The Norman Transcript

January 2, 2014

Stoops won’t play underdog card

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NEW ORLEANS — The Sooners will enter tonight’s game as at least a 16-point underdog. Players have embraced that role. They were not favored in the Kansas State and Oklahoma State games and won both.

Stoops said the role isn’t something he embraces.

“Not at a place like Oklahoma,” he said. “That isn’t something that we’ve ever … I don’t know how to do that, to be quite honest with you. That’s not one of our motivational methods. So we’re about what do we do right, how do we do things the right way to give ourselves an opportunity to win, and we emphasize that.

“And the other stuff I can’t say that somewhere in the back of some kids’ minds they might not have heard something one too many times and it triggers something. I can’t speak to that. But it’s not a card that I play. I don’t know how to play that card.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban, whose team hasn’t been an underdog since the 2011 national championship, believes a lot about teams can change from the regular season to a bowl game.

“It’s really hard to bring the season to the bowl game because the amount of time in between opportunities to play,” he said. “So how your team sort of resets their mindset is really important to how a team’s going to prepare, how they’re going to focus, how they’re going to play in the game. And to me, sometimes if you’re an underdog, you have a little bit more to prove. So that mindset is a little better maybe than a team that doesn’t have sort of the right motivation going into a game. Because I really do think when you play in a bowl game it’s all about mindset.”

More about cards: Alabama coach Nick Saban said one of the ways he got to know the Stoops family when he was an assistant at Michigan State in the 1980s was by playing cards with Bob Stoops’ uncle, who is also named Bob, when he would come through Youngstown, Ohio, on recruiting trips.

The elder Stoops was the head coach at Youngstown South High School and Saban, typically, had to wait until the evening to meet with recruits and their families.

“I used to meet Bob at the boiler room at South High School and used to play cards, gin rummy, until I could go on a home visit,” Saban said. “That was the kind of relationship I’ve had with them.”

They know: Stoops declined to name OU’s starting quarterback for the Sugar Bowl Wednesday. But it’s no secret to Trevor Knight and Blake Bell.

“They already know how we intend to play them,” he said.

He’s maintained for the last four weeks that naming neither the starter has forced Alabama to prepare for both and should give the Sooners a little advantage.

“We kind of go to some plays a little bit more with one guy than we do another, so why give someone the advantage of practicing those plays more than another set of plays, and it hopefully has made them have to work a bigger package on what we like to do with each guy,” he said. “So some plays are the same. But, again, some plays we gravitate to more often with one guy than we do another.”

History still matters: Tonight’s Sugar Bowl will be a classic matchup in many ways. One will be that the Sooners and Crimson Tide are in the minority when it comes to tinkering with their uniforms.

Many schools are doing it as a recruiting tool. Just in the Big 12 Conference, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas Tech seem to wear a different uniform every week.

“I think in the end some players may look at bells and whistles a little more than they do overall tradition and history, but there’s still a good number of them that do recognize the opportunity to play in these kind of great games, and they realize we’ve done it a lot,” Stoops said. “So there’s a little bit of everything in recruiting. And there’s still a lot of players that recognize the tradition and history of what you’ve been doing more than maybe the color of your helmet.”

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

jshinn@normantranscript.com

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