The Sooners' 38-35 win over OSU was amazing as the Bedlam battle seems to always be wild and crazy when it is played in Stillwater. I am not sure what it is at this point, but when the Bedlam game is played in Stillwater you can bet something strange is going to happen. Even two years ago in 2002 when OSU won the game so lopsidedly, you would have to admit that it was a strange game because who expected OSU to win the game that way?
Saturday, the Sooners beat the Cowboys in the waning seconds when a Jason Ricks 49-yard field goal hooked wide left allowing the Oklahoma to exhale and allowing them to keep their national title hopes alive.
"I told my team that they played with great character and resolve," said a jubilant Bob Stoops immediately following the game." "I told them that there were going to be games where they would have to stay poised and play through some unusual things. Today, we kept our poise in a big way and kept making big plays. Give OSU credit because they kept coming at us and they hit some big plays too, but not as many as we did. I told my team that this season reminds me so much of 2000, because during that year we came up here and had a tough ball game, and had the same follow-up game with Texas A&M on the road next. If we can get the same result next week that we got in 2000, we will be pretty happy."
The bottom line in the world of college football when you play at the level the Sooners are playing, you have to keep winning and that is all that matters. Just ask Miami and Florida State, two former unbeaten teams who were upset on Saturday. Once again, so many of my media brethren have fallen into the trap of predicting that there will be five to six unbeaten teams at the end of the season, and once again they are going to be wrong. If they would just listen to Bob Stoops, who tells us every year that when all the smoke clears there is going to be anywhere from 0 to 2 teams left unbeaten. Thus far, that has happened every year.
So, 'Just Win Baby' is the mantra of this current Sooner squad, and that is exactly what they did. They didn't play their best game, spotting the Cowboys 14-points, yet still had enough to beat OSU in front of a capacity crowd at the newly renovated Boone Pickens Stadium.
The Sooners were in total control of the game and getting ready to pull away when they made two major special team blunders. Well, in reality they made only one, but even the official couldn't believe that Mr. Steady Mark Clayton ran over towards that punt. THAT DIDN'T REALLY HAPPEN DID IT?
"Well, I don't know how to say this, but I didn't really touch that ball," said a smiling Clayton after the game. "I know that it looked like I did, but I didn't touch it. When they called it I didn't know what to do. I knew I didn't touch it, but I also knew that I had run over and almost touched it. I am positive that I didn't touch it."
So, gift No. 1.
Then for the second straight week Blake Ferguson dropped a snap, and once again OSU was Johnny on the spot, recovering the ball in the end zone to give them their only lead of the game at 14-7. Thus, in a span of two possessions the Sooners' special teams gave the Pokes 14 points and OU looked as if they were in a shocked state.
The Sooners would ride the spectacular play of senior quarterback Jason White, senior wide receiver Mark Bradley and freshman Adrian Peterson to overcome those mistakes, but it is not easy to overcome 14 points against a top 25 team in their house.
"Absolutely, even after all of that we are still up 21-14 at the half," said Coach Stoops. "Mark didn't even touch that ball, but it looks like he did and that is how they ruled it. I like the way we responded it. Everybody was more angry than anything, and they stayed focused and came back and still regained the lead by halftime. That is a lot to overcome, but we did. We were still strong enough to win and lead the entire second half."
"We did everything we could to give our opponent an opportunity to beat us," said Co-Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables. "We gift-wrapped two scores for them and put 14-points on their scoreboard before half. Otherwise, a lot of these questions we are not having, because it is 21-0 at halftime at their place in the biggest game they have had in a number of years. When you have a team that fortunate you are going to have a chance to lose a game if you want to go out of your way to give them a victory."
In reality, the Sooners should not have even been in that situation, but they were and the Cowboys made them pay for it matching the Sooners big play after big play while also stealing the momentum.
"Our guys respect the game and understand what potentially could have happened yesterday," said Venables from the Switzer Center the day after Bedlam. "They understand how we were fortunate to fight our way out of hole that we dug for ourselves and win a game. I think they also respect what happened last year at the end of the year, and again the last time we went down there. They remembered what it felt like to fail and they didn't let that happen again."
