copyright by James Hale and OUInsider The Sooners will never admit this, but it always seems they go to Waco with the knowledge that if they play up to their level that they are going to win the game against the Bears easily.
I realize that Baylor played the Sooners into overtime last year, and this year with Shawn Bell at quarterback it looked like the Bears had a chance to go bowling at the end of the year. Then Bell suffered an ACL tear two weeks ago in the loss to Texas A&M, and since then the air has sailed out of the Bears' balloon.
Going into the game, the Bears' defense had been ravaged by Texas Tech and OSU to a tune of 86 total points. Under the direction of freshman Blake Szymanski the Bears offense was doing better putting 21 and 24 on the board, but actually those totals worked against the Bears because they showed that they still had some ability and thus grabbed the attention of the Sooner defense.
And with the the way the Sooners have played since the Oregon game, it is never good to grab their attention.
When Baylor is a road game for Oklahoma, it is easily one of the best and easiest road games on the year. I know the game itself doesn't do much for a lot of folks as their never seems to be anything major on the line, but there are plenty of reasons that the Sooners and the fans love going to Waco.
1) From a team standpoint, if Oklahoma plays up to their level of play they are going to win the game. It is plain and simple. OU is one of the best teams in the country and Baylor, although they are improving, is still one of the worst. The Bears honored 32 graduating seniors on Saturday. That can be a good thing and a bad thing for the Bears.
2) For most Sooner fans it is an easy drive to Waco. If you can get through the construction and two-lane highways in Ft. Worth, the drive is a little less than four hours and not complicated at all. Granted, I am computing that from Norman, but just about every fan I ran into told me that they thought Waco was easy to get to. So, no matter how you are getting to Waco it doesn't seem to be much of a problem.
3) Waco itself is a nice town and a nice place to hang out for a couple of days. It is easy to get around and some new hotels have been constructed over the last couple of years. We have found some good restaurants and I am sure many of you have as well.
4) It is easy for OU fans to get tickets. You can walk right up to the ticket window and buy a ticket. How easy is that? If you think ahead you can order tickets for the OU/Baylor game from the Baylor ticket office on the phone, they will mail them to you. Baylor says they set a season attendance record with the 40,000 plus they claimed were at the game on Saturday, but you couldn't tell it by looking around the stadium. If you had an end zone seat and stayed in the end zone, then you just want to sit in the end zone. Sooner fans didn't outnumber Baylor fans, but if a fan was walking by the stadium and he/she heard a loud roar, he/she would not know who was winning.
5) It is a great game for Al Eschbach and me to get to. Just about every game we do our pregame show from a restaurant or a bar and in most cases we are frantically rushing out about 30 minutes before kickoff trying to get to the game before kickoff. Sometimes we have to be very imaginative to get to the game and sometimes it requires cabs and buses to get to the game. (I have never had to take a train, but Al says that he has. So sometimes even a train). We usually get into our seats on road games in the pressbox about five minutes before kickoff.
At Baylor, when we got on the road we saw six cars as we made our way to the stadium. That was six cars in five miles. We were actually driving around the stadium trying to find our parking lot and that was amazing in itself. By the time we arrived we were told that our parking lot was full, but we were allowed to park in another one fairly close and had a five minute walk to the stadium. (We found out there was plenty of parking left in our lot, but I guess the security wanted to make it sound like they had a bunch of people at the game or something).
Following the game, Al went with my nephew (Steve) and his beautiful wife (Cathy), and believe me my nephew signed a first round draft choice here, along with their friends Beth and Manny and they got right back to our remote site at Crickets Grill. Folks, that never happens, but they drove from the stadium right after the game right to Cricket's. When I came out of the stadium 45 minutes later, I walked right to my car and got on the road with absolutely no traffic in site. I was able to get to our remote site in five minutes and that never happens anywhere else but Waco.
6) OU pounds Baylor 36-10 and everybody is happy after the game from Bob Stoops to Adrian Peterson to Kenny Mossman to Chris Brown, who gets his first start and goes for 169 on 24 carries and one touchdown.
So all in all, it was a good day for the Sooners.
