OU-OSU Locker Room Report

Bob Stoops, Brent Venables and Kevin Wilson talk in-depth about OU's 27-21 win over OSU. Junior running back Allen Patrick is averaging 152 yards per game in his four starts, which would rank him second nationally had he played in enough games to be eligible for the rushing rankings. (AP Photo)

Bedlam in Stillwater always brings out so much more emotion than the game in Norman. Most of the time the Oklahoma is a much better team and they usually the handle Oklahoma State at home. However, in Stillwater it is always a much different story and tougher game when they travel to Stillwater.

And hat was certainly the case on Saturday at Boone Pickins Stadium as head coach Bob Stoops and the Sooners went looking for their fourth-straight win over the Cowboys and a chance to win the Big 12 Championship. The Sooners had to fight to the very last second in beating the Cowboys 27-21.

"It was a great, hard-fought game and an exciting game to be in." said Stoops immediately following the game. "It was a really fun game to be involved with. I am proud of our players and the way they competed into the end. I thought coach (Mike) Gundy and his staff did an excellent job as well. It was just a great atmosphere and fortunately we made enough plays and won the football game, like we have fought our way thought the whole year.

"Now we have opportunity to go to the championship game. I would say our attitude in the locker room is that we are not just excited to go the game, but we are going to win the game. We have another rival (Nebraska), which you all can talk about to play, who has done a great job and had a great season. We are excited about the opportunity and looking forward to it."

The Sooners knew after watching Texas A&M beat arch-rival Texas on Friday that their destiny had changed going into their annual battle with OSU. They now had the Big 12 Championship in their sights, but that didn't change their perception of the game.

The truth is Oklahoma wanted this game and wanted it bad. All year, OU had been hearing about how bad they were in this area and hearing the positive press about OSU. Clearly, the Sooners were having the better season and ranked in the top 20 for most, if not all of the year, but the feeling was that OSU was having a more productive season. That certainly wasn't the reality, but that was how OU felt the perception was.

So, the Sooners were totally focused going into this game and didn't need an Aggie victory over the Longhorns to change how they felt about the game. And considering all the energy they exerted in the game, every Sooner fan, former player and current member of the OU Athletic party had to be proud of how they played in this game. The Sooners have become the consummate team in that no matter what they are faced with they overcome it. Lose your quarterback and a key member of the offensive line. No problem. Move a wide receiver back to QB, plug in some freshmen offensive lineman and a couple of newcomers and go to work. Lose your star tailback. Just plug in a former safety who becomes one of the best running backs in the country. Lose him and a true freshman steps in and runs like one of the best in the country. Lose a starting offensive tackle, and a true freshman steps in and gets the job done.

The starting strong safety at the beginning of year doesn't hack it, so the best corner moves back to strong safety and solidifies the position. Then the starting boundary corner struggles and a converted a wide receiver steps up big-time. Lose your starting free safety to injury, but the nickel back has matured so much that he has no problem plugging into the position.

The way this season has unfolded is one of the reasons why several players were just mentally and physically spent after the game. The physical part we can all understand after watching the game. The Sooners spent every last bit of energy they had beating OSU, because to the Cowboys credit they forced them to do so.

You can say what you want about Mike Gundy, but he is not a quitter and neither is his football team. They also spent every last available bit of energy trying to upset the Sooners.

***

Senior defensive end Larry Birdine was the first Sooner up the ramp heading toward the locker room, but for a few minutes he didn't make it to the locker room. Instead, 'Bird' stopped and actually sat down in a chair that was set up on the level overlooking the field and just watched the Sooners celebrate on the field. 'Bird' wasn't with his teammates, but he was too tired to celebrate.

"Man, I almost had Zac (Robinson) before he threw the ball. But once he threw it I just turned around and watched," said an exhausted, but happy Birdine after the game. "It seemed like the play took forever, but I know it was only five seconds or so because they didn't have anything left on the clock. I was just hoping that one of our guys could get a hand on it and knock it down. I'm not sure what happened, but they didn't catch it and that is all that matters to me.

