OU-Texas A&M Locker Room Report

See inside for an in-depth recap of Oklahoma's 42-35 win over A&M with quotes from all the key players and coaches. Quarterback Jason White (pictured above) tied the single-game school record for touchdown passes (five) for the third time in his career against A&M. White holds the record with Josh Heupel, who did it twice in his career. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The game was tied 35-35 and the momentum had begun to swing the Sooners way. OU had battled back from 14-point deficits on three different occasions and had finally taken the lead in the third quarter, only to watch Texas A&M storm back to tie the game on a fake field goal.

To make matters worse, the Sooners star running back Adrian Peterson was rushed to the locker room as doctors worked to pop his slightly separated left shoulder back into place. At that point, it wasn't certain whether AD was going to be available or not, and with that in mind the Oklahoma's gameplan totally landed on the shoulders of current Heisman Trophy winner Jason White.

For most the day, the Sooners needed White's Heisman form and he delivered throwing for four touchdown passes up to that point. White was tearing up the Aggie secondary, despite playing with a heavy heart. Earlier in the week, White attended the funeral of his grandfather, Gerald White, in Defiance, Missouri. White and his grandfather were very close and Jason's father, Ron White, told the Daily Oklahoman that it was the first close death in the family.

I have always been amazed by White's ability to concentrate on what is at hand and block out everything else around him. White's story has been well-documented and his comeback from two ACL surgeries is becoming a story of folklore that will last through the test of time. However, a loss of a loved one is always the toughest to play through and every athlete knows it, including one as tough as White.

"Yes, it was a tough week for me and my family," said White. "However, as much as it hurts you have to try to block it out and play the game. It is not easy, but I tried to do the best I could."

On this day, that would be good enough. And on most days, that will be good enough for the Sooners. When White is on there is no better college football player in the country. You notice I didn't say better quarterback, because there isn't a better quarterback in the country anyway, but when White is rockin there is not better college football player in the country. Most of the time White is on, so there is nobody better, and that is not lost on his football team.

"I was just watching and I had total confidence that Jason was going to drive us down the field," said junior safety Brodney Pool. "I was already thinking about what we were going to have to do on defense to make sure that he wasn't going to have to lead us on two touchdown winning drives."

"Oh, I am always totally confident that Jason is going to get the job done," said senior defensive end Dan Cody. "I didn't even know that Adrian was out of the game, but I wasn't worried anyway because I have great confidence in Kejuan (Jones) and all of our running backs. However, there isn't a player on this team that I have more confidence in that Jason White."

There wasn't a player or coach standing on the sideline that didn't think that White was going to lead the Sooners on game-winning drive.

The drive started with AD at tailback, and despite missing the game winning touchdown, he played a big role in the drive. AD had carries of eight, five and six yards before a tackle on the third run forced him out of the game.

The Aggies also committed a big interference penalty giving the Sooners a precious 15 yards and the ball at midfield with a little over four minutes to play. However, two incompletion's left the Sooners with a third and 10 at the Aggie 39-yard line, and in need of a big play, which means that White is going to find one of the Mark's — in this case Mark Bradley.

"We needed a big play and we tried to execute it," said Bradley after the game describing his 39-yard touchdown catch. "I come to find out that I got the call messed up, but we stuck with it and punched it in."

Usually, when a receiver comes off the line of scrimmage with the wrong call it is a disaster for an offense. However, it helps to have a guy like White who has been around the game for a while and a receiver that is as athletic as Bradley.

"I was supposed to run a fade route, but I saw the middle of the field wide open," said Bradley. "Then, I just communicated and moved to the middle of the field. Jason kind of new what I was doing, but for an instant he didn't. But once he saw me move towards the middle he knew I was going to sit there. It was a route that wasn't supposed to be there, but we took it in stride and made the most of it. This wasn't a read route, but we stuck with it and it worked for us."

That is Bradley's version of the big play, and now let's get the other important version from Mr. White himself.

"It was kind of a broken play. I thought about running and just get a first down and get us into field goal range," said White after the game. "Bradley came open in the last second of the play and he made a heck of a catch. I don't know if he actually adjusted his route. It wasn't what was called, and I don't think Mark heard it because it was so loud. Luckily, he ran a good route and got open."

White says there was nothing magical about the play.

"I saw the area that he was supposed to run to and it was open," said a giggling White. "I saw him make an in-cut and I said to myself that something was wrong here. I started looking for other guys down field and didn't find anybody, so I decided to run and right at the last second he came open and I threw him the ball. He was supposed to be a corner route and it ended up being a dig route."

No matter how it went down, it was a biggest play on a big play night. And a play that turned out to be a game-winner for the Sooners.

