NORMAN — Oklahoma didn’t play a game as much as it put on a show Saturday at Owen Field. At least, that was the intent.
“It was really exciting to see 43,000 fans here. My thanks and compliments to the fans coming out on a great afternoon, making it an excellent day,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “Hopefully everybody had fun. I thought our athletic department did a great job of getting it all put together and having a band there. Hopefully, it was exciting and fun for everybody. Having it on TV is always a positive as well.”
Spring games have taken on a different meaning in the last several years.
For some players, it legitimately is a chance to get a leg up for starting jobs when preseason camp begins. However, those kinds of competitions are rare and can change in a matter of days in August. The days of players heading home in May and not seeing a coach again until August ended about two decades ago. The competition goes on every day in the weight room and offseason workouts.
What OU has figured out is the annual close to spring practice is the opportunity to stage a big event where it cannot lose.
Offense struggles? Defense played well.
Offense rolls a bunch of points and yards? The offense is good.
Both sides struggle? The plethora of recruits in attendance see there is ample playing time available.
That line of recruits — 30-yards long and two-deep when lined up on the sideline prior to the game — was the audience the Sooners played to on Saturday.
They’re a hot program coming off a Sugar Bowl victory with an extremely energized fan base.
Clearly, the vibe around OU has changed.
“There’s a lot of confidence; we know what we have to do to get there,” OU linebacker Eric Striker said.