thirty years earlier. OSU and Oklahoma were equally bad in 1995, but somehow OU failed to score after spending several hours in the red zone. Howard's act was already old, but a loss to the Aggies sealed his fate. Good bye Howard.
4 & 5) 1997 - 98. Scores are not necessary, one only needs mention 'John Blake.' It wasn't just OSU. Blake also managed to lose to teams no one ever bothered to worry about before: TCU; San Diego; Tulsa; Kansas; Northwestern; Cal; on top of conference powerhouses. Suddenly every team on the schedule was a concern. A loss to OSU just made the misery more intense and prompted OU to bring in some guy from Florida.
All of this for two points: One, this is not the inept, one dimensional offense of 2002. Two, like a penicillin bacteria, Oklahoma State does serve a purpose in College Football's complex food chain. The Cowboys win just often enough to spur OU on to bigger and better things, while they are left standing on the roadside with just enough funds to make it to the flop-house named 'Hotel Envy' for the night. We should be thankful for the role they play in our success, and particularly the five wins that helped insure Oklahoma's football greatness .
Brent Venables commented on the game Thursday evening: "I just think it is going to be a physical game and if you don't come ready to be physical then you are going to have some problems. This game is going to be won or lost up front on both sides of the ball. We have talked about that from day one and it is the way this game has been played the last few years. They whipped us two years ago and we whipped them last year up front. This year is another year and that is what it is going to come down to. When it is all said and done all the trickery and shenanigans and everything else it is going to be about who is going to whip who up front. Who is going to get a hat-on-a-hat and who is going to be able to get off blocks and who is going to make plays. It is going to start up front."
We'll take Brent's word for it and give OU the advantage on both lines. Dan Cody and Jonathon Jackson alone give Oklahoma the edge up front on offense. Last year was a testimonial, meant to shut up Les Miles for statements only an unchanged Aggie would make. Both teams boast of good offensive lines, but Peterson and White make a huge difference this year. Not in the outcome of this one game, but in the Sooners chances at a crystal ball in January. Oklahoma 38 - OSU 20.
The Bo factor . . .
Steve Spurrier's name continues to dominate college football news. Although Bob Stoops squashed one rumor this week he could not totally distance himself from the Florida 'tar-baby' as Bo Pelini's name was linked to Florida as a possible DC under Spurrier.
Before we get that far, Spurrier has to take the job, and the Washington Redskin debacle has taught him one thing: Total Control is better than Partial Control. It's no secret that the hang up at UF centers around a stubborn AD and President, and a figure more popular than either in terms of Spurrier. Just how much ego can fit into the town of Gainesville without a total melt down is the question. But if the Prez and AD see that the big money boosters are behind SS, they may have to accept his unconditional surrender terms, or find themselves as the odd men out.
It's almost certain that Stoops and Spurrier have discussed potential defensive coordinators at UF, and should we see a white flag and Spurrier prevail in the next week, it is possible, (but not probable), that Pelini will be calling the defensive plays at UF next year.
Pelini came to OU for it's high profile opportunity to showcase his abilities. At present, no program sits on a brighter stage. Not USC, Miami or LSU, (as none of those three has sent too many assistants off as head coaches lately). The same can not be said of Oklahoma and Bob Stoops.
So what keeps Pelini in Norman? Stability. To go from a co-DC at perhaps the nation's top program to a very good but not great program would be risky. If Stoops were to convince Joe Castiglione that Bo is indeed a difference maker and his chemistry is good for the staff, then enough (i.e. more), money could seal the deal. And, personal and family issues are sometimes the determining factor: Maybe 'Mrs. Bo' needs a year to settle down and un-pack before the next move. Maybe the kids are just getting adjusted.
What might influence Bo to go? Maybe more money, but more importantly the chance to go to a program and be the man on defense vs sharing a title. Perception rules here. Spurrier is known as an offensive genius without a lot of regard for defense - kinda like a mature Mike Leach. Florida was not known for defense until SS saw K-State and hired the mastermind behind that unit. All Bob Stoops did was add enough polish to turn the Gators into the National Champions. That opportunity would not be lost on any defensive coach looking for an opening.
What if Bo goes? More resumes will flood Stoop's fax than you could imagine. Oklahoma would end up with another blue chip replacement. Every coach in the country knows that right now, Oklahoma under Bob Stoops is a factory for head coaches. Should Pelini leave Stoops will hire some young gun, (probably from Youngstown), and the Sooners will be rolling by spring.
Along the future front line . . .
