Stoops on USC

Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops talked about the Sooners' Orange Bowl matchup with Southern Cal at his weekly news conference Tuesday in Norman. Stoops says the Sooners will leave for Miami on Dec. 27.

On Orange Bowl Preparations
"Guys will leave tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon to go home for the holidays. We'll travel down on the 27th, and the players who live far away will just fly over and meet us over in Miami in the late afternoon on the 27th and resume our practices."

On the great matchups in the game vs. USC, particularly OU's defensive backs against USC's wide receivers
"There's so many, really. You could go to every position. Not only their receivers and our defensive backs, and you ought to throw our linebackers in the cover unit, then you throw our receivers against their defensive backs and cover units. To me, a big factor will be who can make the bigger plays passing-wise, and who on defense can come up with the big plays whether they're interceptions or key third down stops. That will be a big matchup."

On USC's receivers
"Very good. I'm going to say that about every position we go to. Though they're young, they're very skilled and got great size and ability to run. As you watch Norm Chow and the way he directs his offense, they're very specific and detailed on what they like to do."

On the comparison that OU and USC are very similar football teams
"Yes, I think it's that way. You look at us, we're both very talented, both have speed. All I've know of Pete Carroll, and I've always appreciated and loved the way he coaches, begins with him with defense. He makes no bones about that. Here, I don't brag on that much, but I think most people realize that with us. You watch our defensive schemes and they are similar in a lot of ways. Different pressure's are similar, the structure of the defenses are very similar. And I think we both count on the disciplines of our defense and the fundamentals to win for us, not any grand schemes or trying to scheme somebody to death. We count on our base defenses to carry us.

"Offensively, you have the running game and the throwing game. When you look at the quarterbacks, running backs for each and receivers as well, both teams really strive to be balanced and hurt you with both, and force defenses to handle both. Maybe the differences come in a little bit with their passing game and what they choose and feature more than what we do. There's some difference there, but the general fact of working hard to remain balanced and make defenses deal with both I think is a philosophy we both have."

On the team losing it's momentum over the break since playing in the Big 12 title game
"Well, they played the same day we did. That's just the way it is every year. You do your best to practice, scrimmage here and there to keep pace and to keep your sense of timing. When we show up down in Miami we'll get back out there and go at it hard. Certain days will be more physical than others to try and simulate game atmosphere and game pace."

On the similarities of OU's national title run in 2000 and now
"It's eerily similar to the 2000 year when you go through the Big 12 schedule and the same teams we had home and away were the same teams we had in 2000 home and away. You go through the year, come-from-behind victory at Texas A&M, tight games at Oklahoma State also away from home and winning. The Nebraska game at home where we played well and won. The Big 12 championship game in Kansas City, winning it. And going to the same national championship at the Orange Bowl. All the way to Jason White having a chance to win another Heisman. Josh Heupel was beaten out by Chris Weinke in that Heisman vote. A guy that we're going to play (Matt Leinart who won the Heisman). It goes on and one. Hopefully we can finish the way we did in 2000."

On facing a good passing team in USC without having true freshman cornerback Marcus Walker tested yet against the pass since coming out of redshirt
"We've played 12 games and if you look at our track record through all of those I think we lead the league and are in the top 10 in the country in scoring defense, rush defense, total defense. We're first in the league in all of those. In pass defense, we're third or fourth, depending on what you're looking at. In the end, you also look at Oregon. They averaged 30-something points a game and they scored one touchdown on us. Texas Tech averaged 30-something on everybody they've played, they had one touchdown against us.

"We had a couple of games in the middle of the year that we gave up a couple of big passes, out of 12 games. That happens. A couple of them were mental errors that can be corrected, and have been. And a time or two we're a step behind, somebody makes a great play and we miss a play. And that's going to happen through a course of 12 games. There's 10 other games that we've played about as well as you can play. My perspective is for the long haul we've played awfully well and believe that we're capable of doing that again, and we'll need to. I think what magnified those few plays too were the fact that we gave up two special teams scores in each game as well. If you're up 35-7 and they hit you it isn't such a big deal. Everyone makes a big deal about it because of the situations in the game. You shouldn't break down and bust a coverage and give somebody something deep on you, which you did a few times."

