Has there ever been a game recently when the Sooners won, but there were so many mixed emotions? Here Oklahoma wins 36-30 over Texas A&M, yet many coaches and players were disappointed after the game.
The offense was outstanding racking up 509 total yards and 36 points, yet the defense gave up 450 yards, 30 points and 292 yards on the ground. Rhett Bomar had a huge night completing 20 of 29 passes for a season high 298 yards passing and one touchdown, but he also threw one interception, fumbled a snap and was part of a failed handoff to Adrian Peterson. Texas A&M scored 17-points off of Sooner mistakes.
Adrian Peterson rushed for a hard-fought 135 yards and two touchdowns, but he was never ever able to break free for the big gain and had to battle for every single yard he got.
The Oklahoma defense finished the game with five sacks, but couldn't stop the Aggie option game. The Sooners held Aggie quarterback Reggie McNeal in check with minus-two yards rushing, but they couldn't stop the much slower back-up quarterback Stephen McGee, who ate them alive on option keeps for 67 yards rushing.
The Sooners came out in the first quarter and put 21 points on the board in eight minutes and 32 seconds with drives that took a grand total of 5:42 off the clock. Only a failed handoff between Bomar and Peterson gave the Aggies a chance, and they were able to convert from 15-yards out. However, OU answered with a five play 63-yard drive when Allen Patrick took an option pitch from Bomar 28-yards to give them a 28-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
From that point on, Oklahoma struggled letting the Aggies back into the game, even allowing the Aggies to close within six points before a great J.D. Runnels catch and run, and another clutch pass from Bomar to true freshman Juaquin Iglesias pulled the Sooners out of the fire.
In the locker room, those associated with the offense were in good moods, while those with the Sooner defense had sour looks on their faces. That is understandable when the two teams combined for 959 yards total offense, leaving OU head coach Bob Stoops with mixed emotions following the game.
"I am pleased about that for our offense, but not so excited about it defensively," said Coach Stoops following the game. "I am sure it was entertaining to everybody. It was good to win. To be at six wins and with another win in our league and in our division, plus winning four in a row is a positive. Hopefully, we can continue to build on it, but obviously I felt we could have played better in some areas. But still to win is good. Maybe that is good in that we are back to the point where we win and we are not satisfied with it. In a way, that is a little bit good."
In the first quarter, the Sooners put 277 yards of total offense on the board — 116 rushing yards and 161 passing — not to mention 28 points.
"We did come out and really play well offensive and defensively to start the game," said Stoops. "I wish we could have continued that for a little longer and kept it a little better, but we didn't. Still, we were able to get out to a strong lead and we were able to do what we needed to do to win the football game."
Oklahoma couldn't hold onto their big lead, and in the end they were involved in another seat squirmer.
"Yeah, unfortunately that is the case," said Stoops following the game. "I want to complement Texas A&M, because we knew coming into the game that offensively they have moved the football. When you look at the circumstances they did a good job of protecting the football. But if you look at their yards where they are at in our league and in points, they have been a good, strong offense. I still believe we were more capable in some areas, but they did a good job and they have good players to run their offense."
Once again, Oklahoma knocked Aggie starter Reggie McNeal out of the game, which is something they have seemed to do the last three years, but Aggie backup quarterback Stephen McGee came in running the option and the Sooner made him look like Thomas Lott.
"It shouldn't have been like that. I feel we could have played that a lot better," said Stoops in the Sooner postgame. "They executed it well, but we have seen that before and it has never been an issue to us to that degree. There is no reason why we can't be more assignment-correct, make our reads and be in better position. At times we were in position and we would fall and not be able to tackle the guy. I still believe that we can play that a lot better than we did."
The one thing that the Sooners hang their hat on every year is defense. This Sooners defense has been solid, but inconsistent. Still, they came into the game good enough to be ranked 15th in the country in total defense and second in the nation in rush defense. However, both those rankings are going to drop after struggling against Texas A&M.
