The players reacted as if their best friend has just died, and you could tell that OU head football coach Bob Stoops was sick at his stomach. Less than an hour after OU had put a 34-9 whipping on Iowa State, Stoops gathered the media around him again to announce the news all Sooner fans had dreaded hearing.
"We have just received AD's medical information. There is a fracture in his collarbone and we will see later on how that goes. At this point they feel (medical staff) like the earliest that he would be able to play would be a bowl game, if that is the case."
And just like that, all the air out of the game-winning balloon had been sucked right out.
No longer was the talk about a solid OU win as everybody sat, stood and looked around in disbelief. All-American linebacker Rufus Alexander sat and shook his head, senior quarterback Paul Thomson paused to gather his thoughts and super star wide receiver Malcolm Kelly shook his head and stopped talking. The Superman of college football, the player who never got tired and actually got better as the game went along, had broke his collarbone diving into the end zone at the very end of a 53-yard touchdown run.
"He was just diving into the end zone and landed wrong," said Stoops following the game. "It is just one of those things that you don't expect to happen, but can happen in football."
Stoops knew right away that his star running back was hurt.
"I could tell when he was coming off that he had the look in his face that something was wrong," said Stoops on Sunday. "He had his left arm down to his side and I knew something wasn't right."
AD and his father, Nelson, were scheduled to come to the interview room at OU together and answer questions from the media after the game. Nelson had just been released from a halfway house after being incarcerated in federal prison, and he had just watched his son play in person for the first time in 12 years.
Peterson put on a show for his father and the other 30-plus family members in attendance. He ran through, around, over and by a desperate Iowa State defense trying to contain him to finish with 183 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns. But unfortunately, that 26th carry could be the last time that anybody will watch AD in a Sooner uniform again.
"He will be fine," said Nelson following the game. "Adrian is in good spirits. This is just an injury that will take some time to heal. That is all there is to it. How long? We will see."
Knowing Adrian as I do, I can say with confidence that he will do everything in his power to return this season. There is already speculation that he won't come back even if the can, because he won't want to risk another injury, which could hurt his NFL draft status. I say hogwash! Those that are saying that don't know Adrian. He loves playing football at OU and he loves playing football with his teammates. It is going to kill him to once again be on the sidelines unable to help his team. He will rehab around the clock and do everything that he can to get back on the field this year.
A day after the news that AD is done of the season, the players and coach are starting to cope with the fact their main man will not be available for the next six games.
"It is like I said yesterday. I am disappointed for Adrian personally," said Stoops. "That is the mood for anybody. You hate it for any young guy. He works hard and he is a tough, competitive guy. It is an unfortunate part of this game. I feel bad for DeAndre Jackson of Iowa State, because I understand that he tore his knee. That is football. It is unfortunate and I am disappointed for him personally. We will work the guys we have, and we have some good guys here at running back — Allen Patrick and Jacob Gutierrez — and we'll look at some of these young guys. Mossis Madu has been awfully impressive to us from camp on. So we will work with what we have and adapt like we always have. I feel good about all those guys."
One thing that the Sooners know they have going for them during the Stoops era is the ability to run the football, no matter the running style of the running back that they have.
"Those guys, when they got in last year, they did an excellent job," said Stoops. "They played several games last year when Adrian had the bad ankle. These guys have played and they have done well. I feel better about our offense. I feel our offensive line is playing well, our receivers are playing well and our tight ends and fullbacks are playing well, and Paul is playing great. We have a lot of guys around them that will have to step up and continue to play well."
As to what kind of impact will the loss of Peterson have on the Sooners? Forty-five percent of the offense involves him in some way. That is significant, but in reality if OU is an I-formation team then the tailback will always be involved in that much of the offense or close to that number. However, there is not a player on the roster that doesn't understand the importance of AD on the offense and on the team, but they also understand that they have to step it up and make up the slack.
"It is big because Adrian is not only the focal point of this offense, but the team as well," said senior quarterback Paul Thomson following the game. "A lot of guys are going to have to step up, and not just the other running backs. The team as a whole is going to have to step up and try to pull an extra load, because he is obviously a great back and one of the best backs in the nation. Guys are going to have to get ready."
Thompson is a player that is a spiritual leader on the team and he knows that the team will miss AD as much emotionally as physically.