On also winning the 2000 Orange Bowl with two young starting corners
"Marcus is a strong player. If you look at it that way Michael Thompson and Derrick Strait both came in the same year. Derrick was a redshirt freshman, Michael played very little the first year, so he was a true sophomore. These guys are very capable. Marcus (Walker) is an excellent player. Very disciplined, very smart the way he plays. He's a talented guy. He was rated as the top corner or one of the top few corners in the country coming out of high school, and he's proven why."

On how they'll cover USC's Reggie Bush
"He's a very talented player, but if he's split out wide, he's a wide receiver. Just treat him like one. If he's in the backfield, he's a running back. Treat him as a running back, and that's basically it. I don't mean to act like you're not aware of his ability, but it doesn't have to be all that complicated. When he's split out wide, he's a very good wideout so have your coverage in a position that you're aware of him. When he's in the backfield, he's a very good running back. Have yourself in position to defend the run and do your best to stop him and tackle well."

On USC moving Bush around in motion to confuse the defense
"Sure, they move him out of the backfield. Again, when he's out of there he's a wideout, when he's in the backfield, he's a running back. You just adjust your defense that way."

On what impact secondary Bo Pelini being a candidate for the Pittsburgh job will have on the defenses preparations
"It won't change anything. Bo will continue to do exactly what he's doing now. He doesn't have to go (to Pittsburgh), other than maybe to be announced if he were to get it, and we hope he does. There's no recruiting weekends. There's nothing he can do right now really until after the game. His duties will remain exactly what they are right now.

"The difference from a year ago when Mike go the head job at Arizona was he left immediately. He had to go recruiting and had no part in the game plan for two-three weeks leading up to the game. Bo has been in there with Brent (Venables) and they've got their plan set. So, there's the difference. Mike was gone recruiting and hiring his staff, just because he was able to at that time. At this state, all that's behind and there's nothing you can do recruiting-wise right now."

On how Reggie Bush and Adrian Peterson are used in the offense
"Reggie, they use a lot of different ways — as a wide receiver in a lot of instances, a lot of passes out of the backfield. He's really a great bounce runner. Adrian's a more downhill, physical runner, an inside runner and cutback guy. He does a great job with his vision and power. Adrian's a little more downhill as well, but he has that speed to bounce when needs to. I think they use Reggie in a lot of other ways too."

On if he senses the team is more positive in practice this year than last year coming off the lost to Kansas State
"That's probably a great way to say it. We're practicing and our routine doesn't vary a whole lot, but there seems to be a stronger attitude and better feel coming into the game for many reasons. As well as health-wise, we're a lot better off than we were a year ago. Hopefully that will give us an opportunity to play better and a better opportunity to win."

On if he'll remind his team of Oklahoma's history in the Orange Bowl
"Absolutely, you see it walking through our building. We've been in 17 Orange Bowls winning 12 of them, more than any school in the country. They're very aware of that and they take a lot of pride in it. We, through the years and through the season, a lot of times put our history in front of them."

On how they keep the team sharp through the extra time off
"Sometimes you can allow it to drag, and we don't want it to. What we've done this week is we've treated it like a game week. On Sunday, we had our scouting report. Sunday to us was like a Monday of game week. Monday was like a Tuesday. Tuesday was like a Wednesday and tomorrow will be like a Thursday. That's really the bulk of our practices for a game week. We've pushed ourselves as a staff and as a team to take it through that period of time, so hopefully tomorrow as we conclude practice we will be ready to play on Friday or Saturday. That's how we've tried to deal with not allowing it to drag and to be specific on what we want to do."

On it being difficult to not add more wrinkles than normal with the extra time off
"We've been in enough of these situations that we're not doing that. You always do a little bit, but we do it each week. I think doing it this week and doing it this way, we've added some wrinkles here and there that hopefully help us and are positive. But we should be ready to play by Friday."