"I thought our guys were ready. They really did a great job of positioning and we played pretty good technique," said OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables following the game. "They tried their trick plays and we covered them. I just think our front seven is capable of playing a lot better, playing technique, and tackling better.
"Again, it all starts with me doing a better job of coaching those guys and being assignment-sound. We need to have better awareness, because we weren't very good in the front end, and we were really good in the back end. We gave up the corner route early in the game on a pass that we lost leverage on. Overall, we had an outstanding day defending the pass."
"The new quarterback comes in and I thought he did a heck of a job managing their offense," Venables continued. "He was just a tough, gritty player. He was 0-for-6 throwing the ball, so we knew that he was going to run. It was very frustrating for us when he kept running it for success doing the same things. That begins and ends with me just doing a better job just getting guys ready."
Venables has always been a stand-up guy dishing out praise when it is deserved, but also being frank about the shortcomings in the defense or poor play. Venables has gone through a lot lately with the death of his mother combined with his defensive coordinator responsibilities.
The Sooners played without Dusty Dvoracek (bad foot) for most of the game, but Venables wasn't going to let that be an excuse. And in fact, he was ready to accept the blame for the poor defensive effort.
"We would be great in coverage and then let them break containment," said an emotional Venables following the game. "How many first downs did they get on third down (6) with letting 15 (McGee) running it all day? Dusty doesn't have the dive or the quarterback or the pitch, so no that is not an excuse. What happened out there is inexcusable and I did a terrible job."
"They didn't do anything to surprise us, absolutely nothing," Venables continued. "There were some things schematically that we could have adjusted to and helped them, but I think everybody shares some blame for what happened. I believe that it wasn't a lack of effort or want-to. You can't blame it on focus; we just didn't play very well. We certainly didn't coach our guys on defending the option very well, but we didn't tackle very well.
"We had ‘15' making guys miss all over the dang place. We just flopped all over the ground. We didn't play as well for the most part defending the run and tackling. We have been a good tackling defense for the most part and we were terrible today. We were out of position defending the option, and like I have said 100 times already that starts with me. I did a pathetic job at having our guys ready to play."
Venables always takes the high road and will always look into the mirror first, and when he does he will see that his head coach has his back.
"Brent is a real good teacher and coach. He relates well with his guys," said Stoops. "He has a great understanding of football and schemes and he has a lot of passion in the way he coaches and gets his guys to play."
The play of the defense and the inconsistency of the offense made things interesting in the second half, but in the end the Sooners got the 'W'.
"They simplly out-executed us in the second half, but fortunately we had a good lead and we were able to do what we needed to do to win," said Stoops Sunday from the Barry Switzer Center. "It is important to win and score more than they do, and we did that."
Winning is the most important thing, and no matter how you break down this game Oklahoma did score more points than Texas A&M.
"It was a game of momentum and we came out and played real well at the beginning of the game," said senior linebacker Clint Ingram following the game. "We just have to be more consistent. Every play and formation that they ran was something that we worked on this week at practice. Coach made all the right calls and we were in the right position to go out and dominate as a defense.
"I guess there was a break down here or there and they ended up with all those yards on us. As a defense, we take pride in going out here and holding guys to the minimum of yards that we can. For them to go out there and do that against us is a disappointment to us and to the coaches. We can use that as a learning tool. We will get in there on Monday and break it down and see what was wrong here and there, and we will fix it."
One major problem for the Sooners was the fact that it was their worst tackling day of the season.
"We had guys leaving their feet and not wrapping up," said Ingram. "We know how to tackle, it is just attitude. We have to make those plays. There is no excuse for nothing making those plays.
Again, it is a matter of execution in defending the option.
"You just have to read to read it out, just like with any option team. You have to read the dive from the quarterback to the pitch, depending on your position. Depending on how you run it you need to be position yourself on those three and we didn't do a very good job of it."