"I think Lendy (Holmes) knocked it away (Lendy did get a finger one it, but so did OSU receiver D'Juan Woods). Man, I am tired. This game was tough, but we have been tough all year. Now it is time to get ready for Kansas City. Let's hurry and get out of Stillwater."

***

The whole fourth quarter the pressure to win the game was squarely on the Oklahoma defense. Amazingly, the Sooners were so conservative that they almost refused to throw the ball in the fourth quarter. And with OSU slamming eight, nine and 10 men into the line of scrimmage, the offense was shutdown to a hault.

It is hard to believe that OU only mustered one measly yard and no points in the fourth quarter against the Cowboys, when they had 314 yards and 27 points through three quarters.

"At the end, I had felt that we had run the ball with success and that we could pop something," said coach Stoops. "I was going to make them use their timeouts, which worked to our advantage at the end. There is a gamble there and we could have thrown it. I have total confidence in Paul (Thompson), but it just gets down to a strategy of do you want to make them use their timeouts? Do you handicap yourself that way and make sure the clock runs. Those are some things that you can control as apposed to dropping back and throwing it for an incompletion, and stopping it for them. Fortunately, it worked."

OU was so conservative that they almost let the Cowboys back in it, but in the end they accomplished exactly what they wanted.

"Absolutely, I was satisfied how we managed the clock," said Stoops. "It is a gamble, but I felt it was important to make them use their timeouts. I also think it is fair to say with the success that we had running the football, you still have the feeling that you are going to hit a crease like we had so many other times. I felt, for those two drives, to use so much clock and all of those timeouts was the part that you could control. We did and it worked.

"I have confidence in the defense. I felt that if we had taken away all their timeouts and got the clock down to what it was, that we would be able to stop them because we do have confidence in the way we are playing."

On the last ditch pass, Lendy Holmes had the main coverage on D'Juan Woods and he knew he had safety help. However, it looked like at the end of play it was him who tipped the ball just enough to where Woods couldn't catch it.

"We knew they were going to throw the ball in the end zone and somebody has to make a play on it," said Holmes following the game. "I just jumped a high as I could and I got a finger on it. I am not sure he could have caught it inbounds anyway. I like those situations. That is what we are out there for anyway. I can run and jump with most receivers, and I will take my chances with any receiver we play when it comes to making a big play."

The Sooners are a well-coached team and the coaching staff does not often get caught napping, and this certainly wasn't a case where OU was fooled at all about what OSU was trying to do. The only question was because of their two great wide receivers, which one would they be trying to throw the ball to?

"We had corner coverage (linebackers and corners over receiver) and we were going to come over there and try to beat him up at the line of scrimmage, or at least try to slow him down," said defensive coordinator Brent Venables following the game. "We want to make Woods start and stop and we got a good little piece of him. That kind of threw their rhythm and that is where they were going with the ball. He is their best player for it and they wanted him to try to make a play."

If it is going to come down to a jump ball in the secondary or the secondary making a big play, coach Stoops isn't afraid to put his secondary in a tough situation.

"I have a lot of confidence in our secondary. They have played well for a long period of time," said Stoops. "At times, they have been very good. We have guys with good size, good athletic ability and good ability to jump. They have good ball skills and all of those guys have the ability to make big plays. So I felt that we were in good shape to defend those last few passes that OSU threw at us."

"I felt we were in good position," Stoops continued. "I looked back there and I knew that we had deepened them and I told our guys they had to go in the end zone here. We have good players back there and I was confident that we could make a play."

Birdine was rushing from the outside and reached out and just missed Robinson as he threw, while C.J. Ah You was driving hard from the nose guard position.

"The offense had faith in us at the end to leave it in our hands," said Ah You, a senior defensive end, following the game. "We just took that challenge. We knew the game was going to depend on us to get them three-and-out, and we knew we were going to win the game. We knew they were going to throw the football at the end so we wanted an extra guy in the secondary. That left us with a three-man front. The odds of us getting to their QB are not so great, but we just tried really hard to get back there and put pressure on them and we did.

"We did a great job across the board and we were able to get pressure on them. We forced them to rush some throws and got to their quarterback once or twice, and that last pass their quarterback had to rush his throw and he couldn't really get his feet set."