"That is big because right there. Towards the end of the game when we needed a drive, because we only scored three points in the second half and, bam, the first play of the drive AD gets a touchdown," said Thompson. "You can always expect that out of Adrian. I am not saying that other guys can't, but Adrian has definitely proven that over time. That is something that you can't replace. The guys we have coming in are definitely great backs and they are going to help us win some games."
Kelly has often said that the passing game benefited the most from having AD at tailback, because defenses had to focus in on stopping him often leaving one-on-one coverage on all the receivers. Now, he knows as much as anyone that defenses may defend in the Sooners a little differently at this point.
"I think now, as far as our offense, we are going to have to be on our toes more," said Kelly following the game. "I am not saying that we just depend on one person, and I am not saying that we don't go out and do our part, but he did give us that confidence that on third-and-three he was going to pick up the first down. Now that is not automatically going to be there. Coach (Kevin) Sumlin told us just a minute ago that there is no margin for error at this point. We have to come out ready to play.
Kelly had a great day against Iowa State finishing with four catches for 50 yards and two touchdowns, but he believes now all the wide receivers will have to refine their skill because the play-action fake may not be as strong as it was with AD in the backfield.
"The receivers will just have to run better routes and get open," said Kelly. "If the defense doesn't bite in on the running back fake, then we just have to go out and be receivers and go out and make plays. That is all it is about as a receiver anyway."
Kelly is already very important to the Sooner offense, but he is not sure if he becomes the man on offense to the extent that AD was.
"If I do get that responsibility, I am going to take it and run with it," said Kelly. "I am not searching for that, but I have a lot of confidence in myself. If they want to give me that role then why shouldn't I take it? Our No. 1 man is down right now so somebody has to be that guy. And if I am that guy, then I will do the best I can to play up to that level.
"There is more pressure on the receivers now to come out and make plays and coach Sumlin is always telling us that we are not young any more. Despite the fact we the starting receivers are only sophomores, we have played a lot of football. It is not like AD and Chris Messner are the only two guys who have played at all. We got a lot of experience as freshmen and we have the ability to come out and pick everybody up. "
It wasn't just the offense that was devastated with the news. No matter what side of the ball you are on, football players know who is good and who is special and even the defensive players know that AD is special.
"It is a big loss," said Alexander following the game. "As you just watched coach Stoops, he said it was a big loss and disappointing. "Adrian is a competitor and I know this is going to hurt him because he won't be able to help us. Injuries are always tough o competitors who love to play, and Adrian is the ultimate competitor. We go through a lot of things all summer just playing and running with Smitty. Then after all that, you get a chance to play and you get hurt early in the season, it really hurts. You think, 'Man, all that work that I did this summer and now I can't do anything about it.'
"We still have great players who will know show what they can do. Allen Patrick and those guys are more than capable of playing. Gutierrez stepped up and played a great game last year, so we have guys that can step up and play. But Adrian Peterson is a tremendous talent and he will be greatly missed."
Junior Darrien Williams had just played his best game as a Sooner, finishing with nine tackles, two sacks and an interception, but he was shocked to learn that AD was out for the year.
"Honestly, I feel that is a large loss. But as a football team and a program that we are known to be, we are going to have to adapt," said Williams. "We have to be ready at this point for whatever comes our way and whatever the situation is. AD always helped us on defense, because he made first downs. We are going to adapt and be strong. We have a lot of good running backs and they will step up and play well."
Junior defensive tackle Carl Pendleton has seen a lot of football during his career at OU, and he says losing AD will force the Sooners to become more of a team.
"Losing Adrian will force everybody to play up," said Pendleton. "That is fine and that is OK, because that is what we need to do. We have dealt with adversity in the past. If our offensive line continues to play well, we will still run the football with authority. Our offensive coordinator (Kevin Wilson) has done a good job calling the games and we are going to trust our coaches to come up with a great plan.
"We know everything is going to be fine. We can't worry about one guy missing, because because we have two great guys behind him. Jacob Gutierrez and Allen Patrick can run the ball and they can run the ball well. We are going to depend on those guys to get it done."
OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables also tried to put the injury into perspective.