Oklahoma's defensive ends didn't defend the option very well, but they did get after the Aggie quarterbacks in the passing game.
Senior Calvin Thibodeaux finished with three of the Sooners five sacks, and he leads the team in sacks with eight for the season. Thibs has five sacks in the last two games.
Junior defensive end C.J. Ah You finished with five tackles, and along with defensive tackle Carl Pendleton, were responsible for the sack that knocked McNeal out of the game.
"We had a great pass rush on that play and we had so many guys around help deep in the end zone. There was no way he was going to get out," said Ah You following the game. "I think Carl hit him first and then he bounced towards me. He fumbled the ball and they were lucky that we didn't recover it for a touchdown."
It seemed all game long Ah You was chasing McNeal or McGee, and he admits trying to track down running quarterbacks is not easy.
"Yeah, it is frustrating. You want to go straight up and attack him, but he will cut it back inside," said Ah You. "He had me on my toes all game. He did make it hard on all of us. He did a good job of escaping tackles. We let them back into the game, which was our fault, but we just have to stay strong and focus on every play and every series to try to get better.
Considering the Sooners lost three of their top five defensive ends at the beginning of the year including starter in Larry Birdine, it is amazing just how the defensive ends have played this year.
"They have done an excellent job," said Stoops. "C.J. and Calvin again had great games yesterday. They did a great job. I say that knowing they could have played some of the options and some of the quarterback run game better, I guess. However, the pressures, the safety, the sacks — that part of it they were really solid and good. Chris (Wilson) has done a great job with them, especially being limited in depth there and all. Chris has done a great job working those guys and working a rotation and getting the most out of them."
This is a game where you can say that the offense was the key to victory. At times, the offense looked unstoppable. And then at times, they would shoot themselves in the foot with penalties and turnovers. You can't say they are a young offense anymore, because they have played enough games to grow out of that, but they are still an inconsistent team with a tremendous upside to them.
"We got up on big on them and sometimes as a coach you fret that," said OU offensive coordinator Chuck Long immediately after the game. "We are still trying to put to halves together. We still need to work toward that. We are doing a lot of great things right now, but we need to put to good halves together and that is going to be our 'MO' next week.
"We had a fabulous start and a fabulous finish tonight. We got it done when it counted. If you look at our lineup right now, Chris Chester broke his hand early in the week and he has a cast on his hand, and Chris Bush has cast on his hand. We have guys playing injured with casts on their hands, yet going in and playing like they did is a fabulous effort."
Over the last three games, Bomar has started to throw the ball like a big-time quarterback, and because of that Long is calling a little different game.
"We felt good about throwing the ball coming into the game, but we want to strive for balance," said Long in the postgame press conference. "However, since he is feeling more comfortable that has allowed us to feel more comfortable with him, in terms of adding some plays or adding a wrinkle that we have done in the past. We are climbing to that point, but are we totally at that point? No, but we are getting closer."
"We threw the ball well today, especially in the first quarter into the wind," Long continued. "He was throwing some nice balls into the wind and Malcolm Kelly was coming up with some big catches. It was probably our best effort in the passing game and our best effort offensively. If you take away the turnovers, which are always key in games and we have to get better at that, that was probably our best effort so far."
Rhett Bomar had the best game for a freshman quarterback in Sooner history finishing with 326 yards total offense, eclipsing the old record held by Jamelle Holieway, who had 324 in 1985.
Bomar's 161 yards passing in the first quarter was the fourth-best single-quarter total in school history, yet it took a crossing pattern to Iglesias to secure the victory with a little over two minute remaining.
"I don't think anybody, early in the game, was thinking it was going to take that to win the game late," said Bomar following the game. "We got off to a really strong start, playing really well and executing really well. I am sure nobody thought it was going to come down to a six-point win, but we will take it anyway we can get it. It is frustrating to start off that strong and do something that we haven't done all year — score on three straight possessions to start the game. That happens I guess because we are not going to play perfect the whole game. We are young and we are still learning, but we picked it up in the end when it counted."
