This amazing Sooner Football season will be one we OU fanatics will be talking about for years to come. For this team to continue to fight and to persevere through all the challenges with which it was faced is indicative of the spirit on which our great State was built.
Last Saturday's Big 12 Championship victory over longtime and classy rival Nebraska puts this young group of Stoops' Troops one victory away from BCS Bowl Game success. How many of us could have predicted this potential outcome when this team was 3-2 and seemingly destined for the Gator or Alamo Bowls IF we could catch a break?
Much has been made of the cold weather the Big 12 Title game was played in Kansas City. Obviously, this level of college athletics are all about the "Benjamins", or "cash money" as my Dad used to say, but one has to think that there are better locales to host this game than Kansas City in early December. Does the word "Dome" have any significance to Big 12 decision-makers? Next year the game will be played in San Antonio, which doesn't hurt my feelings.
By the way, everything that folks say, including Coach Barry Switzer, about the class of the Nebraska fans is true from my experiences in K.C.
Perhaps the new stadium in Dallas has potential as a site for the Big 12 Title game in the future. Bad weather conditions should not be a factor in a game of this magnitude.
I had the opportunity to be on the Sooners' sideline for the Nebraska game and endured the cold O.K., especially when Nebraska fumbled on their first play from scrimmage. That "break" seemed to warm me up even though I was bundled up much akin to the Michelin Man.
The intensity and focus on the OU sideline by the coaches and players was impressive. Head man Bob Stoops doesn't miss a trick and manages every phase of the game magnificently. Bob's instincts, especially for the "little things" are amazing, and to be able to observe "Big Game Bob" stay one step ahead of the opposition is a football junkie's dream.
The 99-yard drive the Sooners scored on in the third quarter was a work of football art. Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, along with Kevin Sumlin, orchestrated the most impressive drive of the year that essentially put the final nail in the Nebraska coffin, even though we did not know it at the time.
The huge mismatch true freshman tight end Jermaine Gresham provides was exploited to convert a crucial third down play on this drive as the Sooners threw the ball with QB Paul Thompson standing in his own end zone. The Ardmore teenager has the potential to be the Sooners' best tight end since Keith Jackson.
Speaking of Paul Thompson, is there any other candidate for Sooner Football MVP for the 2006 season? Thompson's cool, calm demeanor is infectious and has been an amazingly steady influence on this young team. To observe the fifth-year senior from Leander, Texas work the sideline and communicate with his teammates is truly refreshing. If Thompson doesn't find success in the NFL, the intelligent and articulate QB seems to have the tools to be a broadcaster or in an observant company's management training program.
At the end of the Husker game I gave Paul a big hug and told him how proud we fans were of him, to which he thanked me. But Paul's facial expression clearly told me that there was one more, vital stop on this improbable journey — the Fiesta Bowl.
Talking to Thompson reminds me of a couple of years ago when Paul and Rhett Bomar, remember him, were battling for the starting QB job at OU. I watched practice one, rainy spring day at the indoor facility and happened to walk back to my vehicle alongside the two competing quarterbacks. We stopped and had some "small talk" and I told them both how impressed I was with how they were handling the pressure of the competition for the starting QB post.
I vividly remember Bomar's eyes darting in a multitude of directions, perhaps I bored him, as if he had better things to do than to discuss being the starting quarterback at Oklahoma, which Bomar obviously thought was already his. However, Paul Thompson listened intently and respectfully.
That's Paul Thompson…intense…respectful…and intelligent. No. 12 will never be forgotten in the folklore of Sooner football in my humble opinion.
As we mentioned in this space several weeks ago, Bob Stoops did one of his best coaching jobs ever this season. Was it Bob's best work to date? That's hard to say with an unpredicted National Championship under his belt. I will speculate, however, that Bob's staff had one of their finest seasons in recent memory.
New offensive line coach "The General" James S. Patton, a Kevin Wilson disciple, had a great year molding a young offensive line led by its only Senior Chris Messner, a converted quarterback from Frederick, Okla. This unit has the opportunity to become one of the Sooners' best all-time offensive lines and continue to send players to the NFL following in the footsteps of Jamaal Brown and Davin Joseph. OU's offensive line is still in their formative years, but it is easy to see that they play with a mean streak and are athletic "big eaters."
