If there is any team that OU would rather beat bad, make look inept or make look as if they aren't competitive … it is Oklahoma State. OK, maybe Texas, but there is something about beating OSU to a pulp that makes the Sooners feel especially good about themselves.
All week, Oklahoma publicly stated that they respected OSU and that they felt the Cowboys were going to be a big challenge for them. That is what a .500 record against an opponent will do for a team. But that record also forces the Sooners to give that opponent their full attention, and that wasn't a good thing for the Cowboys this year.
The Sooners were going into the game in much better shape that the Cowboys and they knew that would play to their advantage. For OU, Rhett Bomar was slowly game-by-game becoming a star, while at OSU Cowboy head coach Mike Gundy was playing his third best quarterback in Al Pena, with mostly poor results. Oklahoma was also getting healthy as star running back Adrian Peterson had a great week of practice. And despite the loss of senior wide receiver Travis Wilson, the Sooners were very confident in the growth of their young receiver corp.
Defensively, Oklahoma felt they were getting better and they just didn't see anything that OSU was doing that scared them. Plus, OU knew they were going to get a monster game from Dusty Dvoracek. He didn't practice until Thursday before the game, but Dusty was moving around like a freshman at his first practice. He was having a great time enjoying his final week of regular season workouts.
Oklahoma's gameplan was to go hit OSU right in the mouth and from the opening bell, and they did. The Sooners stuffed OSU in three plays on their opening drive and then four plays later OU had a 7-0 lead thanks to a 27-yard run by back-up running back Allen Patrick, who, are you as convinced as I am that Patrick would be a great running back if given 25 carries a game?).
The Sooners scored on three of their first four possessions, and in the process discovered his tight end once again. Bomar hit senior tight end Bubba Moses on a seven-yard pass to keep their second drive alive and a Bomar 19-yard scramble was a key play in the drive before Bomar hit one of three freshman receivers in Juaquin Iglesias.
It was a Moses drop that cost the Sooners on the third drive, but he made up for it catching a Bomar 26-yard pass for touchdown to give the Sooners a 21-0 lead with 13:40 remaining in the first half.
"I knew that throwing to the tight end was part of the gameplan. I couldn't believe I dropped that one pass," said Moses following the game. "The way they played their safeties left the middle open and we were able to take advantage of it. I just ran straight down the field and got behind their secondary and Rhett laid it right in there to me. We got off to a great start and Rhett was throwing the ball so well. From that point on, I never thought they were going to be much of a challenge for us."
Bubba was right. The Cowboys weren't much of a challenge for the Sooners from that point on. Did any of you ever feel OSU was going to win this game? Even with the Sooner offense going into their season long staff, this time in the middle two quarters, the Cowboys' offense was no match for the Sooner defense. Can you say defensive domination?
OSU punted 11 times this game, while picking up only seven first downs. To make matters worse for the Pokes, two of those first downs were picked up by penalty. If OU wasn't helping the Pokes with 155-yards in penalties, then they would've have no chance in this game, which didn't make the Sooner head Ccoach any happier about the penalties.
"They were frustrating, but what can you do," said Coach Stoops following the game. "As always, we didn't see all of them that way, but if we were holding that strongly out in the open, then we deserved to be called. But that is certainly a lot more penalties than we normally get called for. So it was frustrating."
Oklahoma State got a break on a busted play when Pena found wide receiver Luke Frazier on a 56-yard catch. That set the Cowboys for their only score of the first half, a Julius Crosslin one-yard touchdown run.
In fact, Frazier and fellow receiver Ricky Price were the offense for the Cowboys on Saturday. Frazier and Price teamed for 81 yards on two receptions, and for the other 57 snaps the Cowboys huffed and puffed for a measly 58 yards. That is total domination for the Sooners defense at one yard per snap.
"We have been close many times this year, and we have been our own worst enemy," said OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables following the game. "It was fun to see our guys go out there and have success, have smiles on their faces and just execute. They played with great focus and determination for four quarters. It is better late than never to show them that when we have great preparation and great focus for four quarters what they are capable of. They showed it against an offense that was starting to come into its own. Hats off to our players and their attitude today. I am very proud of their effort."