"We thought we could come out and throw against them," Bomar continued. "The scheme they run, we thought we could execute against that pretty well. We came out firing and we racked up yards, but we also wanted to run the ball well. We wanted to be balanced, because if you can do that then that will open up the passing game. That is what happened in the first quarter."
Bomar suffered an ankle sprain in the third quarter that looked terrible to all of us watching the game, but he said it wasn't as bad as it looked.
"I bet it did look pretty bad," said Bomar. "It felt bad at first because a d-lineman just rolled up on me. I had my leg stiff and he rolled up on it. It was pretty sore for a while, but once I hit the fourth quarter your adrenalin starts pumping and you start not thinking about it. I was fine after that. I thought I did alright. I had my moments, but I can play better and I will in the future."
The biggest throw from Bomar may have been the crossing route to Iglesias with just a little over two minutes remaining on a third and 12.
"I just felt at that time we need to go with our best play and not just run a safe play and hope we get lucky," said Stoops on Sunday. "I just told Chuck and the offensive staff to call what they felt was their best play to get the first down. I felt we needed a first down there to secure the game and I told him to throw if he wanted to and tell the offense to protect it and to execute it."
The play was similar to what Bomar threw on the slant route against Nebraska, but this time he hit a crossing route.
"We knew we had to throw the ball similar to the play we had against Nebraska," said Bomar. "We had to make a play on third-down, and it was the money play so we had to step up and do something. Juaquin ran a great route and got open over the middle against that defense and I just hit him."
Early in the fourth quarter, after the Aggies scored to cut the lead to 30-24, the Sooners finished off a 10-play, 80-yard drive to score the winning touchdown.
"One thing about this team now is that we are finishing well as an offensive unit," Long said. "It says a lot about our poise to hang in there and make it happen when we need to. We had an 80-yard drive at the end of the game, and the best drive was at the end when we had 3:30 to go and we have our four-man offense (kill the clock) out there, and we hit our big play on third and 12. We ate up the entire clock, which was big, especially in a game like that when it is down to six points."
Finishing is something that Travis Wilson has watched the Sooners do offensively the last couple of years, but something he still feels this offensive unit has to learn how to do. But it was Wilson's touchdown catch to cap the 80-yard drive that ultimately was the winning score.
"It was a play that we knew that if we executed it would work to perfection against their defense," said Wilson. "We had been practicing it all week and it was just a matter of execution. We got the look we expected and it was just a matter of making the move and then taking it back in. The way they were lining up their safeties left us in one-on-one coverage with the corner, and any time any of our receivers get in one-on-one coverage with a defensive back we should score. I am glad we got that score, because we needed it as it turned out. We need to learn how to finish games. This game should have never got to that point."
Finishing games or being consistent is still something that this Sooner offense can get much better at.
"That is the one goal that is still out there for us, and I believe that will come in time," Long said. "We would like to have it happen right now, but it will eventually come in time as they get better and learn how to play entire games. You look at the second and third quarter and they are playing their butts off. They are still coming off the ball hard, but it is not just that. It is being consistent and being able to play the entire game and being consistent with it. I really don't have any answers for you, but I do like the fact they are starting and finishing and doing well. That is big right now for us."
All of us have a tendency to focus on the negative because while we wonder how the offensive sputtered somewhat in the middle of the game, the bottom line is they put together one heck of a day.
"We would like to get to that point. We have shown that in the past but we just haven't been able to do that lately," said Long Sunday from his office. "We will get there and we feel good about it. We had great long drives as our scoring drives were 70, 68, 81, 63 and 80 yards yesterday, and that is hard to do. Our shortest drive was 63-yards.
