Senior day could not have been any better for those 19 players who played their last game on Owen Field Saturday. In Oklahoma's 60-15 win over Texas Tech, the Sooners treated the Red Raiders as if they were Baylor. Oklahoma so thoroughly dominated the Red Raiders that Texas Tech Head Coach Mike Leach could hardly raise his voice above a whisper following the game.
"I just can't believe how they just physically whipped us," a dejected Leach said after the game. "Their offense just blew us off the ball and they were so athletic pulling their guards and getting out on the edge. If you give a running back like ‘Q' that much help on the corner he is going to turn it into big yardage every time."
"Then when they lined up in the I-formation they just ran straight at us and knocked us off the ball. I am so disappointed that we didn't hold up at the line of scrimmage. I told everybody that OU was good before the game and they are good. They are as good as they have been and we're were better than we have been today."
An ecstatic Sooner team busted out into the Norman nightlife Saturday night with a Big 12 South Championship in tow and full knowledge that they just whipped the stuffing out the Red Raiders.
"I love it when we just go out and pound on somebody," said All-American senior tight end Trent Smith after the game. "My favorite formation tonight was any formation that we ran the ball, because we were kicking some butt tonight."
"Did you see those big freshman guards pull around the corner?" Smith added. "As the game went on I just wanted to make sure I got out of the way, because they were drilling everybody in sight and they didn't care if you were wearing a Crimson jersey or a white jersey."
"Man those guys are going to be good. Shoot, they are already good. ‘Q' was great and KeJuan was great in the I-formation and what we have in J.D. Runnels is one heck of a blocking fullback. I loved catching that touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and since that would be my last catch on Owen Field it will always mean something to me. But I am telling you I have never had more fun in my life blocking a team at the line of scrimmage. We just kicked them tonight!"
Is it official? Has the Sooners' offensive image now totally changed over to a big, bad physical offensive team? Maybe not 100 percent, but the Sooners are getting there.
"I don't think there is any question that teams have to respect our running game. And if they don't we will just run it right down their throat," said running back coach Cale Gundy after the game. "Our team now believes in the running game and we feel that we can run it on anybody. This wasn't the first weekend that we have run the ball well. ‘Q' has seven straight weeks that he has rushed for over 100 yards and we have been getting better and better in our jumbo sets."
"We stressed in the beginning of the season that we wanted to be a more physical football team and we have become a physical football team on offense. We have always been physical on defense, but we are beginning to hold up our end of the bargain on offense."
While the offense was moving the ball at will against the Red Raiders it was the defense that totally swallowed up Heisman Trophy candidate Kliff Kingsbury and the Red Raider offense. The Red Raiders came into the game averaging 503.7 yards, 38.9 points and 28.4 first downs. When the game was over Texas Tech managed only 236 yards of total offense, 15 points and just ten first downs.
"Hey, I wouldn't want to play our defense, especially if they are challenged," said Smith. "We heard that Texas Tech was real confident after they scored so many points against Texas and felt that they could move the ball on anybody. We also heard that they were going to win the Heisman for Kingsbury against us. Man, nobody is going to win the Heisman against our defense. Your best bet is to hang in the race against us. Teams shouldn't say a word about our defense before games. You should never challenge our defense, because if you do they will dominate you."
With a suffocating secondary and a persistent pass rush the Sooners did just that. Behind another brilliant game plan by the Sooner defensive coaching staff, Oklahoma blanked the Red Raider receivers and took all of Kingsbury's options away.
"For the most part I thought we played just about as well as we did in those other big games that I think people refer to as some of our best performances," said Co-Defensive Coordinator Mike Stoops Sunday from his office. "Our coverage was excellent and we covered long enough that it allowed our pressure and our rush to get to the quarterback. That was probably the best game this year that we covered in, that and maybe the Iowa State game was the best we covered all year."
"Everything worked well for us. It wasn't just our secondary or our front seven, it was everybody working together and that is what is so satisfying about this defensive effort."
The Sooners went looking for a knockout punch early and delivered with a 16 to zip run in the first quarter. By the end of the quarter Griffin had already put his stamp on the game with an amazing 62-yard touchdown run, the longest run of his career. Griffin used every skill that he had in that run, breaking tackles, almost losing his balance and then making defenders miss and running away from others finally reaching the end zone.
"You think that you would have seen every great run that you can see from ‘Q' and then he goes out and does maybe the best run of his career," said Offensive Coordinator Chuck Long Sunday.
"We ran that play back at least 15 times just so we could enjoy it a little bit. I would say that run has to go done as one of my most favorite runs of his. There was also one against Kansas State, where he put his hand on the ground and scored a touchdown that was very impressive."