***

The fact that Oklahoma came back and kept coming back is what a championship team is made of. The Sooners were able to do that in 2000 and this team, four years later, has those same kinds of abilities. It still makes for some gut-wrenching football to say the least.

"It is another day at the office," said OU Head Coach Bob Stoops immediately following the game. "Texas A&M did an exceptional job. We knew coming in that they were a far different team than a year ago. I am awfully proud of our guys. To overcome all that we did today is a positive side. There will be plenty to criticize, which will happen because we are one of those teams that gets it when we win. In the end, I am smart enough to recognize all that we overcame down here in this atmosphere, and to still came away with a victory makes me proud of my players, their toughness and their effort through four quarters of football. I am also proud of our coaches, who hung in there and allowed us to make the plays in the end to win the football game. It is not easy to do down here, but again I am proud of their efforts."

Again, I thought Jason White was just sensational," Stoops continued. "Our O-Line and their protection was just great. I am also smart enough to realize that I feel lucky and feel we had some good fortune. I was on TV there and stole Coach (Steve) Spurrier's line that the good Lord was smiling on the Sooners here tonight. That is how I look at it, and I feel fortunate that we won the game."

***

Trailing 28-14, White hit redshirt freshman tight end Joe Jon Finley with a 24-yard pass to not only cut the Aggie lead, but switch the halftime momentum over to the Sooners.

"We had talked about all week that we (tight ends) could get open by splitting the safeties right down the middle," said an ecstatic Finley after the game. "The play worked just like the coaches drew it up. That gave us a big momentum push going into the halftime locker room."

The Sooners completely stole the momentum at the start of the second half when senior receiver Terrence Murphy lost the kickoff in the sun and Sooner redshirt freshman Tony Cade recovered at the Aggie 10. Two plays later, White found Bradley for the first of his two touchdown passes and the Sooners had finally drawn even with the Aggies at 28.

Oklahoma couldn't convert a Donte Nicholson interception into any points, but the Aggies continued their chartable ways when junior cornerback Chijioke Onyenegecha forced Murphy into a fumble that was recovered by the always present Rufus Alexander at the Aggie 11.

Two plays later, White found senior tight end Bubba Moses for a two-yard touchdown and the Sooners had their first lead of the game at 35-28. Moses has been a dominant blocker all year for the Sooners, but came up with his biggest day as a receiver with three catches for 45 yards and one touchdown.

"Those were big breaks for us, especially when you are not planning on that type of kickoff. It just worked out in a good way for us," said Stoops. "That is some good fortune for us, but Chijioke comes up and knocks the ball loose on a short passing route, and within a few minutes we had the lead back. So, those turnovers were big."

Off the turnovers, the Sooners had the lead, but Oklahoma also left some points on the field. Despite scoring 45 points in the game, the Sooners didn't always capitalize on all of their opportunities.

"It is ironic that we squandered some excellent field position in that late third quarter and early fourth quarter when we had excellent field position," said Stoops. "Then we take the ball eighty-yards and take it the length of the field. We had excellent protection again, and Jason hangs in there on a third down play and finds Mark Bradley in the middle and scores. That was a big play for us and a big drive for us after the fake field goal to tie it."

***

Oklahoma was down by 14 points three different times in College Station, but the Sooners kept their poise and just kept plugging away.

"We have some great veteran leadership in our offense," said White. "We have a lot of seniors and a lot of juniors that play for us and we have a mature offense that is never going to give up. I think, because we are a veteran group, that it was a big advantage for us in a game like tonight. Just being down here it is extremely loud, one of the loudest places that we will ever play. Being a veteran group and playing in so many big games and being behind sometimes, especially this year helped us out tremendously in this game."

The Sooners offensive line did a great job all night protecting White. The Sooners only gave up one sack.

"The offense never panicked and we covered the game plan," said senior offensive tackle Jammal Brown. "We just kept doing what we practiced all week and it seemed to work. When they scored we wanted to answer back and we did. We kept going back-and-forth. Our defense played well at times and then we took over and took the lead. We knew that we had to keep scoring. We knew we had to have the backs of our defense. They have had ours all year."

***

In the locker room, one of the media's favorite questions was if the Sooners thought they would drop in the polls coming off such a tight game. So, to a man the Sooners said they didn't know or didn't care, but Coach Stoops did have an answer for ESPN's Ivan Maisel, who asked him if he had a vote in the coach's poll and if he would vote the Sooners down in the polls because of their close game. Maisel was actually trying to ask the question to give Coach Stoops a chance to say how silly it was for a team to be voted down because they won a close game on the road against a ranked team. However, Coach Stoops was too pumped up to see the irony in the question.

"Sure, I have a vote, but I am not going to get into how I vote," said Stoops as Maisel asked if he would vote the Sooners down in the polls. Heck no, we're still No. 1 in my eyes. That's an easy question."

