Interview with Bob Stoops

James Hale had a chance to go one-on-one recently with OU's head man after his team won the Big 12 Championship

Two days after the Sooners won the Big 12 Championship with a convincing 29-7 win over Colorado OU Head Coach Bob Stoops was in Texas starting his first round of in-home visits with top recruits on the Sooners board. Actually, that process started Sunday after the game when Stoops visited already committed Tony Cade and Demarrio Pleasant of Lewisville, Texas.

It was no coincidence that Stoops stopped by Cade's and Pleasant's house first. They both are considered cornerstones to the Sooners recruiting effort. Both play positions where the Sooners need help in the future and both are considered big time players.

When I tracked down Coach Stoops he was working out. There is a reason why he has actually weighs less than he did when he was a hard hitting free safety for the Iowa Hawkeyes. Coach Stoops always watches what he eats and works out at least once a day. He is always telling this rotund reporter to join him and as soon as I get off my lazy fanny I will. However, I am a little intimidated that I can hang with the Sooner field general.

I talked with Coach Stoops about a number of topics and I found him be in a great mood. That should not be a surprise considering he had just watched his team whip a cocky Colorado team two days before.

JH: What a year for your Oklahoma Sooners?

BS: "Anytime you are champions of your conference and become Big 12 Champs in the quality league that we are in it is really special. It represents a year's worth of work for our program, our players and to come through as champions is really special. It's a rare occasion that you get a chance to play in the Rose Bowl and we are excited about it. It will be a special event."

JH: You talked about the quality league that you play in, is the Big 12 the best football league in the country?

BS: "Absolutely, we have a lot of great teams and a lot of great coaches, with great players on every team. You fight through the year the best you can and you come out on top like that with a strong win in the Big 12 Championship game in a great atmosphere is really exciting. It is something that our players will always remember and the trophies that come with it, the memories and all that are special for our players."

JH: You dominated the game on both sides of the ball didn't you?

BS: "I am sorry there is an echo in here and I can't hear you very well. You caught me working out. I am taking an extra hour to workout before I go out today and visit recruits at schools."

JH: Coach I am sorry for not being there besides you (there is a running joke between Coach Stoops and I about me joining him for workouts. He has seen me out running before, but he never eats at the press conferences and always works on the treadmill instead of eating while I stuff my face at the press conference. Bob, think I need to miss a few meals or three and I don't disagree, so he has invited me to workout with him before the press conference, but thus far I have not been able to make it. I do make it in time to eat the ribs, but the workout so far as been at a bad time).

BS: "I don't think you have been much on those workouts lately, but where were you going with your last question."

JH: Didn't you play a great game on both sides of the ball?

BS: "Well, it was a great game. It was pretty evident that offensively we were really good. Nate throws a couple of great touchdown passes, then our running game got into one of those games and one of those rhythms. Especially that one drive when we took it off the five-yard line and Nate makes an incredible throw on third-and-13 when he is being pressured in his own end zone, but hits a stop route to Curtis Fagan to pick up a big first down. Then we march right down the field really just running the football all the way down to the three yard line. We used up a great amount of the clock and we were just really strong to be able to run the ball that way. Quentin had an exception day. KeJuan and our offensive line, our tight ends and J.D. Runnells our fullback were just exceptional in blocking and being physical up front.

Defensively, to shut them out and keep them out of the end zone all day was special. They came into the game averaging around 40 something points a game. It was good to play the game that way and it was a special win and a special night."

JH: I was talking to Steve Owens Saturday before the game and asked him where ‘Q' would rank among the great running backs at OU and he said ‘Q' would be ranked right up there among the elite of the elite. Do you agree with that thought?

BS: "Absolutely, and I think people realize that. I think it took a while, but through the second half of season and all the big games that he has had. Then you start to really look at his career rushing and you look at this and he has a chance to pass Billy Sims for yards in a season. I realize that he is doing that in a few more games, but still that is a great accomplishment. I always think about what he could accomplish if he had one more year with us, but that is not going to be the case and there is no sense beating that up. He has had an incredible career here and just a great, great year this year. Quentin has been the spark that we needed to be Big 12 Champions."

JH: You brought up Nate Hybl and that has been source of comments all day. Immediately after the game their was a postgame television show on channel 5 where Jim Traber and Doug Gottlieb really took Hybl to task, saying that he didn't play any kind of significant role in the Sooners win on Saturday. What are your thoughts?