"I am excited as heck," said a smiling Bob Stoops following the game. "I thought we played well and the guys executed. That is the pleasing part, because our gameplan and execution was good. We had over 400-yards of offense and we limited them to not a lot (140). Then we break big returns and our defense was outstanding the entire day.
"We forced a lot of big plays and had seven sacks, turnovers and touchdowns. Offensively, what I am pleased with is that there are a bunch of guys out there who are moving the football in a really good way. Obviously, the penalties in the first half and turnovers hurt us. If we can learn to finish with two hands and not let the ball go we will be in great shape."
The first half was one of mistakes and turnovers offensively for the Sooners, and that was the only thing that kept the Bears in the game. It started following the their first scoring drive of 10 plays and 85 yards, with the last 10 covered by a Paul Thompson to a Joe Jon Finley TD pass. Take note — it was a pass to a tight end and it went for a touchdown. However, a bad snap cost the Sooners the extra point.
Oklahoma didn't feel to bad about that because three plays later sophomore safety Reggie Smith picked off his first pass of the year and promptly took to the house. This time everything was good on the PAT and the Sooners had a 13-0 lead and it looked like it was going to be an easy day.
However, Oklahoma couldn't stand prosperity and after forcing Baylor's stud punter Daniel Sepulveda his foot into the ball (I know calling a punter a stud isn't normal, but this guy does change the field position for the Bears and he is their best player who will be getting ready to make lots of money in the NFL. So he a stud) sending it high and long into the air 56-yards where it bounced off the chest of Smith and was picked up by the Bears' Braelon Davis. To Smith's credit, he didn't pout or put his head down and he chased down Davis at the OU 24-yard line.
Thanks to two great pressures by sophomore defensive end Corey Bennett and senior defensive end Larry Birdine, the Bears could only manage four yards. But they avoided the shutout as Ryan Havens booted a 38-yard field goal.
However, the Sooners weren't quite ready to put the Bears away despite dominating them on both ends of the field. From the OU 32, Thompson hit Malcolm Kelly along the Baylor sideline and he promptly made a couple of moves and was using a stiff-arm to word off Baylor's Dwain Crawford when the ball just popped out of his hand at the 6-yard line falling right at Crawford's feet for a Baylor recovery. What looked like a possible score by Kelly and the offense turned into another weird turnover.
I mean, how many strange plays have the Sooners had this season?
The Sooners had 166 total yards at the end of the first quarter to Baylor's 47, yet they basically gave Baylor three points and cost themselves seven more on the fumble.
The rest of the half the Oklahoma defense chased Szymanski around forcing him into one bad throw after another while the offense couldn't get out of second gear. Throw in a PT interception and the Sooners were glad to get into the halftime locker room.
The Sooners are playing a lot of young players, especially on offense. So was youth the problem in the Sooners sloppy play in the first half?
"I don't know, but I really don't think so," said Stoops. "I just think you play a long game, what used to be a four hour game and is now a three-and-half hour game. Through the course of three hours every play is not going to go your way. They are capable of making some plays and that is what happens. I is never easy. Any game you play there is always a challenge. Hey, we won 36-10.So this is pretty good."
Even with his coaches words of encouragement, Reggie Smith was disappointed in his mistakes in the punt return game.
"I was very disappointed in myself," said Smith following the game. "I know I am a lot better than that and I have to work on holding onto the ball more. It seems like I have been dropping the ball a lot lately. It wasn't just today. Even when I catch it I have been dropping it after I get hit, and I need to work on ball security in general."
Coach Stoops hates mistakes and he knows even the best players will make some. He also knows that fielding punts is one of the hardest things to do on a football field. Stoops was a pretty fair punt returner in his playing days at Iowa and he understands what Reggie is going through.
"He had great night," said Stoops. "That is where you hate it for the player. That is why I told him to keep his head up and mistakes are part of this game. I told him he had made a lot of big plays and he can learn from this that he can finish with the ball. He started off with that second one a little loose. To his credit, I am not at all saying it is OK, but the guy (Sepulveda) hits a 70-yarder and is up there so high that it drew rain. You know what I mean? It was wet when it came back down. It is not the easiest thing.