"I don't know how to analyze the loss of a player of his caliber," said Venables following the game. "He is the best running back on the planet. We recognize that he is a great talent, but again the components of this team is not about one guy, and I know that is probably coachspeak or the company line. I believe in that and I believe in our coaches. I believe in our good stable of running backs that we have. I believe in an offensive line that that has improved every day since the start of fall camp. I believe in our quarterback and the receivers.
"Our defense recognizes that his injury has nothing to do with us. Maybe some of the tough things that we have been dealt with here the last few months continue to make you stronger, and know that if you continue to believe in one another and work hard there is enough good, quality players there that we can continue to win, and win at a high level. I feel horrible for Adrian, because nobody invested more. Nobody cares more than Adrian about our team.
"Any time that you lose a player, no matter if it is Adrian or a third-team linebacker, Jake Smith, who blew his knee out in winter conditioning or Ryan Reynolds, who blew his knee out in conditioning, it hurts. I feel horrible for those guys as well. Any time that happens to young men that work like those guys do, you feel terrible for them. But at the same time, what are you going to do? It is what we all deal with everyday in our life. We will be fine."
Obviously, the biggest headache now rests on the shoulders of offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, who has to retool the offense that no longer has quite possibly the best offensive talent in college football.
"This is just one of the things that we have to deal with. We deal with things all the time," said Wilson following the game. "The key is where do we go from here? We have a bunch of good guys and we have evolved offensively into certain things, so I don't think there will be radical changes. But in time, we may need to work one of those young freshman backs into the equation to get a little depth at running back and get those guys going. We feel pretty good about those guys."
"It is an unfortunate thing for Adrian," Wilson continued. "I just told him to make sure he stays very positive and that he continues to be influenced by the people that care about him, love him and that he makes good choices and decisions. Tough break for him and our team, but at the same time that is a part of football. We had to adjust the first part of the season and we adjusted in a positive way, and we have to adjust with this.
"Today, we didn't play very well offensively. We were not as physical as we needed to be up front in the run game and we had some negatives in the pass game. We had some sacks and a few significant drops, and quite honestly we missed a few throws that we would like to have back. Credit Iowa State for playing solid, but we left some football out there. We are asking our guys to mature and keep growing, and we will need to keep growing here and keep growing quickly to play well down the stretch. In the meantime, for Adrian I told him to drink lot of milk."
When it comes to the loss of Peterson, the Sooners will lose more than just his great running ability.
"Adrian just took a dive at the end and the impact of just falling on his shoulder broke his collarbone," said Wilson. "That is nature of our sport. Sometimes it happens and it is an unfortunate deal, but it doesn't temper our appreciation for how he works. I have been saying for weeks that he is a great player who loves to practice. He loves to play and he has been a great leader for us. You see all these great players and superstars, they get all the glory and credit and they don't work hard. Here is a phenomenal worker who has been a great leader.
"Quite honestly, that will be missed just as much as his ability to make some plays. He was bringing a lot of things behind the table that was helping the young linemen and the young receivers mature. Fortunately, we did see it for a couple of months for those guys and hopefully they will all tighten up and keep it moving in the right way."
There is no question that junior Allen Patrick will get the first call to replace AD this Saturday against Colorado.
"We have been pretty excited about Allen Patrick and we look forward to seeing what he can do," said Wilson Sunday from his office. "I think we saw a few times last year what Jacob Gutierrez can do. We also feel pretty good about those three freshmen. So when the opportunity presents itself, you have to answer the call. We will see how those guys answer it, and if the call gets answered properly you might not see too many guys."
"I do think the way we have been playing well and I think you are going to see a lot of good things on offense," Wilson continued. "As much as anything, our whole issue is not who the new tailback is going to be, but it is continuing to take care of the football, play sounder, smarter and continue to get this group that is very talented headed in the right direction. We are close, but we still have too many negatives that we have to get away from our football right now.
"We will have a running game and we will rush the football, when you don't turn it over, when you can rush the ball. And you are going to win games when you can stop the other teams' rush. Does that mean we are going to be in the I-formation? Yes. Does that mean we are going to be in the gun? Yes. Will the quarterback run some? Yes. He had one yesterday and we will pick our spots, but I don' think you are going to see wholesale radical changes either."
The Sooners have total confidence that Patrick can be a super tailback.