***

I really don't think the offense wanted to leave it in the hands of the defense in the fourth quarter, but that is how it turned out. One thing is for sure about OU this year, and that is that they never do anything easy. And that was certainly evident against the Cowboys.

"I thought at the end it was symbolic how the season has gone," said Venables. "Nothing has been particularly easy. Your backs are against the wall and I just appreciated the toughness and resiliency, focus and fight of our players. That doesn't mean you will always win, but we have had a number of close games. And you don't win those games without tremendous character, leadership and toughness. That second half was obviously symbolic of our season and our defense. We were fighting to the end and making enough plays to win and be successful."

The Sooners made one goal-line stand and forced a fourth down on another before giving up a touchdown pass. But all in all, the Sooner defense came up with more big plays and more stops that the Cowboys' high-powered offense.

"The one three and out was great after that situation when they had worked us a little bit in the drive before," said Stoops. "That was big. Then we have a fourth down stop and we have a goal-line stand down there that was huge. Even on the other one, we made them eat time off the clock. And when they got it down there at the five or four they had to make it on fourth-and-two. There were several runs in there that the clock was moving, so I am proud of those stops. Then there at the end we made the plays that we had to."

While Robinson played a good game while alternating with Bobby Reid, he botched the fourth down option play where the Sooners stuffed him at the goal line. If Robinson had pitched the ball to his trailing halfback Dantrell Savage, he could have walked into the end zone. But instead, he had made up his mind at the snap that he was going to keep the ball and when Zach Latimer went up to hit him high, Robinson paniced and threw the ball into the end zone, which killed the play at that point.

"I just kept telling our players to keep charging up field," said Stoops. "Our defensive front was playing well all day and I just told me to keep driving hard. They were able to get enough depth in their line of scrimmage to hold them up. I am a law of averages guy, so when they reviewed the fourth down play I felt pretty good about our chances because we haven't had much luck this year in that regard. Zach made a great play at the line of scrimmage and we did a great job of fighting to keep them out of the end zone."

***

The OSU offense is one of the best in the country and they were able to make some big plays on the Sooners. The Cowboys did put 362 yards of total offense on the board, but they only scored 21 points. And that is all that really matters when you think about it.

"I thought, first and foremost, that OSU had a really good gameplan," said Venables. "I thought their players made some really good plays. I thought our guys were in position a number of times and they out-fought us for a ball or we missed some tackles. But I thought we played well enough to win. There was really good football in there and, as much as anything, our guys really competed throughout the course of the game.

"We had some opportunities for some game-changing type plays and we dropped a couple of interceptions, had some missed tackles and a missed sack. Again, you figure it is Bedlam and they are a good team. They have been explosive against everybody, but in the end the stat that matters the most is the scoreboard."

The big controversy in Stillwater was the fact that coach Gundy decided to go with his back-up, Zach Robinson, instead of superstar starter Bobby Reid.

"We were not surprised because we have seen Zac Robinson play. Everybody who has seen him has said he is a good player too," said Venables. "Every game that he has been in he has played well enough to win. The A&M game he came up a little short, but he played virtually the whole game.

"There is a reason why he is out there on the field, and it isn't necessarily because Bobby (Reid) isn't playing well. It is because Zac is an awfully good player. So I am not surprised after watching them the last couple of weeks. They have a package for him that they feel it helps their team, and he is a really good runner with the ball."

***

What a job by Nic Harris. Harris continues to play at a high level and he played his third position this season drawing the start at free safety in place of the injured Darrien Williams.

"Nic has become an excellent player," said Stoops. "Darien was not able to get comfortable with his injury, so early in the week we went with Nic and put Lewis (Baker) in his spot in the nickel and they played well. It seemed to me that Nic had a really good game.

"There were a few plays he probably could have played a little better, but Nic is a good player. He is a big guy who has good ball skills and he seems to be reading the quarterback and breaking well on the ball. He is also good in coverage. Nic is really a solid player and he has been good whether you have him up close or deep. It seemed to me that he played pretty well."

***

It was a weird game for the Oklahoma offense as they posted 314 yards total offense through three quarters, but could only manage one more yard in the fourth quarter.