"You have to have nerve to be back there, which he does, and you catch enough of them and I guess you will eventually drop one. Then the next one, just the way it started, he will learn as a young guy in doing this to make sure it is secure. I think his eyes got wide because he got a lane and he was close to breaking it. I told him not to sacrifice the ball for the lane. In other words, take care of the ball even if it cost you a step or two. If the lane is closed by the time you get there then it is. But take care of the ball."
Too often we talk about the negatives in a player instead of the positives, and that is case with Smith because in the first quarter it is his 42-yard interception return that gave Oklahoma some security early in the game.
"Luckily, they ran two verticals and I stayed in the middle of the field and broke on the pass," said Smith. "When I got it I saw a whole bunch of field and didn't know which way to go at first, but I saw my blockers and just kind of poked it up in the end zone. Nic got me the final three yards as I ran right up his back and he was blocking hard for me. I am glad I got in because I got my first interception today. They were testing the safeties all day. He (Szymanski) acted like he wasn't afraid of us and I think they thought when we were in coverage that their receivers were better than us. We just had to show them that we were out there and ready to play."
Even though Smith made a ton of good plays and was spectacular on the field at strong safety, at times he had a better day in pass coverage than he did in run support or tackle in space.
"Reggie had great positioning on the ball and he was very aggressive getting his hands on a bunch of footballs," said defensive coordinator Brent Venables following the game. "He made a lot of big plays on a lot of balls in the game. And outside of the missed tackle that he had over by our sideline, throwing the Nolan Ryan no-hitter as Bobby Jack (Wright) said, and putting us in a couple of tough positions there with a couple of muffs. Otherwise, he had an outstanding game.
"He ran out of gas on his second interception or he would have had two defensive touchdowns. Two defensive touchdowns and a safety would have been a real good night, but it was good night for us as it was. Heck, with all the returns that he is out there for, and it was a warm day, that guy must have had a good angle on him."
Ball security will take on a major theme at practice this week as the Sooners have fumbled nine times in the last two games. But in reality, what else can the coaching staff do about it?
"We have done every drill known to man," said Stoops. "Maybe we need to quit talking about it and see how that works, because taking about it and working on it hasn't really worked for us. Maybe we need to try something different."
Ball security or the concern for it was the theme in almost every comment from the member of the offensive coaching staff or the head coach after the game. The Sooners have always been a team that protected the football, but this year has been a different story. That and mental mistakes have cost the offense more than any defense slowing them down this year. And even though they had a good day offensively in the second half against Baylor, and have shown improvement in those areas, as the season has gone on the turnovers and penalties are still bugging the coaches.
"It is something that we emphasize every week, but as long as it is there then it has a chance to be an achilles heel," said offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson following the game. "It is something that again we will continue to emphasize, because again next week we are going against a heck of a team at their place. It will be an exciting game on Thanksgiving weekend and our challenge to our guys is that we get better this week. As well as we have done, and we are on a nice little stretch right now, we have a lot of nice players who are doing well. We need to have a better week and be better next week. That is the challenge."
"We look at some teams last week that did not have the outcomes that they expected," said Wilson. "You have to always respect your opponent and you have to prepare each week. We talk about how hard you work for the few chances that you get and to make sure that you don't waste one. For the most part, I appreciate how our kids have battled and competed. They have answered the call and done a great job, but we just still play a little more foolish that ideally a great team needs to. That is our challenge to keep fighting through that and get past that hurdle, and then we are close to being a really good football team."
Like coach Stoops, Wilson is not going to let youth be an excuse for the offense, especially after most of them have started or played in 11 games this season.
"Again, that is an excuse," said Wilson. "Those guys have played all season and they have played in a lot in big games. It is difficult, but it is just a matter of maintaining your concentration on every play. They need to respect the ball, get the snap count and play smart football. Our comments all the time to them is that when it is going good, it is not going good enough. And if it is not going good, then get it going good the next play. If you had something not go right, if you made a mistake, now that one is over and let's make it good next play.
"Let's play with a lot of energy and a lot of positive things the next play, and when it is going good don't coast. We use that word a lot and tell them not to coast. Don't coast downhill, keep peddling, keep fighting and to keep chopping. The bottom line to just keep fighting the fight. We have tried real hard in practice to communicate that and we have practiced real well. Offense is never perfect and never totally in sync, but if we can take the negatives out we are close to being a solid offense."
