The Norman Transcript

October 10, 2012

Embracing change, Sooners turn doubt into hope

By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Maybe the biggest reason why Oklahoma’s performance at Texas Tech seemed so astonishing was, well, it was so astonishing.

It was more than the fact Landry Jones played so well. And it was more than the fact the Sooner defense played so well. And it was more than the fact Damien Williams ran the ball 14 times, 12 more times than Dom Whaley, the next tailback on the list (who is still ahead of Williams on the Sooner depth chart, but don’t read anything into that; probably an oversight), like somebody’d actually made a decision.

Because somebody had to create a game plan that melded so well with the quarterback. And somebody had to make the right defensive calls. And somebody had to choose to go with Williams, not just on the ground but through the air. Ditto for the increased workload for fullback Trey Millard, who carried four times and caught two passes.

Bob Stoops tried hard to be a stick in the mud on the subject of OU’s offensive changes Monday, refusing to say if they were designed with the Red Raiders or his Sooners most in mind.

Then, he gave himself away.

Asked if keeping Jones upright against Texas on Saturday was “Job One,” he said, “Sure. And running the ball.”

And as advanced Stoopsologists know, the throwaway afterthought line — “and running the ball” — is the same thing as a political gaffe: the mistake of unwittingly telling the truth.

Still, greater proof lies with Jones, whose honesty behind the microphone this season continues to be so refreshing.

“I was really excited,” the OU quarterback said of the moment he received offensive coordinator Josh Heupel’s plan. “I felt like that was a great game plan for us. I liked the way we used Trey (Millard), I liked the way we were switching up formations … Just really excited about it.”

The point? It was new.

Heupel forgot Millard was on the team the day OU beat UConn at the Orange Bowl and famously refused to run the ball against an Oklahoma State defense that couldn’t stop the run last season.

Now, he’s finally come up with something showing some growth in the job. Better, it suits his quarterback.

“I think this is the most in rhythm I’ve felt in a long, long, long time at this place, dating back even to last year … I think what we did offensively was great,” Jones said.

And defensive coordinator Mike Stoops dialed up a new blitz package that kept Seth Doege off-balance. And his defense responded with three interceptions.

It all worked.

You can go on and on.

Once, it appeared the Sooner braintrust was rolling the ball out and figuring things would go all right. At Lubbock, that same braintrust — even as its public face could stand a humility makeover — proved it had been busy making changes.

The right changes.

Where once there was doubt about this team (and maybe even this program) moving forward, it has since been replaced by reasonably grounded hope.

Now, the old stories about how Bob Stoops’ Sooner teams have been marked by improving over the course of the season are back in play.

Now, even though OU didn’t belong in the top five when the season began, you can begin to see how, just maybe, if things come together just right, perhaps the Sooners could wind up there. And if that can happen, because that means running the table, anything could happen.

Anything at all.

It’s not the power of one win. Not even close.

It is the power of how OU got it. It is the power of taking stock, admitting problems and doing something smart and proactive about it.

Since beating Tech, it seems like everybody but Stoops has admitted to a fresh, new wave of confidence.

The Sooners needed it.

They earned it.

Clay HorningFollow me @clayhorningcfhorning@normantranscript.com

For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.