"We had a chance to be a little stronger there at the end, but other that it was pretty good," said offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson following the game. "We tried to establish the run. We felt they might do some things to double cover Malcolm (Kelly). So we were getting some four, five and six yard runs and we popped a couple for big gains. However, I have to do a better job. I told our guys this that I have to have a little bit better pass plan, and to be a little bit more complete."

Offensively, the Sooners came out running. And just like at Texas A&M, they had so much success they put their passing game to sleep. (Paul) Thompson was still throwing the ball well hitting 7-of-11 passes for 77 yards and one touchdown, but for the most part he did nothing but hand the ball off.

"They were good except for the fourth quarter," said Wilson. "They were able to get off blocks when we were trying to keep the clock moving a little bit. It was a 13 and then a 6 point game and wasw kind of going back-and-forth a little bit. We needed a little more first and second down production and we tried some mix, as we even threw a pass there at the end. We didn't execute that one.

"I have to look at how we can continue to have some balance. I like the physical play of our guys. We didn't have the procedures or negative plays except for the one sack. We didn't have any turnovers today so there were a lot of good things, but it is on me to do a better job of getting us to be more balanced. That was the only thing that I thought was lacking at the end of the day."

Did the Sooners get conservative in the fourth quarter? They say no.

"We threw the one pass and our receiver and fullback tripped," said Wilson. "Clock was an issue and we wanted to work it. Coach's (Bob Stoops) thought on that last third down was do you want to run the ball and we might get it? Then we got them in a non-blitz look, but we just missed the backside block. We wanted to run the draw if they were blitzing or we were going to get out of it and call timeout to change our look. Our thought was to try to be aggressive and if we miss it save their timeout. That is coach's call. Then we run the QB draw and miss the backside block."

"We have been running the ball well and did in this game too," Wilson continued. "Other than me getting us in a little more passing rhythm, I kind of felt coverage-wise we wanted some shots. But at the same time I didn't want us to get into the second or third and long. We were making a bunch of five and six yard gains in the run game and so we probably got a little bit run heavy. I didn't think it was going to be that way, but the way the game started and through three quarters we were running the ball pretty efficiently.

"That got us in a little more of a run-run mode. I apologized to our guys for not passing a little bit more or better with a better plan. We will work on that, because they have a chance next week against Nebraska. We will need to be complete in all phases. Today, we were a smidge off in our passing and that was more me and what we were trying to do."

The way the game turned out, offensively, for the Sooners, it was an offensive linemen's dream. OU only threw the ball 11 times in the game meaning that offense got to run block 47 times.

"Once again, we came out and wanted prove everybody wrong," said Chris Messner. "This game and our success this year is a credit to our hard work and dedication as a team. I am real proud of those guys (fellow offensive linemen). All of those guys have a great work ethic and they come every day ready to work hard. If they are hurt, they get better and they push themselves. So I am proud of those guys. They did well.

"I am proud of our running backs too. Those guys are beat up yet somebody always steps up. I think we have become a pretty good offense because we can always take advantage of what the defense gives us. One week we are running the ball and winning that week, and then the next we are throwing the ball and winning that way. It is a fun way to play football."

Again, except for the fourth quarter, the offensive line dominated in the line of scrimmage.

"We played pretty well for about three quarters," said offensive line coach James Patton following the game. "Those last couple of drives we needed to play a little better, because we missed a couple of things at the point of attack. We needed to end that football game in the right way. I am proud of them and they hung in there and did a good job. Oklahoma State loaded the box a bunch on us, but our backs ran real hard. 'AP' ran great and Chris Brown ran great, and our fullbacks and tight ends did a great job blocking. We just left a couple of guys unblocked on those last two drives and we need to do a better job at the point of attack."

On Allen Patrick's 65-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter, the Sooners ran behind true freshman Trent Williams, sophomore Brandon Walker, tight end tight ends Joe Jon Finely and Brody Eldridge. Forget the freshman status as Williams has become a dominating run blocker.

"He has been great the whole year," said Stoops. "It is very unusual for a player to have the strength and ability at that age. To play like he has in both run and pass blocking is amazing. He has been really good."