Last week we asserted that Davin Joseph has emerged as OU's top offensive lineman so far. We mentioned that next year Joseph would move to tackle where he should team with either Akim Millington or Brandon Keith as the OT starters. Another surprise we forgot to mention was freshman J.D. Quinn, (6'3 275, 5.0). Many freshman take their initial red shirt year 'off' and cruise through fall until they get a chance in the spring. Quinn however is going full bore and making enough of an impression that he may push to start at guard next fall as a redshirt freshmen. Look for JD to weigh in around 280 next year and add 10 pounds of muscle per year under Schmidt. Quinn's progress and determination has taken a lot of worry away from next year's OL, and what was a potential worry a few months ago has allowed coaches to turn their anxiety in other directions.
As we mentioned last week, a red shirt year is allowing LB Wayne Chambers to become the player he was expected to be, miraculously recovering from a mediocre death spiral that almost caused him to be written off by coaches just six months ago.
It's almost redundant to report that Rhett Bomar is the real deal, and he should give the Sooners a chance next fall to be more than a rebuilding football team. Which brings up the 2005 QB dilemma. Of course all three QB's will get their shot this spring and probably into next August, but besting Bomar may be too much to ask of any mortal. Tommy Grady? Don't write him off just yet, and Paul Thompson remains a favorite of teammates and coaches.
The Sooners know that PT needs to play. While there are plenty of athletes on the squad, there are few natural born leaders. Thompson brings smarts, leadership and uncanny football sense to the field. There's still plenty of time for Paul. He may star, or fall into obscurity, but our guess is that somehow he'll be instrumental in OU's fortunes for the next 2 - 3 years.
And did DJ Wolfe's hit last week show what he can do? No timid freshman here. What a 'one - two punch' he and AD will make next year! And if anyone's counting, give Lawrence Dampeer his first game ball after last week's performance against KU. Forget the game ball, in just two games Dampeer has established himself as a Sooner crowd favorite. Wait until this guy gets some more PT!
Recruiting . . .
Since our summer Weekend Up Dates, we've predicted a Florida - Oklahoma struggle for the nation's top recruit, Derrick Williams (6-0, 193, 4.4), of Greenbelt, Maryland. Zook's leaving boosts OU's chances to huge proportions. However if Spurrier takes the job we're right back at square one. One person who knows Derrick and his family well said; "At first the change would hurt Florida. Derrick and his family lean on relationships, so a new one would have to be constructed pretty fast. If however, Spurrier or any other coach could come in and sweep them off their feet, it'd be a dogfight all over again." Here's hoping Florida takes their time!
OK, ninety days remain before signing day. Oklahoma is literally in on a Who's Who list of the top players in America. Not one or two, but many. And as we have said, this years crop will be heavy in quantity, as OU may sign as many as 27. So who are the Sooners most likely to sign at this point in time?
Offensive line is a huge concern and is looking better with 'two and a half' commitments: Jesse White, (6-3 287 4.85), Colorado's top prospect and OU's most recent commit. Ben Barresi, (6-5 282 5.0), will be a great college linemen in a few years, and Brandon Kieth, (6'6, 307, 4.9), if he continues to progress academically at NEO, will become a key element in the short term OL future at Oklahoma.
The Sooners are still recruiting some great offensive linemen. Best remaining bets, (most likely listed first): Jon Cooper, (6'3, 273, 4.95) of Ft. Collins, CO. Cooper is one of the Sooner's top guard/center prospects in the country, and visited last weekend for Kansas. Reginald Youngblood, Houston, Texas - (6-5, 285, 5.30), rated as the #2 OL in the country, and a top focus of Stoops & Co. Oklahoma is in a dogfight with Michigan for Cory Zirbel, (6-7, 292, 5.3) of Murray, KY. Curtis Crouch, (6-6, 316, 5.2) Fayetteville, N.C. has impressed OU coaches all year, and Paul Duncan, (6'6, 288, 5.38 ) of Dallas, GA. Just visited Oklahoma. Highly rated offensive linemen Dace Richardson (#3 OL), Dan Doering, (#5 OL), Chris Scott (#9 OL) and Marques Slocum (#11), are still possibilities, and the Sooners are still talking to with Oklahoma prospects Joe Barresi and Dain Wise. Either could wind up with an offer.
Tight End - Oklahoma is recruiting the nation's best in Houston's DajLeon Farr (6'6, 240, 4.7) of Galena Park (North Shore) and Martellus Bennett, (6-6, 240,4.75) of Houston Taylor. Call this one a dead heat as to who will be the best college tight end, but either are the best TE prospects to come along a couple of years. Other TE possibilities for Oklahoma are California's Ed Dickson, (6-5 225 4.6), and the nation's forth rated TE prospect - Jermichael Finley (6-4 215 4.6), who is still wavering on an earlier commitment to Arizona, remains a remote possibility.
Receivers are the biggest need and without a doubt are the current stars of the class. OU has commitments from: Malcolm Kelly, (6-3 190 4.55), Longview, TX. Kelly, the nation's forth rated WR, has been on board for some time and brings instant credibility to the class, as does.