With the Cowboys stealing the lead the Sooners went to work. With 6:21 left in the first quarter and the Sooners down for the first time, senior quarterback Jason White started connecting with senior wide receiver Mark Bradley. Already down 14-7, White threw over the middle to Bradley and the super athlete came up with one acrobatic 72-yard touchdown.
"I had a hand in my face and Jason kind of put it in there fast. It kind of shocked me for a minute," said Bradley after the game. "After that I stuck with the ball just like we are taught, and when I finally got hold of it I got up field after that. I knew it was going to be a big play, but when the ball got out of my hands I felt like I messed up, but the coaches always teach us to stay with a play and never quit on anything. So, I just stuck with it and got it into the end zone."
Bradley would regain the lead for Sooners on a 23-yard catch from White with under a minute left in the first half. Bradley is becoming a big play threat and he was certainly too much for the Cowboys to handle in the first half.
"We had some special plays set up for me to get me going early," said Bradley. "I told J. White to stick with me and he got more confidence in me going back to his second look. We connected on it and it started from that point on."
Bradley was put into the starting line-up two weeks ago and that move has paid immediate dividends for the Sooners.
"I have been very pleased with how Mark has performed all year," said OU wide receiver coach Darrell Wyatt. "Mark works incredibly hard and he has been productive for us. Every time he gets his hands on the ball good things seem to happen. He has become one of our big play guys on the team , and I just felt that we needed to give him more opportunities. On top of all that, Mark is one of our best blockers in the run game. Just watch him and Mark (Clayton) and you will see two guys that love to block for our running backs. They care just as much about that as they do about catching balls. But make no mistake about it, Mark (Bradley) has become a big play receiver for us."
Barring injury, look for Bradley to start the rest of the season.
The Sooners decided to turn to the Adrian Peterson show in the second half, and why not? When you have the best running back in college football running in your backfield you should use him. In the first half, the Sooners threw for 206 yards and three touchdowns, and the passing game was working. However, Peterson was running well, which was evident by his 53 yards on the ground on the first half.
"In the first half it seemed like I was just a step away every time from breaking one," said Peterson after the game. "We had holes and I would just get tripped up and one last guy would tackle me. I know I went into the halftime locker room thinking we were going to have a big second half on the ground."
Does the frosh know what he was talking about or what?
The Sooners went to the run in the second half and started to pound away at the Cowboys. On the first drive, Oklahoma drove 21 yards, which along with a Blake Ferguson 55-yard punt pinned the Cowboys back at their own four. The Sooner defense stuck the Cowboys inside their own 10, and when a Cole Farden's punt traveled 42 yards to midfield Clayton knew he had a chance.
"I haven't really been back there enough to know what is going on, but when I first caught the ball I thought I had a lot of room," said Clayton. "I had one guy to beat and my guys threw some great blocks and I was in open field. I started thinking to myself that I am going to score, I am going to score, and then I scored."
Clayton always makes things sound so simple, and that is because maybe they are to him. Clayton threw some of the best moves at the Cowboys since the great Joe Washington was wiggling his way into the end zone for the Sooners, and he isn't even sure what he did or how he did it.
"I just react. I know that, because I don't sit around and plan moves or anything," said Clayton. "I guess I have the ability and I have always been able to avoid guys. It is better to find a way to run around them when you are my size. I can say that every time I touch the ball I don't want to get tackled, so if I can run away from guys then I won't get tackled. I guess that is my thinking about it."
After Clayton's burst through the OSU punt unit, the Sooners turned it over to AD holding a 28-14 lead. It was also at that time that OSU became desperate and the Woods brothers decided to act like they were back home in Oklahoma City at the big park by their house with little brother Donovan throwing up bombs to big brother D'Juan.
In the first half, the Sooners made Donovan Woods look like the rookie he is. Brodney Pool and Eric Bassey both should have had interceptions and Woods looked as if he was color blind throwing to the Sooners just as much as he was throwing the Cowboys. Oklahoma totally frustrated Woods, and at the half he was 2-for-8 for 13 yards.
After Clayton's TD return, things dramatically changed for Woods and the Oklahoma defense. Trailing by two scores, Woods went up top for the first time against the Sooners hitting D'Juan Woods for a 46-yard pass beating Chijioke Onyenegecha.