Baylor put the ball in the air 45 times and the play of the secondary was key for the Sooners. Safety Darien Williams went down with a knee injury in the second quarter and never returned to the game. Senior Jason Carter plays both free and strong safety and stepped in and played well at free safety. One thing is for sure about Carter, and that is that he is confident that he knows the gameplan. He knows what to do on any position on the field.
"Even during the week, when we are going over what if they do this or that, he is cutting me off going, 'I got it, i got it.' And that is what you want," said Venables. "He even does that in the locker room when we are going over last minute stuff, and he is cutting me off going, 'I got it, I am on it.' I am proud of him for being ready and getting out there and playing well. He got his hands on a couple of balls so he did a good job."
The Sooners warmed up Allen Patrick before the game and had hopes that he could play. However, he still wasn't quite 100 percent, despite being close. If Oklahoma didn't have any additional depth at tailback then AP would have been pushed into action, but depth at running back is one thing that the Sooners have and Chris Brown was tremendous in his first start as a Sooner.
"He played a great game," said Stoops. "A true freshman gets in there and rushes for 169 yards. That is a pretty strong day on 24 carries. He is a good running back and he is a good young guy that is doing well. He took care of the ball so well the whole day. On his one fumble, somehow he and Paul didn't get together and I don't think he had total possession of it before he lost it. We will have to see on that one. He had done so well and taken care of it that he had a really good day."
"He just has a real knack for finding space and seams," Stoops said. "Even when there wasn't much there, he had a way of tucking in and hiding behind his blockers and getting what was there. He did a really nice job. He runs with great vision and he definitely sees the play developing and has a good way of getting into it."
Brown says he is now getting comfortable with the offense and Division-1 football.
"At first, everything was going real fast for me. But the game has slowed down a lot for me," said Brown following the game. "Now I am just trying to compete and help my teammates and I am not thinking so much out there. I am just playing football. I just try to go out and compete and play hard every day we practice, and every day we go out and compete on Saturday. I am just sticking with what I have done my whole life and trying to make it work.
"I have just settled down and I am being patient. Our offensive line is playing great and if I am patient I will have several holes to run through. Our offensive line was pure today. They made some real big holes and I give all the credit to those guys. All the rushing yards to those guys, because they did a real good job up front."
So far the Sooners have had a productive running game with four different tailbacks, with Brown being the latest. Despite his freshman status, he has been very impressive in the last couple of ballgames.
"He was pretty solid," said Wilson. "One time he didn't have a good mesh and he didn't get the hand-off properly. He was as little sloppy with his pocket and the ball didn't get in there. However, he is taking care of it reasonably good. His protection a couple of times on a couple of blitzes were significantly better than the week before. He plays with nice patience, balance and nice feel. He is always kind of going forward, running through trash and gets you four and five yards a lot. Then, once in a while again he has the vision and awareness to come out and pop the 18-, 20- or 25-yard play. I think he is a pretty solid, steady back."
"He is a good, young guy and that is why we are going with him," Wilson continued. "We just thought that physically he was a little bit more ready than the other young guys, as far as his strength. He also took care of the ball a little bit better in practice. We do have two other young guys that I think we will see someday soon. I made the comment that the way he has played and the way that Allen Patrick has played, then we have two guys just sitting there who are pretty talented and then we have Gute. The competition in the off-season, if those guys keep pushing themselves, that will be a heck of a good deal."
The Sooners have some great talent at tailback, but when you to use four different ones and you still have individuals get 100-yards, then the offensive line has to be doing something right.
"I thought we could get hats on those guys," said Wilson. "We just didn't know how much they were going to blitz. We were kind of concerned and we went back three years and looked at film, even back to when Jason (White) was our quarterback, that in previous years that a lot of their pressure came in some of our spread sets. That was one of the reasons that we kept the big guys on the field a little bit more, because we didn't really believe they would blitz those sets. If they did, then we would have guys who can get hats on them and that leaves their secondary in man coverage and they can't fit those run splits as well.
"For three or four weeks, we have not been great all the time. But the O-line has been pretty solid and they are complimented with those three tight ends that have played pretty good. If we can have some mix and balance and keep the run/pass deal going, you have a chance to be a pretty good offense. That O-line is still young and it misses some things sometimes, but they are really solid and work well in practice. Those tight ends really help us out too."
