NORMAN — There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding Oklahoma’s game with Kansas State last Saturday. Most was focused on the quarterback spot. But Trevor Knight practiced all week, so the Sooners knew what they had there.
Cornerback Aaron Colvin didn’t practice in the days leading up to the game. His right shoulder was too vulnerable. The plan was to use him in only in likely passing situations, if at all.
An audible was called after Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett started getting behind OU’s secondary on a regular basis.
“Something needed to be done to stop the bleeding,” Colvin said.
The change was Colvin playing the rest of the game with that fragile shoulder. It was risky, but it was a gamble Colvin and the Sooners felt had to be taken.
It worked. OU matched him up with Lockett as often as possible in the 41-31 victory. The Wildcats’ big plays in the passing game ceased. Colvin managed to hold up until midway through the fourth quarter.
There’s no doubt the defense is different when Colvin is on the field. There’s the option of sticking him on an opponent’s top receiver or leaving him isolated on one side and shifting coverage to the other.
“Aaron gives us confidence and he gives us some stability in the secondary,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “We don’t have a lot of experience back there but when he’s back there he seems to settle everyone down and he gives us an outstanding cover guy. You’re trading up a top level NFL guy for somebody that hasn’t played much. So that’s pretty evident what you’re losing.”
Colvin has battled the shoulder injury all season. He did not play in the Iowa State game because of it. If he’s on the field when the 20th-ranked Sooners (9-2, 6-2 Big 12) face No. 7 Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1) Dec. 7, it will be under the same circumstances.
It isn’t the way he envisioned his last season of college football playing out. Colvin would have been a second-day pick if he opted to enter the NFL draft after his junior season. He returned believing he could elevate his stock.
What he’s done this season may or may not have done that. But what he did against Kansas State displayed a major professional attribute, the ability to play hurt.
“I felt like I had to play. I felt like I had to be there for my teammates,” he said. “There were times when it was tough and I had to really overcome it mentally and go out there and keep playing. But we’ve had too many injuries this year, too many key injuries to guys that are very important to this defense. I couldn’t be another one of those so I had to go out there and just finish it out.”
The Sooners have had a lot of injuries this season. Senior linebacker Corey Nelson was lost to a pectoral injury in early October. Without Colvin, the defense is without either preseason captain.
He chooses to think about that instead of the pain every time he lifts his arm.
“It’s just been an uncomfortable season for him,” Stoops said. “He has really toughed it out and that says a lot about his character and his toughness. It will be the same type of deal two weeks from now. He’s just a fighter and I’m sure he’ll want to play a great game here in a couple weeks.”
Based on the message Colvin sent against Kansas State, he will. What he did against Kansas State sent a message throughout the locker room.
“Just showing the team that we’ve got to do anything it takes to win this game. We’ve got to do anything it takes to win any game so I felt like I needed to go out there and play. I felt like I had to stop some of the bleeding that was going on with the Tyler Lockett situation,” he said. “Regardless of the outcome or what were to happen, I didn’t want to have any regrets.”
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