"We think he is going to be pretty good. It will be interesting to see when you go from being a role guy to the main guy, how much you can put on your plate," said Wilson. "I think we saw early with AD that he did some things, but on third down and some other deals not at good. That will be some things this week for coach (Cale) Gundy and weeks to come to determine how much Allen can handle. Is Allen a first, second and third down back? Do we work some other guys in on third downs?
"We got Adrian this year where he was doing all those downs. Will Allen Patrick be able to do all that? We will see as we go through the game plan. The bottom line is sometimes when you start to put more on some guy's plate, it is more than they are used to handling. If you are mentally overloaded, then you are not going to play well. There will be some checks and balances that we will have to decide how far he can go."
"Physically, he is very fast and he will make some plays," Wilson continued. "He plays behind his pads and has nice instincts as a runner. We have said that we think he is a good runner and hopefully he will prove us right. He has looked that way at practice, he has looked that way in games that he has had a chance to play in. We look forward to seeing him role. Last year, at the end of last season, he was playing at a pretty good clip. We will see if that continues for him as he starts here this week."
Patrick will get the first chance to be the starter, but he is not the only back who will see playing with AD out.
"I think we will get a better feel for some of these guys when they truly play in some live settings," said Wilson. "I think some of Allen Patrick's best runs thus far have been out of the I-formation. He went for 30-something yards last year against O-State out of our base power play. I thing Gutierrez, being a smaller guy, is more of a spread guy and a gun guy, but I think the other guys, being Allen Patrick or the freshmen, are guys that we can play under center, play in shotgun and do a number of different things with. I think they all have adequate hands and we can use them in the passing game. It is not like we have a guy that can't catch the ball so we have to take him out on passing down."
"Just like we always do, we sit back in the summer and go over what do we do if this happens to us and we had a mindset of what we would do," continued Wilson.
"I think we will have to continue to have a lot of mix. I personally don't think people are going to defend us differently, because I think that team yesterday defended us like they defend everybody. They didn't defense us any different because of Adrian. They defended us just like they defended Nebraska. That was the structure of their defense and how they did it. Texas lined up and defended us the way they do everybody. Looking at Colorado, I think they will guess.
"If they think we're going to run they will play against the run, and if they think we are in a passing mode they will be in things that they want to do to defend the pass. I don't think we are going to see anything significant. I don't think we are going to be radically different. The way we pass blocked and the way we caught the ball in the second half doesn't indicate that we should throw it a lot more, because our passing game was virtually null and void the second half just based on fundamental execution."
We reported last week that the best freshman running back up to this point has been Norman Tiger alum Mossis Madu. Chris Brown has aso been impressive, but Las Vegas sensation DeMarco Murray is still battling a turf toe that he hurt during training camp. It is almost certain that Madu will play, if nothing more than to help out on special teams, considering that Patrick and Gute may have to come off every special team because of their load at running back.
"We have talked about playing some of these freshmen more, but in all honestly as short as the games have gotten we have not had as many plays as I thought we were going to have. We have not had as many snaps, so we have not been able to play some guys," said Wilson. "We even, a couple or three weeks, ago talked about playing one of those guys. But we said the games are so short that if they are not going to play that much let's just use the redshirt year. Now we will re-evaluate whether to play one or maybe two, because they could also help on special teams."
"It will be interesting to see how Allen Patrick and Jacob Gutierrez, who are two of our better special team players, react to getting more time at running back," Wilson continued. "They are our two special teams captains and if they are going to have a larger role on offense, does that affect their performance on special teams or how much we play them on special teams?
"That is where some of these freshmen running backs, whether it be Mossis Madu, Chris Brown or DeMarco Murray, could plug into not just tailback, but they could help us on special teams roles as well because we are going to probably have to lessen some of the special teams burden on Allen and Jacob. That will depend on how the game goes, who the back is and how things work in weeks to come."
OK, now that we have speculated all we can speculate on how the injury to AD is going to affect the Sooners, the bottom line is that they have to move on. And just how they move on will be the key to winning the next six games on their schedule.
"This is what it is. Things happen and they happen for reasons," said Wilson. "I think we have some phenomenal players that are playing well and moving in the right direction. I know as coaches we are looking forward to this week and weeks to come and where we go. We are not looking towards next year, we are looking at the next six days at what we are doing. We are not wondering when he is going to get back because he will get back when he is back.