I guess it is safe to say that Stoops believes that the Sooners are No. 1 He also knows that it is tough to win on the road in college football.

"It is definitely tough, and it always has been," said Stoops following the taping of his replay show. "It is that way in the NFL and it is that way in college. They had a great crowd with 84,000 fans. And as wild as it was and as crazy as it was, we were still strong enough to win. I thought Jason White was just sensational, and everybody has to realize that we go through that entire day and that atmosphere and we put up 42-points and had no penalties and did not have a turnover that entire day. That is an incredible job on his part in leading the offense. Sure, it is tough to win on the road. Three of our last four victories have been on the road. So, that says a lot."

***

After Peterson got hurt, KeJuan Jones came in and took the majority of carries. AD did come back in for one big third down, where the Sooners needed three yards, and managed to get four.

"We needed his power back in the game," said OU Offensive Coordinator Chuck Long. "We talked to our trainer Scott Anderson and he said that he could go back in the game, so we put him back in. AD then made a great run, and because of his power and strength he was just able to get the first down."

An added bonus for AD's last run was that the four yards put him over the century mark for the night finishing with 29 carries for 101 yards.

"It feels good that AD was able to keep that streak alive," said Long. "It is a great streak to have and we are very proud of it. We are proud that he has been able to get at least 100-yards every week. Our offensive line, in particular, is very proud to get that for him every week. We certainly don't want to put any player in harms way. If we ever get the call from the doctors or trainers saying that he can't go, then we wouldn't put him back in the game. However, he was OK to play and we put him back in the game."

AD had a sore shoulder all week and the Sooners tried to rest him as much as they could during practice. You can bet he will be sore this week as well.

"I am pretty sore right now, but I feel pretty good," said AD after the game with his mom and step-father close by. "I don't want to talk about my shoulder, but I feel pretty good. I will play next week. You can count on that."

The final four yards may have been AD's best work on the night, as the Sooners needed a first down and the entire Aggie defense knew he was going to get the ball.

"Yes, sir. I think that was my biggest run," said AD. "I knew we needed the first down and when they called my number I just took the ball and ran as hard as I could. I tried to keep my feet moving and I got that extra yard by just moving forward."

What sometimes is lost is the quality play of Kejuan Jones. Jones did a great job in relief of AD rushing on 38 yards on 11 carries.

"Kejuan Jones is one of our better football players, and that goes unnoticed sometimes," said Coach Stoops. "He always plays well and always plays hard. We have great confidence in Kejuan any time he is in the game. He played very well against Texas A&M."

One of the lighter moments of the postgame press conference came with the Daily Oklahoman's Berry Tramel, who kept asking coach Stoops why he brought AD back in the game for just one play if he felt AD was healthy enough to play. Finally, Coach Stoops came up with the perfect answer.

"Kejuan was tired and needed a breather."

***

One of the strangest moments of the game occurred in the second half when senior defensive end Dan Cody fainted after yelling encouragement to his defensive teammates. Cody wasn't out long and immediately returned to the game, only to be told to leave by fellow senior defensive end Jonathan Jackson after one play. Cody would return and had a big fourth quarter rushing the quarterback. What happened to Cody wasn't immediately known.

"I think he was trying to fire up his teammates and he was talking and screaming in the huddle, and he had a moment when he almost passed out," said Stoops. "It has happened to me before, not to where I have fallen down, but I have had to grab hold of somebody when I was trying to get a message into somebody across the field. I know what that feels like. I guess all the blood rushes out of your head and you get light-headed where you have a fainting moment."

***

Cody played another outstanding game on the field. And despite the defense giving up some points, he had no doubts about his team's ability to come back.

"We haven't let things get out of hand as quick as we did a couple of times last year," Cody said after the game. "The Kansas State deal is hard to compare because we rolled so hard all season and when we finally got down it was something totally new to us. That is no excuse, but the difference is this year we have been in some close ballgames. And in every close game we play in, we get stronger and more united."

The defense has struggled to find its bearings the last couple of games, but played much better in the second half.

"There is no doubt that that stop right before halftime slowed the flow of the game and swung all the momentum over to us, and we never let it go," said Cody. "You are down here and Reggie McNeal is doing his thing. We always talk about riding the roller coaster, because when you play him there are going to be ups and there are going to be downs. We have to just stay on an even keel and just float our way through it."

One thing is certain, and that is the defense knows the Sooner offense can bail any defense out of a jam.

"It keeps some of that panic out of you to know we have our offense behind us," said Cody. "You don't feel as much pressure, that is for sure. You know that they can't just go out there and drive the field every time, but at the same time they are very capable of making some big plays."

***

For the second straight game it was a tough day for the Sooner defense. Of course, it came against quality competition in Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. Still, the proud OU defense is not used to giving up 28 first half points and 35 points overall.

