NORMAN — It’s called the Blaster. With its padded steal arms, it develops explosive power and ball-protection as players run through it. Every college football team has one and it’s the one piece of practice equipment that every running back hates.
But after Saturday’s 51-48 overtime win over rival Oklahoma State, Brennan Clay knows just how valuable the machine is. He scored the game-winning touchdown after breaking two tackles near the line of scrimmage and rambling into the end zone.
“Coach (Cale) Gundy does a great job,” Clay said. “He gets us prepared with that blaster to be able to run through trash. We always emphasize that to be able to be physical backs. I took one to the shoulder and another guy came across the leg. But I was able to keep my head up, eyes up and get into that end zone. I owe it all to the blaster.”
One of the first people to reach him in the back of the end zone was Kenny Stills, one-third of the California trio, who along with Clay and Tony Jefferson, came to Norman the same year and have supported each other through the good and bad. To see his friend come through for the Sooners was a special moment for Stills, who did it against West Virginia the week before.
“Brennan has been a guy that hasn’t really been in the spotlight,” Stills said. “He’s kind of taken some heat. To see him make a play at the end there, that means a lot more to me than me catching the ball last week. I am just proud of everybody, especially Brennan.”
Jefferson was just as excited.
“To see your boy, who you are with every day, succeed like that, it makes you feel really good in your heart,” Jefferson said. “I expected him to make plays like that because the dude works hard and he deserves it.”
Clay said the touchdown was the highlight of his three-year career with Oklahoma. It’s a moment he knows he would not have been able to have last season.
“I probably hit a lowpoint sometime my sophomore year. Just being injured and not being able to perform to the best of my ability,” Clay said. “Last year I started a couple of games and got nicked up. Just sitting on the sideline and kind of a Debbie downer. But I stuck with it and got healthy. Good things happen.”
After patiently waiting deep on the depth charts, Clay has seen a resurgence in his career since the Sooners’ win over Iowa State. With Damien Williams banged up, he came in and helped carry the offense with hard running between the tackles. It was something he was not known for when he first arrived.
But since that game, Clay has become a vital part of the OU attack. That was evident by his number getting called on the final play of Bedlam.
“It’s patience,” Clay said. “Throughout the years I’ve been nicked up. Injuries here and there. Especially nagging ones. Just to be pretty much healthy and full go. I’m excited for myself to be able to go out and provide for this offense. I just knew to keep on coming and keep working hard and good things happen to those who wait.”
Having gone through such a tough season has allowed Clay to enjoy the good times even more.
“I am so much more appreciative,” Clay said. “Just to be able to celebrate with my teammates is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. To finish at Bedlam is a great experience.”
Michael KinneyFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org