Adrian Peterson gets a great deal of credit for his numbers and deservedly so, but let's not discount the blocking of the offensive lines AD had had in front of him over his three seasons here. And this year's unit might have been the best during Peterson's run at OU. I think Allen Patrick and Chris Brown, among others, would agree.
Running back coach Cale Gundy, did not miss a beat when AD went down in the Iowa State game, which speaks well of his coaching abilities and the recruiting OU has done at running back.
Some cynics said that losing former wide receiver coach Darrell Wyatt to the NFL would be disastrous, but coach Kevin Sumlin, who is an amazing recruiter as well, never missed a beat. The former offensive coordinator at Texas A&M is the real deal. Sumlin will be the head ball coach at a major university before he hangs ‘em up.
Jackie Shipp, who looks as if he could probably still play and who would be my pick to walk down a dark alley with, coached up his defensive tackles amazingly and that position was one of the most improved areas of the entire team as the 2006 season progressed. This group evolved so well that "all world" recruit Gerald McCoy, who is going to be special, was able to be redshirted this season. That fact alone should be testament enough for how well the defensive tackles have played.
Much was expected by coach Chris Wilson's defensive ends in the pre-season, but it was a few games into 2006 before this group started turning it on and now the four defensive ends are playing as well as any DE's we have had during the Stoops era. The play of the defensive ends shutting down the run against Boise State and coming off the corner with vengeance will be one of the keys to beating the Broncos in the Fiesta Bowl.
Bobby Jack Wright continued to work hard with his secondary, which many felt was one of the areas of concern early in the season. Now the Sooners' secondary is one of the more athletic and talented group of DB's in the game.
I love the athleticism of this group lead by Edmond Santa Fe's ultra-talented Reggie Smith. But Reggie isn't alone when it comes to being ultra-talented, as his secondary mates are physically gifted and we have the chance to see several of them playing some day on Sundays.
When coaching awards are passed out, I hope that defensive coordinator Brent Venables isn't overlooked. Brent, who obviously doesn't drink Sanka, not only got his linebackers playing big-time ball, especially senior Rufus Alexander, but he had a strong year game planning for the opposition. Hopefully, Brent will be at OU for years to come but it is inevitable that he will be a great head coach in the probable and not too distant future.
The Sooner coaches were on the road recruiting the day after the Big 12 Title victory and the recruiting process seems to be going extremely well. With only a limited number of scholarships available this season due to so few seniors on this team, the recruiting of high school juniors seems to really be clicking too. The numbers for the class that will sign in February 2007 may not be expansive, but the quality will be there and I expect another nationally ranked recruiting class to wear crimson and cream come next fall.
Adrian Peterson needs 150 yards to become Oklahoma's all-time leading rusher surpassing the great Billy Sims, and I fully expect AD to get the opportunities to achieve this historic goal on January 1. So, yes, I do think Adrian will play against Boise State. Peterson is the "Secretariat" of Sooner Football and was born to run. Watching No. 28 do his thing one more time in a Sooner uniform is going to be special.
Boise State is in the perfect position for a football team to be in as they prepare to play in their first-ever BCS Bowl game. The Broncos are not expected to win, have everything to gain and absolutely nothing to lose. The entire state of Idaho is pulling for Boise State, including their governor who attended the announcement of Boise State going to the Fiesta Bowl.
The Broncos have won five straight conference titles and are 85-16 over the past eight seasons. Also not to be overlooked, the Boise State team is one of only two Division-1 teams to be undefeated, the other being Ohio State, as they head into the bowl season.
Bottom line, Boise State is a damn good football team which indicates to me that the Sooners will be dead on serious on the practice field between now and kickoff on January 1. That's probably not ground-breaking news for a Stoops coached team, but there is no way this team will take the undefeated Boise State Broncos for granted. No way.
I have not missed a broadcast of the WWE's Monday Night Raw in almost 14 years, but I have requested a vacation day on Monday January 1 to attend the Fiesta Bowl. My request has yet to be granted, so keep your fingers crossed for me. Even if I am not there in person, you can bet that as sure as Billy Callahan got out coached by Bob Stoops last Saturday night that yours truly will be there in spirit.
Note: Be sure and check out Sooner fanatic J.R.'s website www.jrsbarbq.com/ for great holiday gift ideas and for more of J.R.'s Blogs.
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