October 8, 2012 by ryanoudoak
On “Shakedown Saturday”, the Sooners reassert themselves in the National Title chase.
Oklahoma made a statement in Lubbock on Saturday while the rest of the College Football world was watching other teams stumble. While Florida St., Georgia, Texas, and LSU were taking tumbles in their climb toward College Football’s ultimate pinnacle, the Sooners were picking themselves up from a meltdown of their own, two weeks prior, to Kansas St.
It wasn’t just being on the winning side of a football game that was positive for Oklahoma. No team in a BCS Automatic Qualifier Conference has won more games than Oklahoma since 2005. It wasn’t just that they were winning a game in Lubbock for the first time since 2003. That losing streak was the product of playing against the same Mike Leach offense Bob Stoops brought to Oklahoma when he was hired in 1999 because it was difficult to prepare against. It wasn’t just that they were winning a Big XII Conference game and getting back in the race. No team has won more Big XII Football Conference Titles since its formation in 1994 than Oklahoma. No, this was a big win because of the way Oklahoma won the game.
For two weeks, fans have been grumbling about the play calling of the offense and defense, the lack of intensity on defense and the lack of poise on offense. Even the Sooners starting MLB, Tom Wort, spoke to the press about the lack of intensity in practices. The lack of poise was owned by Landry Jones as he stood on the podium during a Monday press conference after the Kansas St. loss, but at the beginning of a bye week (players do not normally address the media during bye weeks). As Sooners fans gathered in the stadium in Lubbock and around their televisions across Sooner Nation, they prepared themselves to see the same issues that had plagued their beloved team through the first month of the season.
As the game started, it wasn’t unlike how previous games had gone this year. Jones guided the Oklahoma offense down the field for a Touchdown in a little more than 3 minutes. The Oklahoma defense then took the field and proceeded to chaperone the Red Raider offense down the field for a Touchdown of their own in less than 3 minutes. Sooner fans across the country took a big sigh, and it wasn’t of relief. But as the first half continued, something started to change. Jamarkus McFarland tipped a pass from Seth Doege deep in the Red Raider side of the field, intercepted the ball, and headed toward the end zone. On his way, Doege lunged at him, knocking the ball free, and Texas Tech pounced on it. Texas Tech then proceeded to march down the field and score a field goal to take the lead. Again, Sooners fans sighed. They had seen this show before. But then all of a sudden, the Oklahoma defense began to stiffen and the offense began to move the ball and score, extending the lead to 21-13 on a pass to Stills in the corner of the end zone.
As the offense gathered on the sideline, co-Offensive Coordinator Jay Norvell told the offense to get ready because the Defense was going to get them the ball back in the final 3:27 and they were going to score again. Moments later, Aaron Colvin made an interception that few athletes could make, jumping in front of a pass rifled by Seth Doege and snatching it out of the air. The offense would capitalize with a field goal to take a two-score lead going into halftime.
Texas Tech took the opening drive of the second half down the field to the Oklahoma 36 where they faced a fourth and 5. Sensing the game was getting out of hand, Texas Tech Coach Tommy Tubberville kept the offense on the field in an attempt to convert and extend the drive. RFr LB Frank Shannon sacked Doege for a 10-yard loss on the ensuing play to turn them back and give the ball back to the offense. Shannon had been inserted into the lineup in the first half for veteran Tom Wort who had struggled in pass coverage in the early going. Shannon responded well by leading the Sooners defense in tackles and recording one of the two sacks of Doege on the day. Landry Jones guided the Sooner offense quickly down the field on an 8-play drive that took less than 3 minutes off the clock highlighted by a 38-yard pass to Damien “Double D” Williams out of the backfield and down the sideline. I almost jumped out of my chair on the pass to Williams. For all the criticism that Jones has taken, and rightfully so, for being nervous in the pocket and having tunnel vision, this play demonstrated the growth that he has taken as a quarterback over the last four years. On this play, DE Dartwan Bush for Texas Tech rushed up the field and beat Sooner OT Daryl Williams into the backfield. Jones saw him and calmly stepped up into the pocket while keeping his eyes down field. He then quickly shifted to his right and rocketed a pass toward the sideline that was just above the outstretched arms of Raider LB Will Smith and hit Williams in stride running down the sideline. Williams remarked after the game that he thought Jones was throwing the ball out of bounds when he turned to throw his way. The Sooners would go on to finish that drive with another Blake Bell rushing touchdown to extend the lead to 31-13.
On the ensuing Texas Tech drive, Javon Harris intercepted a Doege pass intended for WR Eric Ward that was defended and tipped by Aaron Colvin on the second play of the drive and raced 46 yards for a pick six. On three consecutive drives, the Sooners defense had created three turnovers that were converted into 17 points and essentially ended the hopes of the Raider players and fans. The record crowd in attendance began to stream out of the stadium and quickly the atmosphere dissolved into a scrimmage-type feel as the coaches in the press box probably felt as though they could shout the plays down to the players on the field without worry of not being heard.
The hope that comes out of Saturday is from the cohesion we are starting to see from the newcomers who are seeing significant playing time for Oklahoma. True Freshman Durran Neal made the first two catches of his career and displayed confidence and athleticism. Damien Williams earned his first start and responded by leading the Sooners both in rushing and receiving yards. The offensive line which lost two starters at the beginning of fall practices protected Jones and didn’t allow a sack. The defense, which had forced only one turnover through three games, intercepted 3 passes from Seth Doege, who had come into the game with only 2 INTs on the year. Freshman LB Frank Shannon showed athleticism and play-making ability which had been absent from the linebackers since the graduation of Travis Lewis last year. A defensive line, which had been criticized by former Sooner Head Coach Barry Switzer during the bye week for not being talented enough, repeatedly put pressure on the Texas Tech quarterbacks throughout the night with a four-man rush.
The Sooners are starting to finally live up to the pre-season fourth ranked team that the Coach’s and the AP Writers voted them in the pre-season. The question remains, after a Week 4 loss to Kansas St., did their resurrection happen too late?