On the wrinkles they'll make during the break for Southern Cal
"We will have our wrinkles and change-ups, but in the end we feel good about where we're at and the way we need to play. I'm not going to sit here and say what we're doing, but it wasn't like we had a totally new defense (2000 Orange Bowl). We had a couple of long-yardage change-ups. That's it. We ran our structure like we always ran."

On if USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow is as good as the media makes him out to be
"No, he's that good. I think Norm is a tremendous and great coach. He has a great humility about him and never wants to take credit is all I've read and seen and appreciate in the way he coaches. He's very wise and smart the way they attack you. I'm sure Norm will sit there and say he's getting help from other staff members because none of us do it alone, but he's in front of it all offensively and does a great job. They're very smart. They don't run plays just to run plays. They have a have of countering what you're doing and seeing how you're playing them. They have answers for what to go to if they feel you're going to continue to play that way. That's where it's a chess match with us to not be predictable in what we're in — to be able to change up our looks in what we're doing as well."

On how OU's defense will prepare to stop USC's offense
"It always begins with us with the run game. To me, the biggest factor is being great against their running game. LenDale White and Reggie Bush running the football, to me will be a major key that we can be great against the run."

On how the staff will approach handling the players during game week in Miami
"I'm not much on too many rules. It's real specific for me. I want them to go down to Miami and enjoy the experience. I want them to have fun. It's a great environment. It's doesn't happen to everybody, so soak it in and enjoy it. What's really important though is nothing that will happen in that experience of those eight days, everything will fail in comparison to what you do in the game. That's what will be remembered. That's what will be talked about 50 years from now. So, let's make sure we're ready for it. The only way be ready for it to have fun and enjoy it, but when we meet be intense, focus, soak it in. And when we practice, let's come to practice with an attitude to improve and get ourself ready to play because that's what will matter. That's the experience they'll remember, is how they played."

On what restrictions the team will have in Miami
"The same things that are off limits here."

On if the coaching matchup against Carroll gives him an extra level of excitement for the game
"I don't have to read something about someone else to get excited about a national championship. We've got a chance to remain undefeated, be national champions. That's motivation enough, regardless of who we're competing against. I think it's incredibly exciting when you look at the history and tradition of SC and ours. It's two of the more storied programs in the country. That part excites me, but I don't ever look at anything personal, no matter who it is. To me, it's our program and their program, and they're two great ones with an incredible history. I don't look at Oklahoma as me. It's all of us — it's the team, the great administration, the great group of coaches that are all working together."

On does the matchup with USC feel bigger than the LSU game last year because of the programs' traditions
"That's fair to say I think for a few reasons. You look at since World War II and what are championships have been in modern day football, when you look at the Heisman winners, the championships, the great history that's there. And then you look at what we've done recently in the last five years. They've had a lot, both of us have national championships. I think people have been anticipating this even last year. And then to start off 1-2 at the beginning of the year and fight our way through and remain there, is exciting as well. I think they've been looking forward to it, and I know we have. It's a great matchup."

On USC quarterback Matt Leinart's strengths and weaknesses
"Very wise and smart the way he plays and the way he's coaches. Makes very few poor decisions. He's a great decision-maker. Great arm, very accurate. He's got the poise you look for in the pocket. Criticism? He's not a great option guy (laughs). He's got everything you look for, and he's a guy that we recruited hard."

On how much Mike Stoops has helped them scout USC
"He's helped some. He was in last week recruiting and stopped in for a while. Of course, we sat down and watched some take and just shared thoughts. He primarily was with Brent and Bo talking through what they felt about them and if there was anything they (Arizona) would have done different in how they tried to play them. It's more, as much as anything, confirming what you believe and what you think is the right way to defend them and stop them. We do value what Mike's opinion was and how they felt they needed to approach the game."

On if the coaches have taken on the 'Finish' log just like the players
"Sure, we're all a part of it. We, as a staff, have worked hard. Not only just recruiting these past few weeks and watching the tape, but getting our plans set through this week to be ready to go. We take as much pride in that as the players do."

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