Sept. 3, 2008
DATE OF GAME 2: Saturday, September 6th
VENUE: (Gaylord Family) Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
WHEN THEY BOOT IT: 3:30 p.m.
THE SERIES: Starts Saturday
by Scott Springer
If you're fortunate enough to be at this one this should be a fun atmosphere. With a capacity of 82,112, Oklahoma Memorial Stadium should be an experience for those of you that grew up watching Barry Switzer, the winningest coach in Sooner history (and perhaps the most bold and brash). Like him or not, Switzer won three national titles and no one (including Bob Stoops) has matched his winning percentage at OU.
For those traveling, this should be a big-time gameday experience that you'll probably never forget. Over the years I was able to visit places like Ohio State, Army (West Point), West Virginia, Penn State,
Wisconsin, Boston College, Kansas State, and Virginia Tech. In my book, they all rate high with their gameday atmosphere. The closest I ever made it to Oklahoma was a 1995 game in Tulsa that the Bearcats won 24-5. Former NFL defensive back Robert Tate returned a kickoff for a score in that one for you Bearcat historians (and an inadvertent Gatorade jug on the coach was poured on my radio equipment abruptly ending my post-game interviews).
For us, when we hear OU, we're thinking of Athens and the party reputation of the Bobcat faithful.
A word of warning: once you cross the Oklahoma line, OU takes on a completely different meaning.
If you don't want to get looked at like you're cross-eyed in Norman, don't reference the OU Bobcats.
One more note before I get on to your Bearcat breakdown, I write these in my style and from the perspective of a UC graduate, fan, and former broadcaster. The one thing I bring to the table is my enthusiasm for the program to do well and an ability to communicate to you just as I would if I we're sitting next to you at the 50.
Likewise, if I think UC's got issues, to the extent that I can, I'll certainly tell you about it.
If you were looking for the laboratory analysis of these games, you can go buy a preseason publication next time you're at the airport terminal or something. If you know your program like I do, I think you'll find them highly inaccurate and surprisingly uninformed.
Strap it on kids—here we go....
UC's offense vs. OU's defense
The Sooners won 57-2 last week, but let's face it, the Chattanooga Moccasins are not going to put the fear of God in any Big 12 team—let alone Oklahoma. Still, giving up just one first down and 36 total yards is pretty impressive. This is a game where UC's offensive line is going to have to give Dustin Grutza some time to get things done otherwise he'll have red/maroon OU helmets aiming at his mid-section all game. Defensive lineman Auston English led OU with six tackles and 2.5 sacks in the opener with the Mocs. Grutza's faced loud crowds and athletic linemen before at Penn State as a frosh and at OSU as a sophomore, so his scrambling ability will come into play. However, it's in these situations that Dustin's been turnover prone in the past. Perhaps last week's 0 INT performance in the opener will give him some confidence, but this Bearcat offense is worlds above the somewhat predictable units he was working with in his first two years. OU's secondary is pretty good with Lendy Holmes and Dominique Franks. Franks dropped an interception against Chattanooga, so they've yet to cause any turnovers. Also, you have to feel Dominick Goodman, Marcus Barnett, and Mardy Gilyard are considerably better than any of the wide-outs Chattanooga ran out. Against productive spread offenses last year the Sooners gave up points (34 in a loss to Texas Tech and 48 in the Fiesta Bowl vs. West Virginia).
NOD: Sooners are fast, but UC's quicker than people think. Playing in Norman, I call it even.
OU offense vs. UC defense
EKU scored just once against UC, but again, the EKU game is equivalent to Oklahoma's tilt with Chattanooga. Oklahoma has a far more effective, balanced attack coming at you which warrants their Top 5 ranking. Sophomore QB Sam Bradford was a very precision-like 17-of-22 for 183 yards and 2 TDs in the opener, while back-up Joey Halzle was 14-of-16 for 122 yards and a score. A combined
31-for-38 for 305 yards and 3 TDs will make any coordinator and QB coach smile. Plus, the Sooners
got 124 yards and 2 TDs from DeMarco Murray and 63 yards and a pair of scores from Chris Brown.
Outside of West Virginia, this is the most athletic team the Bearcats will face. Fortunately, UC has become much more fast-twitching over the years and this defense has to face Brian Kelly's 40-second, hurry-up offense nearly every day. Against Chattanooga, the only thing that stopped the Sooner offense was a lightning storm that made for a long halftime. The Bearcats actually have the talent to stop a drive here.
NOD: Early on, a Sooner edge, but I would expect UC to react and counter by the second half.
Kevin Huber was as advertised last week, back over 46 yards a boot and with hangtime that often threatens the lower cumulus clouds. However, the place-kicking was an early question (just like last year) as Jake Rogers had his first extra-point blocked and the second flat-out missed. It was Brandon Yingling from that point on and Brandon converted all of his tries. Because of his whacks into the endzone, Rogers will continue to kickoff. The Sooners also had a kicker miss an extra point (Jimmy Stevens), but did well on kickoffs with Matt Moreland inside the 10. Mike Knall is not the punter Huber is, but he's one of the best in the Big 12. Clearly last week, Knall was a lonely man.
NOD: 82,112 will be rooting for the guys not wearing black helmets. UC's last two games on grass (Pitt and USF last year) were mixed as far as kicking. The nod to OU in Norman.
Throw It Out And See Where It Sticks
Enough of UC's veterans have played in big stadiums to the point where crowd noise and other road intimidations shouldn't be a factor. In their most noteworthy road games of '07, UC was able to negate the crowds at then No. 21 Rutgers and No. 20 South Florida. Keeping the crowd out of it is the key and keeping the Sooner Schooner off the field is the other. Early on, the Schooner usually gets a workout when you consider 59 points last week and if you look at the first four in Norman last year the Sooners rang up 79, 51, 54, and 62 points before finally falling on the road at Colorado in Game 5. If you want to look at comparative games, UC lost to West Virginia, 28-23, and were within an Earnest Jackson grab over the middle of maybe pulling that out. Meantime, the Sooners were taken to the woodshed by the Mountaineers in the Fiesta Bowl, 48-28. So, for those few unfaithful of you that think playing with a team the caliber of Oklahoma is out of the realm of possibility, the proof is there. As always, years and personnel change though. Due to the “business” of college football in states such as Oklahoma, the Sooners will have sheer numbers on UC in terms of depth. Ones and twos are actually closer than you think, if not equal. I repeat: keep Boomer and Sooner (the Schooner mascot ponies) off the field. No ponies—no points! Long live the binturong!