The Sooners piled up 414 yards total offense, had a tailback rush for 169, a quarterback throw for 178 and a receiver catch 115 yards worth of passing. So how well did the offense play?
"It was OK. By no means was it a perfect deal, but we did miss some things," said Wilson. "I guess it was typical of us on some days. We had some turnovers and on a couple of third downs we didn't execute right. We didn't have the ball a whole lot until right there in the fourth quarter. In the third quarter, we scored and got us some good field position with the short field. Then we had a safety, a return and a blotched punt. We were playing pretty good, but didn't get the opportunity. It was OK except for the three turnovers that we had on our side and the two times that our guys didn't even get hit but kind of let go of the ball. That was kind of disturbing."
"There were some solid performances and some good play," Wilson continued. "We thought it would be a difficult challenge going down and trying to continue to play solid and not look past anyone or not take our opponent lightly. We have some young guys and you always wonder where they are at mentally. There were some good things, but it is late in the year. We have a bunch of guys still growing. They have a lot of improving to do as we go through some weeks to come and that is what we are going to keep pushing to do."
Thompson finished 12-of-19 for his 178 and two touchdowns against one interception, and the senior was impressed with the players around him.
"Chris was outstanding today and just ran with poise and patience. He has great vision," said Thompson following the game. "I could tell that when I was going back to hand the ball off to him and his eyes were wide open he was already looking around for a place to run. He has great vision and he is a real physical runner.
"I was telling our O-line to just keep rolling, because they were dominating at times today. We have to eliminate the penalties that we are having that are putting us in a second-and-long situations, but when we eliminate those we are going to be good. Our passing game was pretty efficient, but I missed a couple of guys and had some guys open that I missed at times. Overall, I think it was pretty good, as far as keeping a good balance and keeping the defense guessing."
If you haven't said it already, you can certainly say it now. Paul Thompson has been a big success as a senior quarterback for the Sooners in more ways than one.
"To me, Paul has been real solid," said Wilson. "The strongest quality that he has, outside of his overall demeanor and being a very calm, even keel, steady guy, is that he truly understands the negatives that present themself and he has made very few poor decisions. We very rarely have to ask why did you throw that or what did you see? Because we very seldom second-guess the decisions that he makes. Now it is not always on time, or was it the right throw. Was every pass completed? No, but again that is always complimented with was his protection solid where he could step into through a throw or did his receivers run that route correctly? Did they get proper depth and are we all in sync together."
"The first thing that a quarterback can do is put you in a position to have something negative happen," Wilson continued. "He has gone through 11 games and he has only had seven interceptions. That has been a pretty positive quarterback. That is just the way he has managed us out there. The direction and confidence that he brings is a positive. As an older player, he has been a great worker in practice.
"He and Chris Messner are the only two seniors that we have on the offense and they have been every day and steady guys. They went out and practiced with a purpose on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. They have prepared well they have played very well. I think when your older player is your quarterback and your seniors are preparing at a good level, those young guys continue to push and work hard. I think that is what has happened to us in a lot of ways."
While the offense wasn't totally happy with their performance, the defense was once again outstanding. Baylor finished with their worst rushing day ever at minus-48 yards, which was the second-best day in rushing allowed by a Sooner defense. The Bears finished with just 140 yards total offense and Szymanski was lucky to get out of the game alive.
"I thought coach Venables and all of our defensive coaches put together another great plan for the way we defended and the way we blitzed," said Stoops. "At times, we covered them and just let our front four guys get to them. It is just what we are usually doing and have done all well. We mixed it up really well and when we did blitz we executed really well."
When you are playing a passing team, getting a great pass rush is a key. And on Saturday, the Sooners had their best pass rush of the year with five sacks for a minus 61 yards in offense.
"It makes a huge difference in coverage, not only with a four-man rush, but when you blitz too," said Stoops. "Even if you don't sack him, at least you are forcing the guy to throw before he wants to. With all the passing Baylor did and many of the teams we play, it all goes together. It makes a big difference."
Venables admitted that he mixed up his calls during the game from letting his front four do the damage to sending in all dogs at times.