"The bottom line is that there are some very talented football players here who will take offense that AD was the only player on this team. As great as he was, he has had a good supporting cast and it will be interesting to see how we respond. We asked our guys to respond after the Texas game and handle things in a mature way and prepare and play well against Iowa State, and we will ask them to do the same thing now with this situation.
"This is not unfortunate, because it is what it is and we have to deal with it and. We have to deal with it with 100 some guys on this team, and it is still about this team. Coach says all the time that this team is bigger than one person and this program isn't one person. We lost a talented player, who will be out for a few weeks, but we still have a lot of good players who are playing well in a lot of phases and we will need all these phases down the stretch to keep it going. I think we will continue to play well."
Many feel that the OU will change their offensive philosophy now that Peterson is no longer available. But I am here to tell you that won't happen. The Sooners are now six games into this season and they are an I-formation power football team that can throw it pretty well using both the I-formation and shotgun.
OU still has good running backs on the roster, thus their philosophy is not going to change. They not going to come out and to the spread or shotgun 80 percent of the time now because AD is hurt. OU recruits tailbacks to work out of the I-formation and to be versatile enough to also run work out of the shotgun and catch the ball. That is not going to change now that Patrick and Gute get their opportunities, even though Gute may get more opportunities out of the gun that the I-formation.
Good play at fullback could do the tailbacks a lot of good. The Sooners played four different fullbacks against Iowa State, but that is going to change in the future.
"Our best fullback is Brody Eldridge, and he plays tight end," said Wilson. "He doesn't even practice a lot, but you get on the field and he is the best blocker. He performs at a high level and does very well. All three of the fullbacks played yesterday in Ian Pleasant, Matt Clapp and Dane Zaslaw. Matt is still kind of gimpy and it is still off his ankle a little bit. He is not quite 100 percent and he had to hold out of practice one day last week. He is not physically where he needs to be and he has kind of got a little bit out of sync at hitting. Dane has kind of come on and doing OK. Ian Pleasant has been hot and cold and he misses some things, but the best fullback is Brody Eldridge."
"What is does it gives us a chance to put Brody and Joe Jon on the field at the same time," Wilson continued. "When we are in the I-formation, sometimes we are in two tights and it is probably a little harder because I think the defensive coaches would probably like us to put the ball back on the field. When we put Brody and Joe Jon on the field, we might be a two tight end set or we might be in the ‘I'. Joe Jon is athletic enough that we don't even mind flexing him out.
"So we can be in the ‘I' with Joe Jon flexed out or whatever. Out of that group, Joe Jon is playing OK. Jermaine Gresham is coming along, but Brody is playing as good or better in all phases. When you look at how he blocks, his backside performances and how he competes and finishes on every play, he might be playing as well any one that plays that position right now. He is a good, young player doing well.
"Those other two guys aren't bad, and those fullbacks are all doing OK but quite honestly, sometimes I feel better when we put the three tight ends on the field in our little wing-set over there and Brody is at fullback. So I think there are some things with Brody which we are better at, because Brody is our best fullback. That helps us because the defense can't predict what we are going to do when he is on the field."
If the Sooners do like they have throughout this year, then they will put Peterson's injury behind them by Monday's practice. But this is such an emotional situation with the team that the coaches will watch the emotional attitude of the players very closely.
"I don't feel it will," said Stoops when asked if the injury will affect the players emotionally. "Our guys are playing better in so many other areas, that guys know this is part of the game. We have to step up and overcome it. We have guys who are capable of it and this won't be an excuse, nor was our quarterback situation to start the year."
The injury to AD almost overshadows the Sooners' 32-9 victory over Iowa State. Oklahoma never in danger of losing this game and they out-gained the Cyclones 380-238. Despite the fact this game was never in doubt, the Head Ball Coach was not totally satisfied with the performance.
"It was a good game. I always want to compliment Coach (Dan) MaCarney and his staff, because Iowa State is always a well-coached team," said Coach Stoops following the game. "They make you earn everything that you get and you have to really play well to beat them. For most of the game, I really felt we played in a good way. I guess that is the case defensively as well, but I do get tired of the same things.
