It was just an hour after the Sooners 27-11 win over Colorado, and already the Sooner coaching staff was thinking ahead. Amidst the celebrating after taking care of the 12th-ranked Colorado Buffaloes in terrible weather conditions at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, the Sooner coaching staff was already one step ahead of Gary Barnett and the Colorado coaching staff.
Without hearing Barnett's post game press conference they knew that he would state that his team didn't get beat on Saturday, but they had beat themselves and that they couldn't wait until the Big 12 Championship, where if things go accordingly the Sooners and Buffaloes would meet up again.
"Hey, that was a great win for us. I am sure that in their locker room they are saying that they didn't play very well and that if they didn't turn the ball over that they might have won the football game," said Co-Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables on the KREF radio post game show Saturday evening. "If I was them that is exactly what I would be saying, because they gained almost 100 more total yards than we did. I am sure they feel they were more physical than us at times. However, what is great about this game for us is that we were able to force them into five turnovers and that is not just all them. We have been forcing teams into turnovers all year and really for the last three years here. So, we had quite a bit to do with that. Plus, turnovers are a major part of the game. That is why every defensive coach in the country runs turnover drills in practice and stresses turnovers in every game plan. You can't act like that it's an abnormality that we forced some turnovers."
"This is another example of how our football team goes out and finds a way to win," Venables continued. "Teams normally don't play a perfect football game, especially when it is raining. Cold games aren't played perfectly. You have to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves and we did that tonight. I am proud of our offense, because it's tough to be a good offense in that weather. Nate (Hybl) stepped up and threw three touchdown passes and Quentin (Griffin) and the rest of the RBs really ran hard. They can say what they want and I am sure they will say that despite the loss they are as good as us, but the bottom line says differently. We capitalized on their mistakes and won the football game the same way we have against every other team we have played over the last couple of years."
And Venables hit the nail right on the head as Barnett's post game comments suggested that the Buffaloes weren't that impressed with the Sooners.
"Our guys are ready to go play," Barnett said to the press immediately following the game. "If we could play tomorrow, we would. We didn't feel like we got out-athleted today. We got beat, but we didn't feel we got beat by a team that we couldn't match-up with. The game was not to the point where there was a major difference between the two teams."
"OU is the best defense team that we have played this year," said Barnett. "Pour all the praise their way you want, but we didn't walk off the field feeling like we can't compete with those guys. My guys are upset and they are hurting right now. They want to play Oklahoma again."
Well, Mr. Barnett, you may get what you wish for and sometimes what you wish for doesn't always fall to your liking.
"Shoot, we are not scared of those guys," said Co-Defensive Coordinator Mike Stoops. "We match-up well with them and there are a number of match-ups that we like and we feel good about them. We feel like we can play better and they obviously feel like they can play better. I just hope we get the opportunity. I am not worried about Colorado and I don't care who we would play in the Big 12 Championship game, I just hope we are there."
Colorado is not the only team that feels they didn't play real well in the game. Despite running their record to 8-0, the Sooner coaches feel their effort was far from perfect.
"We are playing pretty well right now and we like how we are playing," said OU Head Coach Bob Stoops on Sunday. "I say that, but to be quite honest, we did not play all that well. Yet, we were still able to win by 16 points and win decidedly. We really didn't play nearly as well as we are capable of. We will work on that and hopefully we will keep correcting some mistakes and get a little bit better as we go."
"We didn't play well in quite a few areas, actually," Stoops continued. "I felt, defensively, the game was one of the worst games we have played. Just based on alignments, tackling and being out of position. Most of it was our fault getting out of position with bad alignments and lack of making adjustments. The execution of our pass game overall was not good. We could be sharper. Trent (Smith) drops a pass at the one yard line and we end up missing the field goal afterwards. We were going to have first and goal at the one as the ball is right in our breadbasket and we drop it. Just some areas like that are where we could have been a lot better. That is good to know that you can play about as average as you can play and still win by 16 points against a good football team."
One thing is for sure, the Sooners are ready to see some sunshine, especially the offense.
"Oh man, please tell me the sun is going to be shining down at Texas A&M," said a pleading Nate Hybl following the game. "James, the Big 12 Championship game is in a dome isn't it? I really shouldn't be looking that far ahead, so scratch that comment or just let people know it was a slip and it's not my real thought. I would like a game or two where I can throw a dry football. That football at times tonight felt like it weighed a ton. Every time we had a pass called I was just hoping that we had a good football on field. You know it is not like I can go up to the official and ask for a dry football every time we have a pass called. I think that would give the play away, but I was almost that desperate at times."
"We didn't play very well in the passing game today, but we ran the football very well," Hybl continued. "'Q' once again showed the country that he is one of the best football players in the nation, and certainly one of the best running backs. I know their guy (Chris Brown) is pretty good, but we don't think he is any better than Quentin. I know there are not many running backs out there who are complete running backs like Quentin. Did you watch him in pass protection today? He was unbelievable tonight. Plus, he has great hands and he is a fantastic running back. I hope people will start recognizing just how good he really is."