"We started out really good, except on third downs," said OU Co-Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables. "I thought our pressure was good and I thought initially our coverage was good. I thought Reggie McNeal and his receivers played really well. I thought his athletic ability counter-acted our athletic ability. He was able to break some contain and buy some time with his legs. We have always known that he has a very powerful arm and he bought some time for his guys to get open. We busted a few things early as well and put ourselves behind the eight ball. We didn't give ourselves a chance to execute. The first third and long was just a busted assignment. We left a guy wide open and that is very discouraging this late in the year. However, all we can do is just coach them up and continue to emphasize some things."

"Early, there was a just a lack of consistency that you obviously need," Venables continued. "You need to start strong and finish strong on the road. We need a chance to win and playing great defense is the real chance at being able to do that. We gave up five consecutive third down conversions of third-and-eight or more. It was situations that we wanted. We played well on first and second down, but then again it was a guy here or there making mistakes and it was McNeal's athletic ability to get them out of some trouble. That is frustrating to a point, but we are happy with how the guys hung in there and made plays down the stretch in the second half.

"We didn't allow them to have anything consistently in the second half. I thought we could have been better tackling because at times we weren't good at tackling. We weren't without mistakes that is for sure, but there are some physical things more than the mental, believe it or not. However, the mental ones were the ones that gave up four touchdowns. We are in man-to-man and a guy gets behind us for a touchdown. And another time, we just get relaxed and let a guy run right by him. We have punt safe and field goal safe and they converted both for touchdown. It is the mental part that discourages you a great deal."

***

The Sooner coaching staff finally grew tired of the inconsistent play at cornerback and brought freshman Marcus Walker out of redshirt. As I have said all year, this coaching staff will do anything it can to win a National Championship this season. And after Eric Bassey blew two coverages costing the Sooners two touchdowns, the coaching couldn't wait any longer to burn Walker's redshirt.

"We just want to make sure that the guy is not going to lose a season for just any reason," said Stoops. "Any more, it is getting harder and harder with these guys with all the agents around them and all the incentives to come out early. There are all kind of things to weigh such as opportunities to graduate. The bottom line is that Marcus has been dying to play. He has been in my office a bunch of times talking to me about it. He let me know that if I wanted to put him in he would be ready to go and he didn't care at what point in the year that it is. As we were leaving the locker room last night, I was talking to him and he said, ‘Coach, if this is going to help us keep wining, and if I can go out there and help then I want to play.' So, we put him in there and he played well. We will do our best watching him throughout the week. He has been practicing well and we will keep giving him those opportunities."

The odds are that Walker will get his first start of his Sooner career this Saturday against Nebraska. However, Coach Stoops insists that competition during this week of practice will determine that. For five straight weeks, the coaches talked of bringing Walker out of redshirt and he has been working with the varsity that entire time. If Walker has anything to say about it, he will be the starter from this point on.

"I was happy the coaches finally gave me this opportunity," said Walker. "I have been working hard to stay ready, and today I think I did pretty well. I will continue to work hard and I plan on being in that line-up again next week."

It has to be noted that once Walker entered the game the Aggie passing game went flat. Was it just because of Walker? That is really hard to say, but you can say that he didn't bust and he wasn't out of position, so he didn't give up big plays. The prediction here is that Walker's career as a starter begins against the Huskers.

***

Chasing Reggie McNeal was tough all day, but not just for the front seven. The Sooner defensive backs found out they couldn't cover all day, and that caused them as much of problem as any bust in the secondary.

"McNeal is a great quarterback because he would scramble around and buy time for his receivers," said Onyenegecha. "It seemed like he was holding the football for 10 to 15 seconds, and we aren't use to covering that long. I am running left and running right, and it is hard chasing those receivers. Those receivers were great athletes and I am playing cover three. I am splitting the seam between two receivers and that made it really hard. Normally, we should have a sack by that time and I am still covering. I just kept thinking that I needed to keep these guys in front of me and to not let them behind me, because if I do it is a touchdown. MeNeal is a great athlete and it was hard containing him. We just had to fight and keep putting pressure on him.

Junior safety Brodney Pool echoed some of those same thoughts.

"This was a confidence-builder knowing that we came back from a deficit like that and won the game," said Pool following the game. "It was tough chasing Reggie McNeal around all day and chasing his receivers. He is so good at buying time for his receivers, and that was with our front seven chasing him. Most quarterbacks don't have a chance against our front seven, but he managed to scramble around and buy some time for his guys. He was tough."

***

Senior wide receiver Mark Clayton continues to play great football. Clayton led the Sooners in receiving against Texas A&M with six catches for 102 yards. For his career, Clayton now has 200 career receptions and 3,000 career yards receiving.


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