"I still felt early on the one drive we give up, and a lot of it Iowa State took advantage of it, are some things that we don't do well, but things that we did practice. That is frustrating, but we will keep trying to get better. Overall, throughout the game we made some big plays. We got a lot of pressure to the quarterback and for the most part, outside of the one run at the end of the half, we played the run game well. It is frustrating. You realize there is a lot of good, but we have to keep pushing to be better."
"Offensively, the same thing," Stoops continued. "I thought the first half we were excellent in everything that we were doing, and then in the second half we have two drops on third down that were catchable balls. They were easy catches. We have a turnover in the end zone and we just hurt ourselves too much. That is the stuff we have been fighting against. We just have to be a better team and not hurt ourselves in those situations. We let a punt drop and go all the way to the two yard-line, we fumble one of the returns. I just can't stand that kind of sloppy play. Fortunately we were able to get away with it, but we have to be better than that."
Stoops has always demanded perfect play out of his team, and even though this team has not come close to that in any game he will not give up on the desire result.
"I just feel we are capable of so much more," said Stoops. "I want to see it. As a coach, I am pleased with the win. Don't get me wrong, the guys I felt did some good in there. They feel good and they understand the good things, but there is some frustration in there because I don't like when we give things or when we do some things that we can control and be better at. That is what we have to keep trying to be better at."
Don't look now, but the Oklahoma defense has put together three straight games where they have held their opponent to under 250 total yards. Could it be that they are beginning to play up to their preseason rep?
Defensive ends Larry Birdine and Calvin Thibodeaux chased ISU quarterback Bret Meyer all game. And C.J. Ah You wasn't bad either. They didn't come up with a sack, but they came very close and made life miserable for the ISU signal caller.
It wasn't just the big name players who came up with big plays in this game. Free safety Darrien Williams was fantastic. Carl Pendleton had his first two sack game of his career and Lendy Holmes played lights out taking advantage of his start at the boundary corner.
"Carl did a nice job and made some plays that early in the year we sometimes didn't make up front," said Venables. "When you get free you have got to make plays. Everybody is on scholarship and everybody has a responsibility and there is accountability in the system. You have to make plays. You can teach them all they want, but they have to make plays. Lendy, early in the game, was playing with a great deal of aggression, with assuredness. You knew right away he was ready to play. He made a couple of tackles, got really physical in coverage and that was important. Their receivers were physical players and Lendy was very physical and aggressive. He was very sure of himself.
"When you have a great week of preparation, that is what happens for you on the field. The same thing goes for Darrein, who actually had played very well for us all year, had not made a lot of big plays up until today. He has that kind of ability and I think he is beginning to play with more confidence and beginning to turn it losse a little bit."
The Sooners used the blitz game against Iowa State better than against any opponent this year.
"The guys pressuring had a little better discipline than we did at times," said Venables Sunday. "They just stayed on the outside shoulder containing it, and also fighting off blocks when there were blockers in front of them. They did better at separation using their hands and not bodying up on guys and getting pushed by the ball. The coverage in the back end was good, because there are always outlets for a quarterback. But our back end guys had good discipline in their drops."
While Coach Stoops wasn't satisfied, he was happy with the defensive pressure the Sooners were able to put on Iowa State.
"We got really good pressure," said Stoops in his postgame press conference. "I didn't count up the sacks, but I know there were several other plays where we were tackling them right on the line of scrimmage or just beyond the line of scrimmage. They weren't counted as sacks, but we were pressuring them and chasing them.
"There weren't very many times that he (ISU QB Bret Meyer) was allowed to sit there and survey the field and deliver it, which is good. I felt our coverage was really good and the pressure overall was good. Still, even that was frustrating because he escaped us to many times. We have to be better as we have to be able to be in control and make tackles back there when we get the opportunities."
Williams has played a pretty good free safety this year for the Sooners. He is not flashy and until Saturday he didn't make a lot of big plays. It was just a week ago that Williams told this reporter that the most disappointing thing about his play was the lack of an interception, and that he was out to get one against Iowa State. Well, his dream came true with his fourth quarter pick.
