Sooner Road Warriors!

Sooner Road Warriors!

As an OU alumnus as well as a dedicated fan and follower of Sooner Football, I have had my concerns about the coaching leadership of Bob Stoops and the program since their epic collapse last season.  Honestly, Bedlam 2014 in Norman was a terrible sight for a sober fan (and not much better for the tipsy ones) as our beloved Sooners failed to emerge victorious in OT against the embolden and surging in-state rival the Cowboys of Oklahoma State.  The Sooner bowl misadventure versus Clemson was equally forgettable as I spoke of in this post from late last December.  To say the awful ending to last year cast a huge shadow of doubt upon this season and the Stoops regime is an understatement.  That doubt was assuaged little last week when the Sooner offense started slow against an outclassed Akron team but woke up in the second half to post a 41 to 3 win in the OU home opener.  All the Sooner faithful were left wondering how much Stoops was really showing in terms of offensive schemes and weapons and how he, his staff and team were going to prepare for and arise to the next challenge.

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That next challenge was the first real test for the 2015 Sooners, a road trip to one of the more hostile venues of the Southeastern Conference.  Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, home of the Tennessee Volunteers, provided a showcase for one of the best road come-from-behind victories in the storied history of Oklahoma Football.  Before the largest crowd ever to witness an OU football game (102,455), the game started out much like last week with the Sooner offense trying to find its rhythm and leaving the defense in less than desirable field position to stop a more evenly matched Volunteer squad.  Late in the first half the Sooners found themselves down by a score of 17 to 0 before true freshman, placekicker Austin Seibert, got them on the scoreboard with a 35 yard field goal at the 5:05 mark.  The OU defense made some adjustments and managed to hold the Volunteer offense scoreless in the second half.  After figuring out what works and adjusting accordingly, OU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley and QB Baker Mayfield managed to call the right numbers and find the end zone after the better part of 3 1/2 quarters.  The first TD was a two yard pass to OU running back Samaje Perine at the 9:02 mark in the 4th quarter and a five yard pass to Sterling Shepard in the final minute of regulation to tie the score at 17-17.  The Volunteers appeared wholly content to take the contest to overtime and let the time expire by taking a knee after the ensuing kickoff.

OU won the OT coin toss and opted to go on defense.  Volunteer RB Jalen Hurd found a soft spot in the OU D and rushed for an 8 yard TD which, after the PAT, put Tennessee up 24 to 17.  OU answered with a sustained rushing attack culminating in Mayfield calling his own number for a 1 yard TD run tying the game yet again 24-24.  OU then went on offense to begin double overtime and Mayfield wasted little time once in the red zone by finding Sterling Shepard for an 18 yard TD pass and excellent effort by Shepard to get into the end zone for the game’s final TD.  The Seibert PAT put OU up 31 to 24.  Tennessee then went on offense and on the third play of the series OU cornerback Zack Sanchez picked off a Josh Dobbs pass to secure the Sooner victory!

I admit to hearing a lot of murmurings to the effect that Stoops has become complacent and has perhaps outlasted his usefulness in Norman.  The result of this key early season matchup will likely put those doubts to rest, at least for now.  College football is a brutal business, brutal in that if success is not demonstrated in terms of enough marks in the “W” column then something has to change, namely the head coach.  Yes, I have heard many advocate trying to cure the headache by cutting off the head and I have seen it occur in so many instances in Norman and elsewhere.  Hopefully, with adjustments and new talent, Stoops had eradicated that massive migraine that plagues so many of the OU faithful.  For now all are content to bask in the glow of prime time success on ESPN.

OU cornerback Zac Sanchez secures the Sooner victory

Next Saturday on Owen Field in Norman is going to be a true to life Route 66 grudge match between OU and the University of Tulsa.  It is shaping up to be a battle of undefeated in-state rivals as the Golden Hurricane travels down the Mother Road sporting a 2-0 record on the season and seeks to avenge last year’s debacle on 11th Street.  Ah, September in Oklahoma.  Life is good!

OU vs Tennessee box score

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