Chijioke was never beaten deep as a JUCO All-American, and his reputation as a cover guy coming into the game was intense. However, the Cowboys went right at him and Chijioke found out the Bedlam series is not junior college.
"I think Chijioke played pretty well (five tackles), but he certainly got tested today," said Co-Defensive Coordinator Bo Pelini after the game. "Chijioke is still learning out there and he has played well for us. He needs to find the ball a little better in the air and he will get better at that."
Woods would pick on the other corner (Eric Bassey) for his first touchdown finding super frosh Prentiss Elliott wide open against a confused Bassey for a 39-yard touchdown.
Two big plays and the Cowboys were right back in the game trailing only 28-21.
Wanting to control the clock, the Sooners went right back to AD. AD was a 10.3 100-meter sprinter at Palestine High, but on his very next carry it would take him 12 seconds to cover 80 yards.
"When I got the ball I just saw a big hole and I ran hard through it," said AD. "I ran into some traffic past the hole, so I just spun round and when I came out of my spin I was in open field. From that point I just ran as hard as I could and I didn't think anybody was going to catch me."
AD sprinted away from the Cowboy secondary and the Sooners had regained their 14 point lead. The Cowboys had thrown a haymaker and the Sooners had countered. Once again the Sooners had regained control the game, or had they?
"We felt we were safe with our plan primarily because we weren't that far ahead coming out at halftime," said Offensive Coordinator Chuck Long. "We were only ahead by seven, and we didn't throw that much in the second half. The reason for that was that we hit some big runs early. We hit the 80-yard run early in the second half and then on the very next possession we hit a big 40-yard run coming off the goal line. So, we felt our run game was starting to click so we stayed with that. When your run game starts to click, especially in the second half, it allows you to take some time off the clock as well. So, we stayed with it in the second half."
It is not often that the Sooner secondary plays bad, but when they do play bad they play badly in bunches. Not bunches of games, but on six passes or three passes or just four plays. However, on those four to six plays, they will give up over 200 yards. And that is what happened against the Cowboys.
The Oklahoma defense was still playing pretty well, but the Pokes big plays in the passing game on the drive before backed the Sooner safeties back. The Pokes started pounding super tailback Vernand Morency and the Cowboys were on the move. Donavan Woods was beginning to get some confidence hitting Elliott for a 10-yard slant and a first down to keep the drive going. However, it was a 32-yard pass right down the middle of the Sooner secondary to D'Juan Woods that set up Morency's two-yard touchdown run. For the second straight series, the Sooner secondary let D'Juan Woods get behind them and he caught the ball between super safeties Brodney Pool and Donte Nicholson.
"I really can't explain why we didn't make plays on balls when we are right there in coverage," said Pelini after the game. "When you are in position you have to make a play on the ball. I know one time for sure our guy just misjudged the football (Chijioke). He thought he had the pick and he misjudged it. However, that is the game and these are young guys and young defensive football players. They are human and you see that sometimes. Those kids from Oklahoma State can play. They made a couple of plays on us and you have to say good job by them."
The frustrating thing on all the Cowboys' deep passes is that they were in the right coverage and they had defenders in the area, but on each catch the Cowboys just made the plays.
"We were in position. I don't think there was anything magical about what they were doing," said Pelini. "They were just dropping back and running a guy down the field and throwing the ball up. We have to make some plays. We did in the first half, but didn't in the second half. It is not something that I am panicked about. We have some good guys back there and you have days like this. This happens every now and then. However, we got the win and you have to find a way to get the W. That is all that we care about. We are 8-0 and we are ready to go to the next one. The things that we didn't do well we will correct this week. I have to do a better job coaching just like everybody else. It starts with us the coaches and we need to do a better job this week."
Pelini may take the high road and take the blame, but the players aren't going to let the coaches do such a thing.
"Our coaches do a great job of getting us ready to play each week," said junior safety Brodney Pool following the game. "They didn't do anything that we didn't expect and they didn't surprise us with anything. They just out-executed us on a couple of plays. Our coaches have nothing to do with that. We didn't do a very good job reacting to the ball or to the speed of their receivers tonight. I am not sure why, but all I know is that we need to do a better job in the future because we almost didn't get the job done tonight."
