The Norman Transcript

November 25, 2007

Back in the swing of things

John Shinn

Circumstances beyond Oklahoma’s control forced it to turn to its run game as it prepared to face Oklahoma State.

Quarterback Sam Bradford was coming off a concussion and temperatures plunged into the 30s Saturday.

The extenuating factors were a blessing to the Sooners.

The Sooners looked like a juggernaut once again in Saturday’s 49-17 romp over the Cowboys.

Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson both played into the decision to try to rev up the running game early.

“I wanted to get him (Bradford) settled in and I thought the best way to do that was to see if we could get our run game going,” Wilson said Sunday. “We challenged our guys to be a lot better with that part of our football team. It was a way to see if we were going to be able to execute that.”

Rushing for 307 yards and getting running back Allen Patrick out of a six-game funk with 202 of that total met the challenge. It was the most rushing yards OU has rolled up against a Big 12 opponent this season by more than 100 yards.

“Their offensive line mashed us,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “They just knocked us back and pummeled our guys.”

Few doubted OU’s offensive line had a performance like that in it. In the preseason, the Sooners’ group was being compared to some of the best in the program’s rich history.

It had five starters back from the previous year with Branndon Braxton, Trent Williams, Duke Robinson, Brandon Walker and Jon Cooper. Junior college transfer Phil Loadholt was added to the mix as well.

The unit has been solid. Bradford’s only been sacked eight times this season and it’s doubtful he’d be having a breakout season without the wall that is typically around him.

But OU has lacked a certain assertiveness when it came to running the ball.

That changed against Oklahoma State.

“We got challenged to come out in this game and really make a statement,” Cooper said. “We really tried to come out and run the ball for four quarters. It was a challenge from every coach on the staff to come out and run the ball strong.”

The Sooners scored touchdowns on all four of their first-half possessions despite only attempting seven passes before the intermission. Bradford had a relatively light day. He was 11-for-15 for 150 yards, but threw four touchdown passes.

What No. 9 OU (10-2) tries to do against No. 1 Missouri (11-1) is a mystery.

Bradford eliminated any questions about lingering effects from the concussion with his performance against OSU. He threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns against the Tigers in OU’s 41-31 victory in the Oct. 13 regular-season meeting.

There won’t be any weather elements to worry about. Those won’t matter in a domed stadium.

Wilson would like to think OU could bottle up the execution and the attitude and take it to San Antonio. But nothing is a given.

“We have a great group that works hard. But I think that was the first time in a while I saw a little edge with our team being physical and with our readiness to go and play,” Wilson said. “Will they go out and do it again this week? We’ve had some situations where I thought we’d be ready to go and we haven’t been, so we’ll see.”

OU’s inability to play at a consistent level is the reason it’s playing for a conference championship and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl, while Missouri knows claiming the league title will also secure a berth in the national championship game.

OU coach Bob Stoops insists that’s more than enough to play for.

“There’s a lot of pride in that,” he said. “I think it’s obvious. You look at what everyone else is doing everywhere, it’s not easy to do. Winning your conference championships are always exciting and special. So as a program, there’s a lot of pride there to be able to do it, and have a chance at it.”