When the first quarter was finally over the Sooners had such control of the game that it was going to take a miracle for the Red Raiders to come back.
"We wanted to get off to a great start and that is exactly what we did. Of course we want to get off to a great start every game, but I will admit that was important against Texas Tech," said OU Head Coach Bob Stoops. "Our defense stuffed them early and even came up with a safety. Our offense put 14 points on the board and had taken control of the game. At that point things had gone pretty much our way."
Griffin had over 100-yards three minutes into the second quarter and the Sooners were putting together touchdown drives that were eating up four to five minutes of the clock. Then Leach showed off his stubborn side, by trying to throw out of his own end zone with less than a minute left in the clock. The Red Raiders eventually were called for holding in the end zone and the Sooners had a 25 to 0 halftime lead.
"That has been our philosophy all year and that is our offense," said Leach. "We just didn't execute, which was a big problem for us all night."
"When we had them pinned up so deep in their own territory that we saw it as a tremendous opportunity," said sophomore defensive tackle Tommie Harris. "We had pretty much stuffed them at that point and yet they are going to try to throw out of their own end zone. Man, that is not going to happen and we came up with a big play and got the safety. Our secondary was covering so well that in the defensive line we knew that if we just kept after it that eventually we could come up with some sacks."
OU finished with a season high seven sacks, two interceptions and were so dominant for most of the game that by the time the score was 53-7 Texas Tech had only 112 yards total offense.
"We go into every game wanting to shut them down and to limit them to nothing," said Co-Defensive Coordinator and linebacker coach Brent Venables Saturday night on the KREF postgame show. "For most of that game tonight we were a dominant football team that completely shut down one of the top offensive football teams in the country. We were physical, chased the ball well and covered as well in the secondary as we have at any time this year."
"This was a complete defensive effort for us tonight," Venables continued. "We had a good game plan, we have good athletes on defense and we executed that defense very well tonight. We knocked them in the mouth early and we took some of their spirit away. Our defense is capable of playing like that and our defense has to be proud of that performance."
How much did it help that the Sooners knew a lot about Mike Leach and his offense?
"I think it helped us a great deal," said junior linebacker Teddy Lehman after the game. "We have played against that offense many times over the last few years in practice and against Texas Tech. Our coaches know a lot about Coach Leach and what he likes to do and they put together a great game plan."
"Our guys knew what they were going to do before they ran the play,' said Mike Stoops. "Our guys played with great anticipation and when you have great athletes on the field and they understand what they are doing you will play great defense."
Who should win the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year? Should it be Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury or the Sooners' Quentin Griffin.
Kingsbury has put up some gaudy numbers throwing for 4,542 yards and 42 touchdowns against 12 interceptions on the year. However, his 187 yard, one-touchdown two-interception lackluster performance against the Sooners has now raised some doubts if he is the best offensive performer in the Big 12.
Yes, Kingsbury had a monster game against the Texas Longhorns throwing for 473 and six touchdowns, but in losses against Iowa State, OU and Colorado Kingsbury was very average again.
Griffin now has gaudy numbers as well rushing for 1,450 yards and 12 touchdowns. His totals are sixth-best in OU history and if you look at things from a running back-quarterback angle, doesn't ‘Q' deserve the award just as much if not more than Kingsbury.
"I don't think there is any doubt that ‘Q' should be the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year," said Gundy. "I realize that Kingsbury has put up some unbelievable numbers, but has he always played well against top competition? Kingsbury has played well in four Big 12 games, while Quentin has played well in every all seven Big 12 games he has played in and his numbers are outstanding as well."
"Then they matchup and who dominated the game. It was Quentin with 207 yards and three touchdowns and a spectacular 62-yard run. I hope that those who vote for the award look at more than stats, because if they do then Quentin wins easily. There isn't a running back in the conference who can block like ‘Q', or who can catch the ball like ‘Q' and do something with it after he catches it. I don't know if people will take the time to really look at anything more than statistics, but even then ‘Q' should get a ton of votes. If you look at the complete offensive football player, then it's ‘Q' by a bunch."
I believe this to be the case as well. I know it is our nature to look at the quarterback, especially when he is putting up tremendous numbers and automatically make him the player of the year. However, Kingsbury often puts up numbers just for the sake of putting up numbers, while ‘Q' is getting most of his yardage in gut wrenching situations when the game is most on the line.
If you take a look at the game as a whole then Quentin Griffin is the Big 12 Player-of-the-Year.