One thing that the Sooner coaches have always been good at it is finding positives when the fans the media feel there were negatives. Always remember the bottom line in a win and that the Sooners won the game.
"You feel really bad in a game when you flopped all over the field and you look like a bunch of chumps," said Venables after the game. "We don't feel like we looked like that today. We can play better and we need to be more consistent. We need to play a little bit smarter at times, but more than anything this game builds confidence and shows our guys the character that we have on this football team. Bottom line is it is a team game and I think we displayed that today. Our offense came back and responded when they had to and our defense made a few big stops. Our special teams put it together after making some early mistakes and then controlled the field position in the second half. It was a team win, and that does a lot for your locker room to say the least."
Oklahoma State kicker Jason Ricks missed his field goal at the end after Coach Stoops had called timeout twice. The Sooner Ball Coach admitted he was doing everything he could to help Ricks miss that field goal.
"Sure, we were trying to freeze him," said Stoops following the game. "We had two timeouts to use and we might as well use them. We just tried to make him think about it a little bit. I don't know if that made any difference or not, but he didn't make it and that is all I care about."
That was all any of the Sooners cared about.
"Man, I was praying hard for him to miss it," said senior offensive tackle Jammal Brown. "I was hoping he missed it. That was a hard-fought game. Both teams gave it everything they had. I am just glad we had three more points on the scoreboard than they did."
"Both teams played so hard today. I can feel it in my bones," said senior defensive end Dan Cody. "Oklahoma State played their guts out, but so did we. Neither team wanted to give an inch. I love these kind of football games because both teams laid it out there. Nothing was held back and nobody was conservative. Both teams wanted it so much, and I am just glad our guy made his field goal and their guy missed his."
Of course, Peterson was the main topic of conversation following the game. AD rushed for 249 yards on 33 carries and one touchdown. More and more national media are following the Sooners because of AD, and they always ask Coach Stoops if AD surprises him.
"We have seen enough of him to expect Adrian to play like he does," said Stoops. "They guy is really good. I always try to temper my words, especially early, but he is looking real special. He was a great player today. Again, not everything was easy, but he is patient and he sticks with it. He is tough and hard to bring down. And again, you see his burst of speed when he gets into the open space he is hard to catch."
"Also, I want to point out that early on Mark Bradley was awesome," Stoops continued. "He played a great game early. Jason was good throughout the game as he threw three TDs again. He was really special in the first half as some of those drives were outstanding. He was was excellent in all of them. KeJuan Jones also had a good game for us. KeJuan is a very talented player and plays a key role for us. He is finally healthy from that injured ankle that he had early in the season, and that showed tonight as he was very quick through the hole. KeJuan always runs hard. He was good on one screen and he almost had another."
The Sooner special teams struggled, or at least you can say there were grossly inconsistent. A botched fumble return and another fumbled snap, which give up 14-points, and then a punt return for a touchdown by Clayton is inconsistent. However, for the remainder of the special team plays, the Sooners seemed to earn field position and play well.
"I thought our special teams play, outside of Blake's dropped snap, and Mark's indecision was really pretty good," said Stoops. "It was solid. I thought Trey (DiCarlo) hit the ball well. I thought they played pretty well."
One of the big keys in the game was the Sooners ability to run the ball rushing for 267 yards, while holding OSU to 150 yards.
"That was a major difference in the game because we actually rushed for 300 yards on the game when you don't factor in the sacks and things," said Stoops. "We knew that would be the biggest key to the game, and AD was sensational again. KeJuan was real good as well. That was the big factor for us offensively and defensively. We knew we would be in great shape if we took away the running game, and we didn't count on giving them two scores. That made the game tighter than it needed to be."
Enough said. This game didn't need to be so close and it should not have come down to an OSU field goal attempt to tie the game. The Sooners made so many mistakes in the game that they allowed OSU to stay in it, yet Oklahoma is so good that they were able to overcome their mistakes and still win the game in Stillwater no less.
For the Sooners, they are still undefeated, untied and still on course to win the Big 12 South. And winning in Stillwater is very sweet indeed!
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