"That was the key, from my standpoint, to making everything go and playing well," said Venables. "Keeping that quarterback moving and not letting him get comfortable. We made a lot of big plays on their side of the line of scrimmage and we did a great job of disrupting their screens and their run game. I am really happy with their effort and just, as much as anything, how hard they played. It happens when you have better execution on your blitzes and knowing the defense well enough that you don't have two guys in the same gap.
"We are getting a good push from our inside guys. DeMarcus Granger, Steven Coleman and Cory Bennett all had good games. And then it seemed like all of our defensive ends were having good games. I just think guys have gotten better with the more playing time and more reps that they have received."
C.J. Ah You was a man among boys on Saturday. On a day when all the defensive ends played well, Ah You was never blocked no matter what position he played.
"C.J. has played well," said Stoops. "He had a great day. I don't know what his total stats were (two sacks, two tackles for loss, and one pass batted down) but he was pressuring. Playing him inside and playing him outside, he had a really good game."
Ah You was part of a great group of pass rushers that the Sooners used on Saturday.
"All of those guys were playing great up front, but C.J. was terrorizing them," said Venables. "Our three-man pressures were good and he did it from the nose guard. Our four-man pressures were really good. Those guys, again, did a great job of jumping the ball, disengaging and using good technique. They were really turning it lose and having fun."
Earlier in the year, poor tackling was one of the key reasons why the defense struggled. But since the Texas game the Sooner defenders have tackled better and they were outstanding against Baylor.
"They did a really good job," said Venables. "They did an excellent job, which comes from positioning, awareness and great techniques like staying square and seeing the football. I was happy with the execution and positioning as much as anything."
One thing is for sure, and that is Oklahoma is a very confident defensive unit right now.
"I think we are playing pretty good right now and don't need to change a thing," said Smith. "We just need to keep doing what we are doing and keep getting better at practice. The better we practice it seems the better we play."
The Sooners graduate three defensive ends next year, all three of which have played a majority of the time this year. However, they will remain pretty good at defensive end with juniors Alonzo Dotson and John Williams coming back for their senior year. Dotson and Williams have received more playing time in recent weeks, and it seems every time Dotson is in the game he makes plays. Dotson came up with two sacks in the game and on one produced a safety that started the Sooners on their way to the route.
"It was real fun out there today," said Dotson following the game. "It is about time that we all came together as a collective group and started rushing the quarterback. It wasn't easy, but coach (Jackie) Shipp gave us a little speech about getting after them and everybody let loose and we got after the quarterback.
"On the safety, C.J. was in a nose position. The guard came down and I just pushed him and came off of him. The biggest thing for me is when I am in there to make my opportunities count. Don't make a big deal of it and just contribute to the team. This was our best effort, in my opinion, rushing the quarterback all season. We did get after them pretty good today."
The effort by the front-four was the key to the Sooner victory.
"It was a great effort across the board," said OU defensive end coach Chris Wilson following the game. "Our defensive tackles got great push and separation inside, and Steven Coleman's sack gave us some great energy. Our defensive ends constantly put pressure on them on the edge and Baylor never had anywhere to go with the ball. They could never find a place to run. We had great coverage and it was a like a great marriage out there for our defense."
Dotson's safety was part of a super third quarter that sealed the game. The Sooners outscored Baylor 23-0 in the third quarter and they put points on the board by a safety, punt return after the safety (Igelsias), a touchdown pass (Kelly) and a touchdown run (Brown).
"We came out and scored right away, and then the defense gets the safety," said Stoops. "We are really hot right there and then their great punter on the free kick hit a deep one. Juaquin (Iglesias) did a great job hitting a seam and took it. We just kind of got on a roll."
Iglesias has been used on kick returns off an on this year, but now that he is back on again he wasn't going to let a wide open opportunity slip away.
"When I caught the ball, it just and it opened up for me," said Iglesias following the game. "I thought on my first return that we might be able to take one back and I just caught the ball and ran. My teammates threw some great blocks for me and all I had to do was run as fast as I could."
Was it a great halftime talk or great halftime adjustments that got the Sooners going in third quarter?
"We are not that good of coaches," said Stoops. "If we were, we would have started the game better. In the end, I felt in the first half we were playing real well too but we didn't take care of the ball. So that is what we said to them at halftime. We said what we are doing is right, it is good. Lets execute in the second half, take care of the ball and we will come together, and we did."