BS: "That just speaks form some peoples ignorance. They don't understand football. They don't understand the game and that is why they are talking about it and not coaching it or being involved with it. If you go with his numbers in the game alone, what was he 14-25? And he has a couple of drops, two TD passes and no interceptions and he is the one guy in the huddle. We have no procedures the entire day, no problems getting in and out of the huddle, no delay of games and he managed the game perfectly. It is not his fault that we were running the ball so well. When you can run the football so well that is what you do.

We don't worry about they say. There are a lot of people are out there with opinions that are uninformed, who are basically are ignorant in what they say. However, that doesn't bother us and Nate is the leader of a Big 12 Championship football offense and the quarterback of our team. I thought he had a great game the other night."

JH: Didn't Hybl execute the game plan to perfection against Colorado?

BS. "Exactly. Like I said, he was in and out of the huddle with no procedures and we had no problems with calls. He was changing one run play to another and he just did a great job. Probably the play of the game was on the third-and-13 when we are backed up in our own end zone and he avoids pressure and hits the stop route to Curtis Fagan. At that time it is 13-7 and if they stop us in our own end zone and force us to punt they are going to get the ball in great field position and he picks up the first down. Again, we see Nate's year differently as coaches when we watch. There are people out there just filling up air time and it doesn't much matter."

JH: You will also take a ratio of 22 touchdown passes to eight interceptions every year from your quarterback wouldn't you?

BS: "Absolutely. That is a great year when you have 22 TDs and only eight interceptions. Then you are Big 12 Champions on top of that then you have to say that Nate did a great job."

JH: It is interesting now the BCS has worked out. You have always taken the stance that you wanted a playoff. It would be great to play off a couple of additional games this year wouldn't it?

BS: "It would be interesting and it would be fun. I don't know if that is ever going to happen. The bowl system is also awfully good when you are in these positions, but it would just be interesting to what would happen if you added another game or two. It would just be interesting to see what it would be like.

JH: You are going to the Rose Bowl, what are your thoughts?

BS: "I am really excited about it. It is one of those rare opportunities for this program. Everybody understands the history and the tradition of the Rose Bowl and they claim that it is the Grand Daddy of them all. It is special. I have played in one as a player. Mike and I played in the 1982 Rose Bowl against Washington, the 1981 season. I know that Chuck Long and Jonathan Hayes were in one in 1985 and I was a young grad assistant coach at that time at Iowa. So, it is special and it is a great atmosphere and a tremendous environment to pull in there at the Rose Bowl. The bowl sits down in a valley and it is just beautiful. It is really exciting and it is a great opportunity. I know that our players and coaches were really excited about it."

JH: One thing that the BCS does is give programs like Oklahoma a little different taste at bowl time, would you agree?

BS: "Absolutely. It is different and special and you don't know if it will ever come back again. With the structure that it is the Rose Bowl is a great bowl game and it is a great opportunity to have a lot of fun. I would think that all of our fans and people in our program would love it. I know that our players have embraced it in a big way."

JH: Defensively, your team bounced back from the OSU loss and gave a super effort against Colorado. Wasn't it a great game for your defensive line?

BS: "The defensive line was very good. When you keep them out of the end zone and keep them from running the ball as effectively as we did your line is playing in a great way. We were very physical and strong up front. Guys were in position to make a lot of plays, created penetration and got good pressure. The defensive line was very good the other night."

JH: You have been at OU now four years. I know that you are an organized individual and a very goal oriented individual. Do you have the program where you thought it would be at this point in your coaching career at OU?

BS: "I don't know if I am organized at all. I find myself flying by the seat-of-my-pants quite often. I do know that we are goal oriented and we are championship oriented. That is what I have always spoken about here and our program has a great number of them with 38 (conference championships) now and two out of the last three years. That is what we always want to be in a position to compete and win the Big 12 Championship. On those special years when things go the right way to compete and win the National Championship and we have done that also. We want to continue to do that and continue to be in the hunt for it and win those championships. We have proven that we can do it and we have proven recently that is what we are all about and I believe that our best years are coming. When you look at the stadium expansion next season with the addition of adding a deck on and the completion of our indoor facility, things are just shaping up in a positive way at our place. We have had great recruiting years the last couple of years and we have a great recruiting class going right now. I really do believe that our best years are coming up with the young guys that are maturing and getting better in our program. We feel that we are in a position that year-in and year-out we can compete for championships in our league.

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