"We sustained that a bunch of times yesterday, and I think that needs to be noted. If you remember the teams we have had the last couple of years, we were on a lot of long drives. The year before we had more short drives that we capitalized on. Yesterday we had a lot of long drives, and at Nebraska we had an 85-yard drive there. To do that in the fourth quarter when the momentum has shifted is big for a team, especially a young team. We were very pleased with that and showed a lot of guts there."
Long is looking forward to return to work this week.
"We had a couple of turnovers that hurt us and we had a third and three and third and four that they tipped our ball to stop the drive. In fact, we had a great drive coming off our goal-line again. We get it all the way down there and we had a third and three and one of our running plays went sideways too much and went for a loss, so we had to kick a field goal. A field goal is three points, but we didn't get it there.
"Then we had another nice drive where we had a third and three where we had a good play on. They brought the house and we had fast routes and we got the ball tipped and knocked down. That wasn't a matter of lack of execution from that standpoint, that was just good defensive play on the tip."
"This just means so much to our guys and it builds confidence," Long continued. "Early in the year we didn't feel as confident about our ability to create the longer drives as we do now. We needed the short field more at the beginning of the year. Now we are taking that ball on long drives, longer than 50 yards, and now guys are getting more confident at being able to do that. Now they know they can do it.
"They have shown me that they are very resilient. Here is a team coming back on them both on the road and at home and they have stood in the face of that and gone the distance with a big drive at the end. There are a lot of veteran teams that don't do that. There are some guys who are out there that haven't been a part of it as long yet. They have been very impressive to me. I told our guys in the locker room that if they can do that against good football teams and stay that poised, that they were going to win a lot of football games."
Peterson had a very tough 135 yards in the game Saturday against Texas A&M, and the Aggies took some questionable shots at him along the boundary many times in the game, which didn't seem to bother the Sooner superstar.
"I like teams that play tough and bring it, and that is what Texas A&M did," Peterson said following the game. "They played hard and hit me hard, but I also hit them hard. I like games where the running is tough. I felt we had a good day today running the football and I am happy with my effort."
Injury situation: Dusty Dvoracek has a sprained foot and is probable for the game Saturday against Texas Tech. Bomar has a sprained ankle, but will play. The same goes for Peterson.
Zach Latimer suffered a separated shoulder in the game, but is expected to play against Texas Tech. Chris Chester also played with a cast on his hand, which forced him to play right guard.
"We found out about that at about 1:50 p.m. on Tuesday," said run game coordinator and offensive line Coach Kevin Wilson. "He practiced at center on Monday and then went to our training staff on Tuesday and said his hand was sore. They looked at it and saw a knot on his hand and determined that he has a slight fracture, so they put his hand in a cast.
"That forced us to move Chester to right guard. We ended up playing Jon Cooper at center the whole game and alternating Chester and Chris Bush at right guard. Jon played very well at center, like we thought he would. Jon is fundamentally sound, very quick off the ball and he has a good punch. Chester was solid at right guard, and so was Bush."
"We think Chester will have the cast on his hand for another week or so," Wilson continued. "Maybe we can get him back for this weekend against Tech, but I don't know at this point. Right now I would say that Jon will go again at center with Chester and J.D. Quinn at right guard and Chris Bush sliding over to left guard to help Kelvin Chaisson.
J.D. got in for one series and we need to play him more and will in the future. He had some off-the-field issues that we had to deal with, but he has been playing well and he will get back out there against Tech. If we can slide Bush over to left guard that will allow us to move Duke (Robinson) back out to left tackle, which would be good for him and us. Left tackle is where I think Duke will eventually play, and if we can move him back out there we can get started on his development."
Oklahoma State's upset win over Texas Tech was one of the biggest surprises in college football to anybody, but coach Stoops.
"Anybody in the league can win. All teams are capable and coached well, and they all have good players," said Stoops. "We still have to play them both and we know anybody in this league can beat anybody else. Some of the best coaches in college football are coaching in this league. If you are not at your best, you will get beat."
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