The domination of Texas Tech allowed the Sooner coaches to get into the game every senior that could play. It was great late in the fourth quarter when senior quarterback Nate Hybl hooked up with senior tight end Trent Smith for their final touchdown pass and catch at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
"That was so sweet. I couldn't have asked for a better ending here at home," said Smith. "I have so much respect for Nate, not only as a quarterback, but as a friend as well. We didn't talk about ending things this way, but I had a feeling that he was going to try to find me in the end zone. I knew as soon as I made my cut that he was going to throw me the ball and he threw a perfect pass."
"I am just grateful for the opportunity to be a Sooner and to score in my final game on a pass from a great friend is a dream come true."
"To be honest, I didn't think about until we were walking to the line of scrimmage and I realized that this would probably be the last time were going to be in the game," said Hybl. "I was hoping that he would come open or at least I could take a shot at him, but I am being honest in saying I was going to throw to the open receiver. However, Trent became my number one receiver on the play and he wasn't really the number one receiver. When he came open I wanted to make sure that I threw a good ball to him because I knew he wouldn't drop it. I really can't think of a better way to end our final game on our final play on Owen Field, beating Texas Tech by a bunch and my good buddy Trent catching my final pass for a touchdown."
While the game was as classic for a number of the starters who played their final game, it was the game of their life for several seniors who very rarely get to play.
"We had Larry Hammer in there at cornerback and he almost picked a pass off," said Bob Stoops. "He ended up getting called for interference because he read the play so well that he got to the ball too fast. We even got Danny Cork in there and he almost ended his career in one kickoff cover. He got blindsided on kick coverage, but we were happy for him that he got a chance to get into the game. We were just glad they were experiencing playing in a Sooner uniform."
"Larry is a corner and we do one-on-one drills every day with our receivers and I always say that he is the most efficient defensive back that we have," Bob Stoops continued. "He reads routes really well and jumps them well for the ability that he has. It's just like the other night he is about to pick that ball off and score with it, but he happens to run into the receiver on his way to it, he read it so fast. It is just great to see those guys in there and to get to experience a game day and a game situation."
"Those guys help us win everyday by their work, going against our offense and defense helping simulate the other team. They are good team guys and all of our players and coaches appreciate them a great deal. It takes everybody to put together a winning team. Not everybody can be the star and not everybody can start, yet those guys still do everything they can to help us win."
Did you notice as the Sooners were rolling up 329 yards rushing and 478 yards total offense that they played a great deal of the game with redshirt freshman Chris Bush at center, true freshman Davin Joseph at right guard and redshirt freshman Kelvin Chaisson on the field at the same time? That was with sophomore Jammal Brown and Wes Sims at the tackle spots.
Chaisson and Joseph pulled around the corner the entire game for Griffin and it seemed like he always had five yards before a defender could get close to him. Chaisson and Joseph are very athletic offensive guards and the youth of the offensive line certainly bodes well for the future.
"We do have a very athletic offensive line as our young guys are very athletic," said Long. "Chaisson and Joseph played very well and Chris Bush had a very good game. He is going to be a very good player for us. I keep saying this every week, but we keep improving each and every week. We are excited about what they are doing now and what they are going to do for us in the future."
Vince Carter missed the game due to a sprained ankle, but he could have played. You can bet that Carter will get back into the lineup as soon as possible, because Bush is now right on his heels for playing time.
Finally, its Bedlam week and the Sooners are ready for it. You can bet the Sooners will go through their most intense practices of the year to make sure the Oklahoma State Cowboys don't pull off their second upset in a row.
The Sooners are going to change their practice this week as the coaches want to make sure the players are totally focused for the game. The last two years the Sooner coaches had the players practice in the morning on Thanksgiving so that those who could get home for dinner could get home. The players were instructed to report back Friday morning to go through meetings and their final practice before the Bedlam game.
However, the Sooners haven't played well the last two years, barely winning in Stillwater in 2000 and getting upset last season in Norman. Now, the Sooner coaches aren't going to take any chances as they will have the players practice during their regular practice time and they will have a team Thanksgiving dinner in Norman.
The game also matches brothers Cale Gundy of Oklahoma and Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State. The two brothers are very close, played quarterback for their respective schools and now coach for their respective schools. Last year's game put a little strain on the two, as Cale says they don't talk as much as they used to.
"We used to talk at least once a week, but now it is every couple of weeks," said Cale. "I don't know if we will talk this week or not. I would probably guess that we won't. I told my mom that we probably won't be in Midwest City for Thanksgiving this year and she said good, because we haven't played very well the last couple of years. So, it will be the first time that we haven't gotten together as a family in long time, but I guess that is the way it is when you have coaches at both schools
I know Momma Gundy and she roots for both teams if she can pick her head out of her hands. She never misses a game if she can, but while she is there she doesn't see much of the game. I hope she watches this Saturday in Stillwater, because the Sooners are out finally take care of business.
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