"It felt great," said Williams following the game. "It felt like I was running on a cloud when I was running down the sideline. It was a great feeling. I wish I could have taken it for six. I knew the pass was coming and I jumped it. One of their guys just got me and forced me to step on the boundary. I felt him get my foot a little bit. I thought I had a touchdown."
Williams has been the one member of the secondary to start every game at the same position, and he is getting better every week out.
"He really played well," said Venables. "It was his best game since he has been here. I am happy for Darrien. He has worked very hard and he has done everything that we have asked. He is just gaining more and more confidence and it was good for him to have some success."
The Sooner secondary bottled up everything except one second quarter drive, where the usually reliable Reggie Smith fell asleep giving up a 31-yard touchdown to Todd Blythe. Reggie never got started in this game and probably played his worst all-round game as a Sooner, also failing to catch at punt that eventually rolled down at the two-yard line. And on the very next play, AD fumbled giving Iowa State a safety.
But for the most part, the remainder of the secondary covered up for Smith, and Williams felt as a unit it was the best effort of the season.
"That is the way we want it," said Williams. "We want to continue to play better than the last game and I feel we played much better today. I know people think we are not a physical secondary, but today that is exactly what we were. This is what a secondary in our defense is supposed to do. We are supposed to go out there and hit people. That is what we were trying to emphasize today. It is just a confidence thing. Going out there and having confidence in what you are doing and go out there and concentrate on what you practice on every day.
"We blitzed well today. A lot of blitzing is angles, reading an offense and making plays. It is knowing when a quarterback is going to boot out and having a good angle on his top shoulder and making sure he can't get outside of you. A lot of blitzing is attitude and angles, and we had both tonight."
A big move in the secondary was at boundary corner, where Lendy Holmes beat out D.J. Wolfe during the week for the starting job.
"There is a lot that goes into who starts starting with fundamentals every day," said Venables. "They do a lot of different fundamental drills down at their end of the field and they go over a lot of things that they will see on game day. So who is playing well and who is practicing with the right kind of intensity, technique and who gets it, and who verbalizes it in the right way in the meeting room and on the field will earn the start. Again, it is who is doing the right things the most. It is a process during the week and we as coaches understand where the areas of concern are. We are talking about it every night in meetings and after practice, and you go with who has performed the best and your gut instinct.
"It was easy for Bobby Jack (Wright) to see that Lendy had a strong week. I think Lendy is just now really truly starting to understand all the elements of playing that position. From reads, to keys to what if's, to have the discipline to relax and simplify the game and not worrying about what they are doing on the other side of the field. We are pleased with how aggressive he was, how confident he was. A big part of our game plan was for him to be physical and really play well in both the passing game and run support . And when we blitzed him, he came with more urgency and more of a sense of purpose than he did a week ago against Texas."
It was great to see junior Carl Pendleton have some success. Many of you want Pendleton to be replaced because he doesn't make a bunch of plays or come up with a bunch of stats, but OU defensive tackle coach Jackie Shipp has explained many times that Pendleton is playing pretty well at defensive tackle and that stats don't always tell the true story at the position. That being said, Pendleton was happy to get a couple of stats beside his name.
"It feels good," said Carl Pendleton following the game. "I have been here four years and I might as well get something done. I helped out the defense today, and that is the biggest thing. I have been hurting, because what I want to do is help out the defense and contribute. I want to do my part, especially as an older guy. Our defense as a whole, as a unit, clicked today and our defensive backs were getting after it. Our linebackers were playing well and I am sure we had fewer busted assignments. That is what makes a big difference for us — when everybody is clicking and everybody is helping everybody out. It was a complete effort by our defense today."
Pendleton admits he is not stat crazy and that he doesn't worry about it very much, but he did admit that it was good to finally get on the stat sheet.
"Absolutely. I may have matched my career total today," said Pendleton with a chuckle. "I don't really know, I am just throwing it out there. It was a great today and we play hard all the time. We gave the effort and it was good to see all of our effort pay off today. We had great coverage down field. It was awesome coverage. Guys were running around making plays in the secondary and that allowed us to make plays in the backfield. We complimented each other. Good pressure and good coverage work together, so when everything clicks like that big plays are going to be made."
In all but one 54-yard run at the end of the first half, the Sooners completely shut down the ISU running game finishing with just 89 yards rushing.