The Cowboys came into the game believing that they could run the ball on the Sooners. In fact, their entire offensive game plan was to run it on Oklahoma and control the football. But in the end the OU defense stuffed that philosophy right back down their throat by holding the Cowboys to just 13 net yards on 32 carries.
"Stopping the run and creating a new line of scrimmage were the keys to our success," said Venables. "We stressed that with our guys up front and talked about forming a new line of scrimmage and making it difficult to get into any kind of rhythm offensively. Obviously, any offense is good and productive when they have balance and that was a real key even on the play-action passes. Our front four got there with consistent pressure and they just did an outstanding job. I think one play that was real defining for how we played up front was on a play that was called going into the boundary. On the play that was called by them, it should have poked out of there for a bunch of yards but we had a field zone blitz on and Dusty Dvoracek busted through there from his ‘A' gap and stopped them.
"Our front four, from the onset, was a disruptive force and I thought that was a real key. I think our guys in the back end did a good job in coverage and did a good job of disguising some coverage and making things difficult. However, overall I think the front four kick-started us and dominated from the onset."
Dvoracek finished the game with five tackles, one tackle for loss and one fumble recovery. Dusty went into his final game wanting to have the time of his life and to play well for the Sooners, and he accomplished all of that and more.
"I think we did a great job of stopping the run. We moved the line of scrimmage back and we were playing in their backfield all day," said Dvoracek following the game. "That helped us out big-time. Our front seven played well, so we did a great job controlling the game."
Oklahoma's blitz package fooled OSU the entire game. The Cowboys never blocked the Sooners and that was never more evident that when the OSU had negative yardage with just a little more than three minutes left in the first half.
"Our backers, when they were blitzing, they were blitzing great," said Dvoracek. "They were coming untouched a lot of times and making plays. A lot of that credit goes to Coach Venables. He is a genius and he makes great calls at great times. All we have to do is execute the defense and it works out for everyone."
Coach Venables doesn't buy into the genius stuff, but he did feel the Sooners had a great day with their blitz package.
"It comes from good preparation from those guys," said Venables. "It is an understanding of knowing what is coming and when it is coming. Due to that preparation, they had an understanding of what they were going to see and then went out and executed that knowledge. They played with a lot of aggressiveness and with a lot of passion."
"I have to complement the defense first. It was just incredible the entire first half," said Stoops during his postgame press conference. Outside of that big play off of the scramble, they were almost as perfect as they can be. Even in the second half they were very, very good. Penalties were a big part of their one drive in the second half. We tackled well and our coverage was excellent, and stopping the run game was really important."
It was great to see the 20 seniors go out with a blaze of glory in their final game home game, and that fact meant a lot to the senior that got a second chance to play for his Sooners.
"I will never get to play on that field again, and that is kind of weird," said Dvoracek. "I couldn't ask for a better win on a better stage. I would rather beat those guys than anybody else. It was a perfect ending to my final chapter in my book here."
Dvoracek received the loudest cheer during the senior introduction, and the great ovation certainly didn't go unnoticed.
"I love the fans and I always try to go out there and play the best I can for them," said Dvoracek. "I always try to put on a show for them. I appreciate all of them and I love them. It feels great to be a Sooner."
For another Sooner senior, not only was the victory sweet, but he was totally taken back when it was announced before the game that he was the Don Key Award winner.
"I am speechless, really. I don't know what to say," said senior fullback J.D. Runnels following the game. "It means so much to me to win the Don Key Award that I can't put it into words how much it means to me. Then we go out and play a great game and beat a rival opponent on top of that. That just makes this day so special for me. I wish this wasn't my last game in that great stadium. It has meant so much to me to be a Sooner, and this was a great way for me to end my career in Memorial Stadium."
The fact that a great group of seniors played so well in the final game was not lost on the Head Ball Coach either.
"I am really proud of our seniors and how they put it together today," said coach Stoops following the game. "I appreciate their leadership the entire year and in leading up to this week. We had a great week of practice and their focus was great. They wanted to finish strong. Then they came out and so many of them really did play well.
That brings us to the offense. You may be wondering how I can just now just be getting to the great day by super sophomore Adrian Peterson. Well, in my opinion, as great as AD was on this day it was the defense that had the best day.
