The Norman Transcript

December 2, 2011

Showdown could be perfect for taking risks

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — You wonder if Bob Stoops regrets not being named James or Theodore. Because had he been named James or Theodore, nobody ever would have tagged him Big Game Jim or Big Game Ted.

It had to be Bob (or Bill, or maybe Brian). It is all about alliteration. That, and in Stoops’ case, winning a bunch of big games right out of the chute.

And when you think about those games, so many of them in 2000, what is it that you think about?

Some are sure to remember the fearlessness, the trick plays, the apparent swashbuckling brashness with which Stoops’ Sooners played (or play-called). If John Brooks still had been The Voice for the dawn of the Stoops’ era, the Sooner coach would have been a “Riverboat Gambler.”

Now, think about the existing conditions by which Stoops would call for a fake punt, go for it on fourth down when making it was sure to demoralize an opponent or, pretty much, throw everything at the other side, even the kitchen sink.

Sometimes there was Mike Stoops in his brother’s ear, telling Bob Stoops to give it a whirl, the defense had him covered.

There was also that thing Oklahoma has hardly been since, which must make it imminently easier to take a chance. There was that thing about OU being the underdog, the upstart, the program, after years in the wilderness, with nothing to lose.

It would have been nice, here and there, over the last several years, to see OU, even as a constant favorite, compete as though an underdog.

Saturday OU will have no excuses (how perfect for their coach!). It is the underdog, by three-and-half points last I looked.

It is a hard thing to do.

IBM couldn’t do it. Microsoft has struggled to do it. American car companies, until recently, could not do it. Because it’s hard to think like an upstart, an innovator, when you couldn’t be more establishment. Once the mountaintop is reached, it’s about security rather than the next mountaintop. Try thinking like a whippersnapper then and it’s hard to do it right.

Remember the horrible onside kick against West Virginia at the Fiesta Bowl? It was the zenith of misplaced chutzpah.

Stoops may still have it in him.

Recall, as he explained recently, how the whole Blake Bell experiment was drawn up by his offensive coaches only after Stoops told them to come up with something. And, just maybe, those two reverses Trey Franks ran against Iowa State may not have emanated from play-caller Josh Heupel, but from Stoops himself.

You never know.

As for brother Mike, Stoops said the former OU defensive coordinator, even though he faced Oklahoma State earlier this season before being canned by Arizona, is playing no advisory role for his old program this week.

It’s hard to believe.

Certainly, it’s nothing formal, but can a brother keep from calling up a brother who’s sure to have valuable insight about the task at hand?

Maybe Mike Stoops is back in Bob Stoops’ ear.

If the Sooners’ find that certain swagger, in their approach, their on--the-field attitude and their play calling, it’s still hard to guess what it might look like.

Then there’s the chance OU might not need anything tricky or bold to come away a winner. Bowing to the pressure, the Pokes might just lie down on their own synthetic turf.

Whatever, we’ll know it when we see it.

Janis Joplin sang — even though they were Kris Kristofferson’s words — that freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.

Well, the Sooners have been knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten and knocked from ranks of national title contenders in the space of a few short weeks. Lose to OSU and OU will have lost Bedlam, too, and maybe even its place as the state’s dominant program.

For the Sooner Nation, there won’t be too much left to lose if Saturday night goes the wrong way.

Their coach and their team might be well served to claim the freedom to take a few chances in advance.

Clay Horning 366-3526