"That is our job up front," said Pendleton. "If we can stop the run we can make them pass and then get great coverage like we. Then in the second half, their run game disappears and we make them one-dimensional. You just hope that you play hard and you can get all those things clicking together, and we did today."
Pendleton and Demarcus Granger both had great games up front for the Sooners.
"Carl had an excellent day and really did play well," said Stoops. "Carl was a force inside today, and I think all of our defensive tackles played well inside. We made more big plays today and that is what we need. We have been on the verge of them and have been close to them all year. Fortunately tonight, some of them came our way and we were able to make some of those big plays. Marcus Walker played really well tonight and I thought Lendy did a great job. I also thought Nic Harris played really well."
Linebacker Rufus Alexander and Zach Latimer both played outstanding games. Latimer finished with seven tackles and showed good speed running from sideline to sideline. He also finished with one tackle for loss. Alexander also had seven tackles and one diving interception.
Back to the offense, Peterson finished with 183 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Paul Thompson was great in the first half hitting 14-of-17 passes, but struggled in the second hitting only 2-of-10 to finish 16-for-27 for 195 yards and two touchdowns. The Sooners finished with 380 yards total offense, 185 rushing and 195 passing, but they still have work to do.
"Our run game got going sideways and we didn't get enough push," said Wilson following the game. "They overloaded some looks and we tried to counter. We could be a little bit better up front. In our pass game we missed some shots and we had some protection glitches that got us. It was an OK performance and we had a little bit of balance. Quite honestly, we were not as effective in execution as we were last week. Now we didn't have the negatives, as we didn't have the penalties and we didn't have the turnovers, but our execution and blocking and our ability to put the ball on target and make catches just was not near as good today as it was a week ago."
Thompson played as well as any quarterback could play in the first half, but two dropped passes and another thrown short stopped the passing game in its tracks in the second half.
"Sitting around for 10 to 15 minutes at halftime can dull your senses a little bit," said Thompson after the game. "We don't want that happen and try to guard against it, but sometimes it does. We definitely wanted to establish a run game and get Adrian the ball, but at the same time some of the passes that I could have completed, and on the one to Malcolm they say hit the ground, are passes that we complete all the time. I just go out there and pulled it short. We just had a lot of technical things that could have sustained a lot more drives."
When it was all said and done, Stoops felt his skill players on offense had pretty good games.
"I was very impressed with AD. I always love to watch him compete," said Stoops. "I was glad that he had a great game. He competes and always has with everything that he's got. I thought the receivers made some nice plays running with the football after the catch," said Stoops. "Malcolm Kelly and Juaquin Iglesias did well, and I thought Paul (Thompson) was just sensational in the first half."
Finally, isn't ironic how in college football there is such a fine line between greatness and fighting to be good? At the start of the season, the Sooners were set with one certain superstar and one potential superstar in Adrian Peterson and Rhett Bomar, and now they have neither. Bomar flamed out by trying to cheat the system, and the football Gods failed to bless AD as he breaks his collarbone in the middle of the season.
What was once so bright for the OU offense, not only in the present but in the future, has now gone up in smoke.
However, the Sooners still have things in place for the future. Malcolm Kelly leads a talented wide receiver corp and they have three outstanding tight ends, and Jermaine Gresham has a chance to be extra special. The Sooners start four sophomore offensive linemen and they have several talented young back-ups as well.
They have always felt that they would lose AD to the NFL following this year, and they signed three talented running backs last year to get ready for that move. The Sooners are also very much in the hunt for two of the top running backs in Texas and Joseph Reese and Lennon Creer, and they hope to sign one.
The best laid plans don't always work out in college football, and that has been proven true with AD and Bomar. When they signed with OU, everybody thought National Championships and Heisman Trophies would follow. As it is, Bomar is toiling at Sam Houston State and AD is out for the rest of the season with a broken collarbone.
The Sooners have always handled adversity under Stoops and they are expected to again. However, how they rebound from the loss of their star and how they do in recruiting a quarterback will tell a lot about their future.
By the way, I had my first great report on freshman Sam Bradford. From what I was told, he is throwing the ball very well against the defense as the scout team QB. The more the Sooner coaches see him, the more they like his future. In many ways, the future is always bright at Oklahoma.
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