When you think about AD's big runs of 84 (career long) and 71 yards, they came at a time where OSU was still in the game. Despite the fact the Sooners were dominating them on defense, the score was only 21-7 when AD took off on his 84-yard run. In fact, the Sooners were struggling with penalties and mistakes and couldn't get anything going until Peterson took off on first down at the Sooners 16.
"AD was just incredible again," said Stoops following the game. "He is just now getting his ankle back and he is just getting better and better. I still don't believe that it is all the way back, but he is running in such a great way. The guy is amazing. He made some great cuts and he has such great acceleration and burst. He has such power too. Let's face it, I like some of the other runs where he is so powerful on those six and eight yard runs when many other running backs would get one or two. It was fun watching him."
"The O-line did a great job on those runs and all day," Stoops continued. "I thought they did a great job protecting our quarterback and, in the run game, they were very, very solid again. I was incredibly pleased running the ball and throwing it. We got big plays from some young guys at receiver who made some big plays for us. Manuel Johnson and Juaquin Iglesias made some big plays, and Rhett throw some excellent balls."
Adrian doesn't like to brag on himself, but when the entire college football is in a buzz because of his 210 yards rushing in the second half, which was a new Sooner record for rushing in a half, then it is understandable that he met the media with a smile on his face.
"It is always nice to have a big game against O-State," said Peterson, who has now rushed for 486 yards against OSU. "I just had to listen to Coach Gundy, who kept telling me to be patient because a big play was going to be there. He told me to keep grinding them down because a hole would eventually open up, and when it did I took off.
"On the first one, I just slowed down and took my steps and the hole was so big that you could have driven a diesel through it. The hole was so big that I came out of my stance like I was in the blocks running track. I just out ran everybody on that one. On the second one, the coaches like me to always keep it outside, but every once in a while I like to cut it up inside. So, basically, I kept it outside and then I saw the cornerback coming up so I cut it inside of him and took it the end zone. Last year, Daniel McLemore caught me on one of my long runs and I was determined to make sure he didn't catch me this year. I saw that he had a pretty good angle on me, but I just hit an extra gear and took it to the end zone."
Going into the game, Peterson needed 213 yards to reach 1,000 for the season. And he finished with 237, giving him 1,024 yards for the year despite the fact he has missed all or part of four games this season.
"It feels good. That is something to look forward to next year in trying to do better," said AD. "When you consider all the things that we went through as a team, and with me being injured, it is a great feeling to go over 1,000 yards. I am thankful for my offensive line for helping me get there. They were telling me all week that they were going to make sure I got a 1,000 yards. And during the game they were telling me that I was going to get there. I can't thank them enough for their effort."
Seniors Davin Joseph, Chris Bush, Kelvin Chaisson and Chris Chester played most of the way trying to get that 1,000 yards for Peterson.
"We all talked about that before the game — that we needed to get AD his 1,000 yards," said Joseph. "We told him about it to and let him know that was our goal. It is funny, because we were teasing him right up until he made that first big run — asking him if he was going to break one of them or not. I asked him if we were going to have to go five to 10 yards on every play, and then on the next play he bust one for 84. That was pretty funny. We were laughing the whole way down the field because we had just talked about it and that is just something Adrian can do in one play. He can make some magic happen than nobody else can do. He is special."
The Sooners' offense again hit a lull in the second and third quarter, but with Bomar throwing three touchdown passes and AD rushing for 210 yards in the second half, OU ended up with 560 yards total offense.
"I really think Rhett has picked up his game a lot," said Joseph. "His confidence in the pocket and presence on the field has improved throughout the year. Adrian has had a frustrating year, and then when he is healthy he has great games. It is pretty special how we managed to stay together as a team throughout these tough times and still end up pretty special at the end. Beating our rivals on senior night at home was pretty special."
In the pregame warm-ups, the two teams almost came to blows. Oklahoma State crossed in front of the Sooners and the teams met face-to-face. Fortunately, tempers did not get out of hand, but that incident fired up Oklahoma at the start of the game.