***

The Sooners received a big boost to their running game with the return of Allen Patrick from an ankle injury that kept him out of two games. After getting that ankle nicked up after the first carry, AP looked as good as new rushing 163 yards and one touchdown.

"I came out and things kind of opened up for me," said Patrick. "I tweaked my ankle on that first run, but I got my second wind and I was fine after that. The pain wore down as the game went on. On that run to start the second half, we needed a big play and came out the second half ready to roll. Then the blocking was great and it happened for us.

"The guys knocked down a bunch of guys in orange and we capitalized on that play. Once I broke the line of scrimmage, I saw nothing but Orange down there. Nobody was going to catch me, I promise you that, because once I had that end zone in my sights I was going to outrun everybody to that end zone."

The fact that he was in the huddle and running like the AP of old was a welcome to his teammates on offense.

"Allen came back with a chip on his shoulder or something," said a happy Paul Thompson following the game. "I don't know if he was worried that Chris was running so well or what, but AP came out and dominated the game like he always does. Chris was running the ball as well. He was punching it in there and getting some big runs for us. That tandem is one of the best in the country right now."

The Sooners had hoped that Patrick would return for the Baylor game, but when he wasn't quite right the coaching staff decided to hold him out. They worked him hard all of last week and by the end of the week they knew he could go, which gave the Sooners an excellent one-two punch.

"He was fabulous. And Allen did an awesome job," said coach Stoops. Chris Brown was excellent in his times in there and he had some excellent runs. You can see them when he is up close like that — the little seems he hits and the people he subtle makes miss him. Allen was tough again and it was good to get him back and for him to play the way he did.

"Each day he got a little better and Thursday he was starting to look like he used to, but it wasn't total. I think with the adrenaline he is able to get out and push through it. He was on the verge of it all week and he just wasn't quite well. I don't know if he still is, but he fought through it and made some big plays."

"I was worried when I saw him walk off the field, " Stoops said after Patrick's first run. "As soon as he got to the sideline, I asked him if he hurt it again and he 'yeah'. Obviously, it wasn't hurt badly and I think sometimes when you start to get over the hump it didn't set him back. He was able to work through it."

***

In the Sooners' two biggest games as of late, they have thrown the ball 12 and 11 times and have relied on the run as their primary offensive weapon. Statistically, Oklahoma still looks like a balance team and don't tell Stoops that they are just a running team.

"I disagree. Because against Tech didn't we throw for 300 yards?" said Stoops. "That is not that long ago. It gets down to what you want to do. It is fair to say against Baylor in the fourth quarter we ran seven minutes off the clock and picked up first-downs. We were ready to throw it more if we needed to. I said that after the A&M game and we came out and threw for over 300 yards on Tech. I feel we are balanced. We will take advantage of what we feel we have and what we feel the opportunities are. So if we feel the opportunities are there to throw, we will throw it too."

Stoops and Wilson insist that what the defense gives them determines how much they run or throw the ball, and both say they still have great confidence in Paul Thompson.

Thompson is not worried about how many passes he gets just as long as he executes when he does get the chance to throw the ball, like he did on the 13-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias right before the end of the first half.

"That was big, especially right before the end of the first half because we knew were going to get the ball at the start of the second half," said Thompson. "It was a play that we ran in practice we were matched up two-on-two out there and I got it up there and (Iglesias) went up there and made a great play on it."

Thompson is now 10-2 as a starting quarterback for the Sooners this season, which isn't bad for a guy who was going to start the year at wide receiver. In fact, Thompson has played as well and as consistent as any quarterback in the Big 12 Conference.

"Paul Thompson has been awesome the whole year," said Stoops. "His leadership, his maturity, intensity. He is a bright guy. He has everything that you look for and he has rubbed off on some of the younger guys. They look to him and he is a calming influence and such a great competitor in the way he has worked."

It has been an inconsistent year for Iglesias, who has dropped several passes However, on his touchdown catch he showed great hands, re-directing his body to snag Thompson's pass out of the air.