Griffin's play certainly has elevated him into the Heisman thoughts with some of the national media. He still isn't a household name as far the coveted award goes. However, the Sooners would like to see that changed.
"I have been saying for weeks that when you consider what running backs are being considered for the Heisman Trophy our guy certainly is as good as them," said Bob Stoops. "I am not going to go out campaigning for the guy, but I certainly wouldn't mind if you or some of the other media guys want to start pushing it. You are not going to hear a negative thing from me as far as that goes. Quentin has been an outstanding football player for us for four years and he is playing his best football right now."
Another Sooner playing his best football at the moment is junior free safety Brandon Everage. Like Griffin, Everage was a player that many fans and media wanted to bench at the beginning of the year. His poor tackling was something that even the Sooner defensive coaches weren't happy with, but there was never a moment that Mike Stoops thought of benching the heart and soul of his defense.
Everage led the Sooners' defensive coverage against Colorado with 17 tackles, one interception and two pass deflections. Plus, twice on screen passes he came up with the big tackle that blew up the play short of a firstdown.
"I have always said that Brandon is the heartbeat of our secondary. Even when he makes a mistake, or doesn't play his best game, he is still very important to our defense," said Mike Stoops on Sunday. "I think Brandon knows that we need him to step up and pick up some of that slack for Roy Williams when he left. He has done that the last three games and played his best football since he has been here and that is saying something because Brandon is a three-year starter."
Everage has played so well the last three games that shall we dare say that he has looked like Roy himself.
"They are really different type of players, but Brandon is showing up all over the field like Roy and that is the thing I like about him. He and Roy play two very different positions, but Brandon is starting to show up all over. He seems to be finding the ball really well right now. Brandon has gotten better in pass coverage and he just sees things very instinctual. He is very, very smart. Brandon has played a lot of football and he sees the field so well."
Out of the 17 tackles made by Everage on Saturday, the best may have been his fourth down stop a yard short of a Colorado screen pass in the fourth quarter.
"That was just a great play; one of the best we have seen this year," said Mike Stoops. "Shoot, he stopped a couple of screens by himself. The plays he made on the screens were phenomenal plays. He is our last line of defense a couple of times and he made some big plays that were just unbelievable."
The Sooner secondary is regarded as one of the best in the country and it appears that it is clicking on all cylinders. However, Everage has taken a step above the rest and now has to be regarded as one of the nations' best defensive backs.
"Brandon played an incredible game again," said Bob Stoops. "He was just outstanding with 17 tackles, a great interception with a tremendous return. He has some great fourth down stops and was just all over the place and played fantastic. Brandon has stepped up his game in the last three games and especially in the last two. He is just playing in a great way."
Congratulations to Sooner senior Antwone Savage, who broke Eddie Hinton's 34-year old career receiving yardage record. Savage finished the game with 1,761 yards total for his career, passing Hinton with 1,739.
"The way that OU is passing the ball now I knew that it was only a matter of time before somebody broke my record," said a chucking Hinton from his home in Houston. "I love the way that OU is throwing the football, and receivers in that offense get a chance to make so many big plays. I had a great opportunity back in my day with Bob Womack at quarterback, Steve Zabel at tight end and Steve Owens at tailback. Teams certainly couldn't concentrate just on me, and Bob could really throw the football. Today there is so much more of an emphasis on throwing the football at OU. I am glad for Antwone and tell him to put that record out of reach with some great games to close out the season."
You can tell that Savage has been coached in the Stoops era by his post game comment concerning the record.
"I am not concerned about no record. I just want to win football games," said Savage immediately following the game. "That is something that when I have grandchildren that I can sit down and tell them about. Right now I am just trying to make plays and win games, which is the same way I have always played at Oklahoma."
Doesn't that sound just like some coach that is loved by so many Oklahoma football fans?
Welcome back Mark Clayton. Two weeks into the season Clayton had minor knee surgery that turned out to be more than minor for him. Despite such a young age, Clayton is already playing on a knee that is almost bone-on-bone.
Once the surgery was over it was expected that in two weeks he would be back as good as new, but the knee didn't respond and four weeks later Clayton still wasn't 100 percent. However, this past week the knee began to feel good, meaning it didn't pain Clayton every time he made a cut and yesterday we saw the difference.
"I don't know why, but the knee just didn't feel right after the surgery," said Clayton. "I got to where I could play on it, but I wasn't myself. I wasn't running well and then I was concentrating on running so much that I drop some passes. I think the weekend off really helped me because when we started back on Monday of this past week my knee didn't bother me at all. When my knee doesn't bother me I can concentrate on catching the ball and that is why I was able to make those catches on the post routes."
The Sooners became very conservative in the second half running the football and trying to control the clock. The offensive coaches now feel they were a little to conservative, but that is okay with their head coach.
"The bottom line is to not be stupid in the second half, especially when you are playing the rain with a 27-3 lead," said Bob Stoops. "We are not going to throw the ball all over the field in that situation when we don't need to throw it anymore to win the game. We are going to do whatever it takes to win the game and in the second half we needed to run the clock and control the football. We didn't move the ball as well as wanted in the second half, but we were never were in danger of losing the game."