"We thought we had a decent plan to run the ball some, but we still have to keep some mix and keep people honest. Rhett is playing well." said run game coordinator Kevin Wilson. "I was disappointed before that game because I come out of the ramp and all of a sudden there is a brawl and I am trying to break it up. It was a big old melee and I am worried about somebody getting ejected form the game. When we are walking off the field three of their coaches are laughing about it, so I just told our guys to make sure that they had something to laugh about on their way home tonight. We couldn't have played hard enough or physical enough, but I am sure we could have played better."
"I am proud of the seniors," Wilson continued. "We talked weeks ago about not letting this thing go south. I ask them to stop it and get us back on track. I am happy for Davin, Bush, Kelvin Chaisson and Chester to play so well today. Chris Messner has been solid. I like some young guys on your squad and we will get our numbers up here in recruiting and we will be fine. However, I am happy for those seniors and for Bubba and J.D. for what they gave us. It was nice from that regard. And we got lucky and hit a couple of home runs with AD. Remember he is a home run hitter."
The mechanics of breaking a big run are always interesting, and in the case of Peterson's big run it was just a matter of a minor adjustment here and there and the persistence to keep running the football.
"The one that we made an adjustment in a formation was one that we ran earlier in the half," said Wilson. "They had a hard ball corner that our receiver couldn't get, so we just changed the formation on it and went to twins, and actually they mis-aligned. Defensively, they just mis-aligned and we were out the gate. The same play that didn't work on third-and-one that everybody was booing us, went 84-yards and brought everybody to their feet. I am just happy for the guys because this was a good finish for the season. I hope we can keep this going through the bowl season."
Once again, Rhett Bomar was outstanding completing 13-of-21 passes for three touchdowns and one interception.
"I think it was one of our better days in the passing game, and one of our better games offensively," said Bomar following the game. "We came out hot at first and I thought we had a pretty good gameplan. They are not bad on defense, but we had a good gameplan and we were able to throw the ball around and make some plays. It is so nice to just hand the ball off to Adrian and in one play get seven points. That is a luxury that not all teams have. We did that twice and that makes my job a whole lot easier. We want to run the ball. That was our mindset, just like last week. We wanted to hit one of those big plays because we have not really had many of them this year. However, we hit them today and we got two big ones."
It is amazing to remember back to the Bomar early in the season, and compare him to the Bomar now. When you look at it, there is really no comparison and without question the future is bright with Bomar at quarterback.
"His poise and discipline in playing the position has improved so much," said offensive coordinator Chuck Long following the game. "I am so excited about what he can do right now. I thought we had great balance in our offense today. I like the fact that we threw for three touchdowns and we are gaining more confidence in throwing touchdown passes. Then we rushed the ball well all day long. When you are rushing the ball well, as a quarterback you need to be efficient, make the right reads and execute, because eventually it is going to be there and it was. Rhett was exceptional. He read everything correctly and he has done that the last four or five games."
The fact that Manuel Johnson had a chance to catch a 55-yard touchdown pass after dropping what would have been a 70-yard touchdown pass, was certainly pleasing to his coach.
"I am so happy that Manuel had another chance," said OU wide receiver coach. Darrell Wyatt. "Many times, as a wide receiver, you don't get another opportunity to make a big catch and Manuel had not had a lot of opportunities this year. After he dropped the one in the first half, I told him to keep his head up. Manuel is a confident player and I am glad he had another chance in the second half, and I am glad that the Oklahoma fans had a chance to see what he can do in open field. Manuel can really run and everybody had a chance to see that tonight."
Peterson and a number players talked about next year following the game. As a team, many feel that injuries and inexperience at crucial times hurt the Sooners.
"I think next year could be very special for us," Peterson said following the game. "You can see now how talented we are, but we were just young. We started off very young and some guys got confused at times, and then we suffered a bunch of injuries. We are looking pretty good for next year."
A departing senior is another that believes next year could be a banner year for the Sooners.
"We have a lot of talent on this team, but we were just young," said Dvoracek. "We had a lot of guys who had not played before. They just had to get more snaps. If you look from game 1 to game 11, that speaks volumes about this team on how much we have improved throughout the course of this season. We improved every week with guys getting better. We still have a bowl game, but that team next year here at OU is going to be tough. There is a lot of talent on this football team."
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