NORMAN — Teams change in the time between the end of the regular season and a bowl game. Most teams get over a month to come up with a game plan for the season’s last game.
How teams react is one of the aspects that make bowl games hard to predict.
OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops freely admits the game plan he’s installing for the meeting with No. 10 Texas A&M in the AT&T Cotton on Jan. 4 is going to be more intricate than the one installed for OU’s last game against TCU.
“Well, we’ll probably be more diversified, change up some looks. I think you can go in with a little more of an arsenal than we have previously in a week’s period of time,” he said this week. “We’ll just add a little bit to our game plan.”
Stoops, who is about to end his first season as defensive coordinator after spending seven seasons as Arizona’s head coach, has history of using the extra time wisely.
During his first stint as defensive coordinator, OU rolled to bowl victories in the 2003 Rose Bowl, 2002 Cotton Bowl and 2001 Orange Bowl/national championship on dominant defensive performances.
The Sooners held all three of those opponents — Washington State (Rose), Arkansas (Cotton), Florida State (Orange) — to less than 270 yards of total offense.
The performances came during a different era in college football. None of those teams ran no-huddle spread offenses.
The Aggies averaged 552.33 yards of total offense this season. Slowing them just a little could likely be the difference between winning and losing.
This won’t be the first explosive offense OU’s faced. Of top 12 teams in total offense at the end of the regular season, OU has already faced four of them — No. 1 Baylor, No. 5 Oklahoma State, No. 8 West Virginia and No. 12 Texas Tech.
That extra time finally allows a coaching staff to see what went right and what went horribly wrong against those teams.
OU’s defense dominated Texas Tech but absorbed beating in shootout wins over the Bears, Cowboys and Mountaineers.
The teams all share very similar offensive styles. The major difference is Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel’s running ability propelled him to the Heisman Trophy.
“He can run, but a lot of people overlook his throwing ability. He can throw just as good as he can run,” OU defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland said of Manziel. “He makes some of those plays that RG3 made. His percentage was higher scrambling than standing in the pocket, so that’s just amazing ability to add to the game. Our defense has to be versatile with this guy, and not just focus down on just pass because he can run it this well.”
The Sooners wrapped up early bowl preparations for the game on Friday. Practice resumes back in Norman later this week before it heads to Texas on Saturday.
Stoops has a history of using that time wisely and coming up with a plan that catches opposing offenses off guard.
“We’ll win the game if we stop him. If we don’t, we’ll have problems all night,” OU defensive end David King said. “That’s what our goal is this practice this week and then when we get to Dallas and practice for the week.”
John ShinnFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org