For the third straight game the Sooners rushed for 200 yards or more and Griffin finished the game with 128 yards. The Sooners only threw for 105 yards, but Hybl did throw three touchdown passes.
"We have some corrections to make next week, but again we played, for the most part, winning football," said Offensive Coordinator Chuck Long as he took a break from watching game film Sunday afternoon. "Any time you get 200 yards rushing on a good football team like that you are doing something right. I am very pleased with our run game. ‘Q' ran the ball very well and he made some people miss."
"KeJuan (Jones) is running tough inside the tackles and we did a great job of protecting the ball in the run game. I think we had 45 rushes or so and we didn't put the ball on the ground in bad conditions. There is something to be said for that. I think we need to finish some of those drives off as we had some great opportunities to put some more points on the board. We have been very good in that area all year, so we are not going to panic in this area."
The conditions made it tough for Hybl to throw the ball consistently, but on his three touchdown throws he threw the ball as well as it can be thrown.
"We had some conditions to deal with, but at the same time we made some really good throws in those conditions," said Long. "Those touchdown passes were as good as he has thrown as he has been here. All three of them were great, especially the final one to Mark Clayton. You couldn't put it anywhere else except to that exact spot in the back of the endzone. Of course, Mark made a terrific catch. Mark had a terrific game and really came to play for us. Antwone Savage really had a good game for us and came alive for us. When you have a good season you have different guys stepping up each week and players want to be a part of it. So, somebody different is stepping up and that is what you need and that is what we are getting right now.
Remember back at the first of year we were all concerned whether the Sooners efforts to run the ball were going to work out? Now, the Sooners in some ways are considered a running football team, or at least they are considered a balanced running team.
"Our offensive line is coming off the ball good and they are taking pride in winning the battles up front," said Run Game Coordinator and Offensive Line coach Kevin Wilson. "A lot of credit needs to go to our tight end and fullback spot. J.D. Runnels is a first-year player and Lance Donley is in his first year playing as much because we are running a lot of two tight end stuff. Trent Smith has been starter, but has played most of his career more flexed out. Those guys have grown and they, and our offensive line, have gotten better, which means a group we have gotten better. I think it all goes hand and hand."
"Even though the numbers looked pretty good yesterday we really don't think we played our best," Wilson continued. "I don't know if it was because of the open date or if we practiced too hard. I don't know if we got stale or if we had too much in our game plan coming off an open date. We didn't execute like we can even though the numbers looked good. Fundamentally, we just didn't play as well, but we will give Colorado credit for getting after it on defense. We need to pick it up and play a little bit better than we played yesterday."
It was great to see the faces of defensive guys Kory Klein and Teddy Lehman after the game. Football is a physical game and Colorado tested their manhood, and both looked as if they just won the war.
Both had a defiant look on their faces and one of satisfaction. Both sounded like soldiers who had lived to fight another day.
"Colorado is tough and they came right at us," said Klein after the game. "That is what is fun about playing defensive tackle. You love games where a team wants to challenge you and run the ball right down your throat. We answered that challenge again today. It seems some team is always trying to challenge us, but for the most part we have answered every challenge. Nothing changed today."
"Today was a lot of fun, because Colorado feels they are a physical football team. They are, but we proved today that we are a physical team as well," said Lehman.
"Guys like Kory, Tommie (Harris) and Brandon (Everage) played a great game tonight. I thought, as linebackers, we played well and stuck it to them. Chris Brown is a good tailback, but he found out that we are a good defense as well."
Dan Cody suffered a mild concussion and his status for Texas A&M is up in the air. Jimmy Wilkerson suffered a sprained ankle, but should play against the Aggies.
The Sooners had three players visit officially this weekend and all three had good visits. But all three still have visits to take.
Running back Jason Evans of Akworth, Georgia had a great visit and we even managed to get him on our KREF Radio pregame show from Balfour's University Spirit Shop. Evans and his parents had a great visit to Norman and the Sooners have a shot to turn him from Penn State. OU may lead at this point, but he still has a visit to Stanford remaining.
Offensive lineman Akim Millington of Wheaton, Illinois loved his visit to OU and has made this a two team race. He takes his official visit to Iowa this weekend and he has cancelled his visits to Wisconsin, Miami and Boston College. Millington has been to Iowa on four different occasions unofficially, and knows quite a bit about the Hawkeyes.
What still lingers from this game for the Sooner coaching staff is the dislike for Gary Barnett and his staff. Mostly, it's Barnett who once again couldn't bring himself to give the Sooners respect and credit after the game.
That is one of the reasons why today each Sooner coach went out of his way to point out that they didn't play all that well against Colorado and that they can play better. That, of course, was stated to counter Barnett and his players' comments.
Barnett says his players can't wait to play the Sooners again. And that if they could they would love to play the Sooners tomorrow if it could be worked out.
Well, once again Mr. Barnett, the Sooners are saying to be careful because you may get exactly what you wished for, and that is not always a good thing.
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