"We ran a fake screen and Paul just kind of threw it up there," said Iglesias following the game. "I didn't think the DB knew where the ball was so I kind of pushed him and made a play on the ball. Coach (Kevin) Sumlin tells us all the time that when we get our hands on the ball we should catch it. We have confidence in PT and he always tells us that if he throws it anywhere in our area we have to catch it. That is what they recruited us for — to make big plays so coach Sumlin always talks about how we have to come up with the ball so nobody else does. They told me that I kind of just snagged that ball, but I was just worried about not dropping it. It was a good throw, because he put it up there so somebody could make a play on it and I just made a play on it."

Any time you can win on the road it means you have played a good game, even though it may not be a perfect game.

"We had a solid performance," said Stoops. "We had very few penalties offensively or really anywhere. We took care of the football, as the football was not on the ground the entire day or for them for that matter. I guess they did fumble on that fourth-and-goal, but we took care of the football. We were balanced in the way we ran and threw the ball. We got conservative in the second half, but Paul's touchdown in the first half was a great pass.

"Defensively, we got off balanced early but we managed to stay in there. But with some excellent weapons, they managed to move the ball. Then we settled in and played for a good stretch of time in a really good way. I thought it was solid all the way through. The kicking game was solid outside of the extra point."

One big question still to answer is why didn't coach Stoops go for two after junior place kicker Garrett Hartley missed his first extra point of the season?

"I thought about it, but my thought has always been to not chase points until the fourth quarter," said Stoops. "Had we had another score, I probably would have in the fourth quarter. I also felt early on that field goals are a factor if you are up six. You get a field goal then now it is a two possession deal. If you are up five and you get a field goal, then it is eight. I am thinking the way that we are moving the ball that we are still going to get some opportunities at some field goals, but it worked out like it did."

***

Nobody gave the Sooners a chance to reach the Big 12 Championship game after losing to Texas and losing Adrian Peterson. However, this is why the 2006 Sooners should go down as one of your favorite Oklahoma teams. This team never quit and never will.

"It is exciting. I really believe that the credit for what we have had to work through this as a team is that we as a team have never looked at it as a problem," said Stoops. "When you are a team and they get their opportunity to step up, they have all stepped up and played in a great way. I mean, young Trent Williams has played awesome all year long. Here is a true freshman out there on the offensive line, and that doesn't happen a lot. Chris Brown is another. I don't need to name them all for you.

"To us, we have never looked at it as an issue. I understand the storm. It is just like what happened to us at the start of the year but we were passed that issue that day. When we went to practice the next day, I know the media storm was there and everybody beat it up for two three weeks and they should, but for us we are not in that."

"We are going to work every day practicing and we were in great spirits," Stoops continued. "Everybody knew that this is where we are going, and for us it really isn't that way. I can see where everybody else looks at it that way, but this is the hand that we got, so play it. The credit needs to go to our assistant coaches because they have done a great job working with some different personnel when we have had some injuries and adapted. I think Kevin Wilson has adapted offensively in a great, great way. Brent (Venables). All too often I get credit still for the defense, but it is Brent's defense and all the assistant coaches with those guys. Those guys have done a great job."

Stoops admits that it is great that the Sooners finally control their own destiny.

"It is exciting. I thought of that yesterday afternoon," said Stoops. "Finally, we are in a position to do what we have to do. It has been a hard fight, but it has been an enjoyable one and we have an opportunity. That is what we are excited about, but we have to do our job and go there ready to play."

Plus, the Sooners have a lot to work on this week according to Stoops.

"I didn't think we played that well yesterday," said Stoops. "We had several breakdowns from our standpoint that we haven't had. We had a busted coverage on their one long pass play, their longest pass play. That was a busted coverage."

So bring on the Cornhuskers.

"It seems like every week you guys want me to quantify that rivalry too," said Stoops. "We are one of those teams that have a lot of them. It is exciting. Of course we have great respect for their program and all they have done. Coach (Bill) Callahan and his staff have done a great job this year, so we will have a lot of work to do here this week to get ready to play."

OU will learn the status of star running back Adrian Peterson Monday morning. As soon as the word is out, OUInsider.com will let you know.


Sooners Illustrated Top Stories