The offensive play-calling also got a whole lot easier in the second half.
"It was nice thinking you could get three, for and five yards on a running play," said Wilson. "I think Chris gives us a chance, because he runs through trash. He is always positive and he takes, two, three and four yard gains and gets four, five and six. Our pass game was solid and I don't think we forced a lot of balls. Paul was pretty smart. A couple of times it wasn't there so he threw it away or checked it down. Our performance was solid and we want to do that every game where we have a mix and hopefully we can. We will need it next week."
You have to believe that those that watch, play and evaluate college football realize by now that Malcolm Kelly is one of the best receivers in the country. I know he flat-out dropped a sure touchdown trying to stiff-arm a defender, but he also made a catch that should make the highlight reels forever when he reached and one-handed behind him to haul a bad throw by Thompson to pick up a first down and keep a scoring drive alive.
"I have seen Malcolm make a lot of great catches, but that one was special," said Thompson. "I thought he was going to turn the other direction and ended up throwing the ball behind him. Malcolm reached back with one of those big hands that he has and somehow caught that ball. It is one of those catches that you see, but you can't believe and have no idea how he did it."
Kelly is getting used to trying to describe how he makes some of his catches, and this was no exception.
"I noticed that it was kind of behind me, but when I reached back I knew that I had it then," said Kelly following the game. "It was just a matter of tucking it after that."
Kelly also had a hard time explaining his dropped fumble.
"There is something about my ball security that isn't right," said Kelly. "The coaches focus on it a whole lot, but there is something that I am not doing because he didn't touch it at all. The ball just came out. I was concentrating on the stiff-arm, because I thought he was right up on me. But after one stiff-arm I kind of separated myself so I could have just ran it in. I guess I was looking for the touchdown. Like Coach Stoops says, I already had 50 yards and there was no sense in trying to get that much extra if I am not going to hang onto the ball. I am better off just getting out of bounds."
The Sooners have now won six straight and remain one of the hottest teams in college football.
"It is not the easiest thing to do or everybody would be doing it," said Stoops. "I like the way we are playing and preparing, and just taking them one at a time. We have done a great job investing in the week getting ourselves prepared to play each week. We have been really focusing on that so we are working through it pretty good."
The Sooners are getting some great play up front in the offensive line and two players continue to stand out.
"Chris (Messner) and Duke (Robinson) have been the most consistent and have played in a really good way the entire year," said Stoops. "Chris it the leader of that whole group that before the year everybody said was going to be a sore spot for us. But he has been a great spot for us. Chris is no question the leader of that group. As Duke put it, Chris is their dad. In an article that somebody showed me, he was trying to find a way to describe Chris and he couldn't figure out the word so he said he is like our dad. I thought that was pretty funny."
Going into the season regular season finale against Oklahoma State, Stoops likes how his team is playing.
"I am pleased with the progress that we have made through the year," said Stoops. "I am pleased with how we are playing. I like their attitude and the way the guys have practiced. We have great habits at the way we are preparing and getting ready for games and they are playing well. There are obvious things that we can correct, and I believe that we can. I don't think there is any magic to it, we just have to conscientious enough take care of the ball. And if we do, then we have a chance to be really good."
The media and fans may be looking ahead trying to figure out where the Sooners might play in a bowl, but Stoops says it is too early to worry about that kind of talk. He and his team are focused on just one thing.
"I am not going to talk one bit about anything other than what we are going to do all week to get ourselves in position to win and beat Oklahoma State," Stoops said. "We will do everything that we can each day to put ourselves in a position to do that. That is where our whole focus will be on — what we are able to do — because we can't do anything about anything else other than our part."
Stoops says he feels that Darien Williams will play against Oklahoma State. Williams suffered some kind of knee injury, but was cleared to go back in the game against Baylor.
Stoops said he should find out Monday the status of All-American running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson is scheduled to see the doctor on Monday and learn whether his broken collarbone has healed to the point where he can resume play. AD indicated following the Baylor game that if the doctors do clear him, then he will play against OSU.
Allen Patrick is expected to make enough improvement this week from his injured ankle to play this week against OSU.
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