Eric Huggins, (6-3 190 4.5) of Conway, SC and Manuel Johnson, (6-0 170 4.6) of Gilmer, TX. Johnson is the lowest rated WR (#30 nationally), but the Sooners strongly disagree as they've turned down others ranked ahead of him, preferring Johnson, who may most resemble Mark Clayton. In fact, one knowledgeable source thinks that Johnson may be the best receiver that OU has on their books so far.
As big as this trio is, the Sooners are still very much in the running for the nation's top recruit, Derrick Williams, (see above) and Kansas City's D.J. Hord, (6-1 190 4.4). Either could be the pure, electrifying 'speed burner' that the OU offense will need to stretch the field, making Adrian Peterson more dangerous. Ditto Rhett Bomar, a top tight end, a bruising fullback. Forget changing the BCS formula, if the Sooners land these guys there'll be an effort to change recruiting rules!
Running Backs - Committed: Matt Clapp, (6-2, 235 4.7) Phoenix, AZ. A hard running blocking machine in the mold of J.D. Runnells, Matt apparently suffered a knee injury vs Yuma last night, (Oct 29). The extent of the injury will not be known until later this weekend. Outside of Clapp, the Sooners are likely going to fold the tent this year, as they don't believe that any high school backs can surpass their current squad. There are three backs that the Sooners offered early: Richie Rich, Marietta, GA; fullback Jorvorskie Lane, Lufkin, TX; and Terrius Purvey, Gainesville, TX. However, the emergence of Adrian Peterson and the fact that D.J. Wolfe is waiting in the wings, makes RB a low priority position this year. If Clapp's injury is serious, the Sooners could search for an insurance policy, although by far the most likely scenario is that Clapp would take a redshirt in order to totally re-hab without pressure.
Defensive Line: OU has two DL commitments, but is desperate for more. There is a real possibility that spring practice will have to be altered to compensate for lack of depth at DT. The Sooners believe Roy Miller, (6-2 295 4.9), is much better than his rankings, (#18 nationally) . Not too much has been said about Claremore's Billy Blackard, (6-3 292 4.9), but Sooner coaches are confidant that Blackard has the talent and ability to play either side of the line. But for those eager to move him, a legitimate comparison to Coweta's Rick Bryan may slow the process.
On the board: OU is recruiting the nation's best DT's. Among them - DeMarcus Granger, (6-3, 325, 5.2), ranked as the #2 DT, is the Sooners most likely prospect. Vince Oghobaase, (6-6, 300, 5.2), is an OSU lean and the Sooners may need a big win today to pull even. Cedar Mills, TX DT Terrel Nemons, (6-2, 330, 5.3), is a possibility, but is not happy that Oklahoma seems to be slow playing him.
Defensive Ends: OU has two on board in Brody Eldridge, (6-5 230 4.7), of La Cygne, Prairie View, and Auston English, (6.2 220 4.65). Eldridge is thought to be in the Dan Cody mold, and English, (Canadian, TX), is currently a star tailback. Apparently the Sooners are satisfied with these two and are only looking at #1 rated DE Averell Spicer, (Rancho Cucamonga , CA.), who remains a USC probability but still has his eye on several top programs, including Oklahoma.
At linebacker OU appears to be solid with the nation's #10 ranked LB Curtis Lofton (6-2 240 4.6), committed. Yes, OSU will pursue Lofton up until signing day, and an O-State upset today could re-open the battle, but in the end Lofton should be wearing Crimson. Almost as solid as Lofton, though uncommitted, is the nation's fourth ranked linebacker, Ryan Reynolds, (6-2 220 4.6), Las Vegas, NV. Although the Sooners are still in on #1 ranked Luther Brown, (6-2 227 4.7), better bets are Alex Daniels, (6-3 225 4.5), of Columbus, OH and possibly Nic Harris, (6-3 210 4.7), of Alexandria, LA who the Sooners coaches believe is one of the most exciting payers in America.
Oklahoma has no commitments at corner backs but looks to be in good shape with several stellar corners including Michael Ray Garvin, (5-8 178 4.4); Syd'Quan Thompson, (5-10 180 4.45), Alton Dixon (6-0 190 4.48), of Lufkin, TX and Brian Jackson, (6-1 210 4.55), of De Soto TX. The Sooners will take the first two of this group and go to the house.
OU needs three safeties and have two good ones on board: Keenan Clayton, (6-2 210 4.5), and Allen Patrick, (6-3 200 4.4) of Independence JC, who is currently red shirting due to a leg injury and will arrive with three years of eligibility. Until the Sooners get a commitment from Edmond's Reggie Smith (6-0 193 4.47), they will be forced to continue their search. Obviously, a 'yes' from Smith would close the books on this position leaving the Sooners looking very strong.
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