The Norman Transcript

January 1, 2014

For Sooners, a bit of gamesmanship couldn’t hurt

The Norman Transcript

METAIRIE, La. — It was 13 years ago, in Miami rather than the Superdome, and any transcript of either team’s postgame media session may be lost to antiquity. 

As Sooner fans easily remember, Oklahoma, a 13-point underdog, knocked off Florida State to win the national championship. 

Also, as a very few might remember, the most amazing thing about it may not have been how the Sooner defense manhandled Heisman Trophy winner Chris Wienke and the Seminole offense but how Florida State coach Bobby Bowden responded to that manhandling.

It was like he’d never seen anything like it. It was like he still wasn’t sure what he’d just seen. It was like, given all the footage he and his offensive assistants must have viewed to get ready for the game, what they actually faced during the game was a world apart.

In a world of fantastic talent, OU’s defensive staff that night proved just how far coaching can take a team. 

Also, for those seeking a scenario by which Alabama loses Thursday night’s Sugar Bowl, it’s a good tale to remember.

As was true 13 years ago, OU is a huge underdog, 16 points, as it prepares to meet Alabama. 

The Sooners have the same defensive coordinator — Mike Stoops — they did that night 13 years ago. 

Also, after playing the first week of December and winning a huge game — then it was Kansas State at the Big 12 championship, this time Bedlam rival Oklahoma State — the Sooners have had a great deal of time to prepare.

It’s good to remember because one wonders if it might happen again. And while you go about remembering, it might be wise to forget what the Sooners said Tuesday after working out at the New Orleans Saints practice facility.

“Whether it’s a week to prepare or a couple of weeks to prepare,” OU coach Bob Stoops said, “I think, generally, each team’s doing the same thing.”

Well, maybe not the same thing; they are two different teams, after all. But you get the idea: both teams have the same time to prepare, yielding no advantage.

If Bob Stoops is right, that’s bad news, because Alabama is clearly the better team. OU, though, need only be better Thursday, and it’s had all this time. Certainly something new and different will be unveiled.


Don’t count on it.

“The things you might see,” receiver Jaz Reynolds said, “is the execution, the fine-tuning.”

Linebacker P.L. Lindley even counseled against the try-something-different-and-new approach.

“We kind of want to stick with what we do,” he said. “We don’t want to change things up too much. You don’t want to throw anybody off with things like that.”

You wouldn’t want to throw any Sooners off. But why not try throwing the Crimson Tide off?

Offensive lineman Bronson Irwin offered what might count as hope against the assessments of Bob Stoops, Reynolds and Lindley, but it wasn’t much.

“We’ve got some special things in for every team we play, some things that are designed specifically for (an opponent’s) defense,” Irwin said. “That’s really no different than any other week. We’ve just had a little more time to work on those things and polish them up.”

It doesn’t sound too groundbreaking.

Two possibilities persist.

One, the Sooners are simply playing coy. Their head coach does it all the time, why not them?

Two, perhaps Mike Stoops was so on his game 13 years ago that the defense he put on the field wasn’t aware it was doing anything that different, only that it was. 

Maybe it was different in the way the calls were mixed up, or the way one or two players adjusted their pre-snap approach, utterly confusing Florida State.

Hard to figure.

What’s easy to figure is it has to be one of those scenarios, because OU just can’t expect to line up and beat Alabama.

Maybe co-offensive coordinators Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell can come up with a new way to best use the best facets of two quarterbacks. Maybe Mike Stoops can be a master puppeteer, pulling all the right strings in very different ways just as he did 13 years ago.

It has to be something.

Nothing won’t do.

Clay Horning

Follow me @clayhorning

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