By John Rohde // SoonerSports.com
From the jump, let it be understood the name “Superman” was designated for the play itself, not for the man who made the play. No matter, because in the eyes of many Oklahoma football fans, former Sooners uber defender Roy Williams often was Superman.
There have been many great plays in the Oklahoma-Texas series at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas during the Bob Stoops era, which began in 1999. None was greater than when Superman took flight on Oct. 6, 2001, when No. 3-ranked Oklahoma held a 7-3 lead over No. 5-ranked Texas with 2:06 remaining in the game.
The Longhorns were about to start a drive at their own two-yard line because Texas safety Nathan Vasher inexplicably opted to down a pooch punt six feet short of the goal line rather than letting the ball bounce into the North end zone for a touchback to give UT the ball at the 20-yard line.
The game had been a defensive showdown from both sides to that point, so there seemed little chance the Longhorns would be able to advance the ball 98 feet, let alone 98 yards for a go-ahead touchdown.
“Let’s just get a completion. Let’s get the drive started,” Simms said in a sideline huddle before the Texas offense trotted out to the line of scrimmage. “I saw I had one-on-one coverage on my right side with our (wide receiver) Roy Williams. So I drop (back) thinking, ‘I’m OK. I’m protected. I’m not hot (being blitzed).’ ”
Arguably the nation’s best collegiate defender at the time, the 6-foot, 221-pound Williams was considered a “hybrid,” which meant he could play just about any defensive position from end to strong safety.
Williams lined up as the right outside linebacker on the play. When the ball was snapped, OU linebacker Teddy Lehman took two steps forward then bluffed a blitz. This created an open path for Williams to run between the left guard and tackle and make a bee-line for the left-handed Simms.
Williams might not have been able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, he was able to leapfrog Texas running back Brett Robin, who wound up barely scrapping Williams’ legs as he flew over.
“I did see your (OU’s) Roy Williams about to blitz (before the snap), but I also saw the OU coaches yell at Roy the last time he blitzed and jumped earlier in the game,” Simms said. “I will say I wasn’t expecting him to jump again, nor was I expecting him to hit me at all.”
I will say I wasn’t expecting him to jump again, nor was I expecting him to hit me at all.
Former Texas QB Chris Simms
A horizontal Williams dove over Robin and was about to pounce on Simms, whose original plan was to take a three-step drop while looking in the right flat for UT’s Roy Williams. Simms wound up taking a two-and-a-half-step drop.
Though he was airborne at the time, OU’s Roy Williams still assumed the normal tackling position with both arms ready to wrap around Simms, albeit flying at eye level.
“I knew I was going to have to get rid of the ball quickly and throw a fastball,” Simms explained. “When I wind up (to throw), the big guy jumps over the top. He then put me on a number of bad highlights (replayed) from there on out.”
Williams said he wasn’t trying to knock the ball away from Simms, whose left arm was cocked. Williams’ right hand happened to hit the ball, and the ball happened to flutter into the waiting arms of Lehman, who ran two yards into the end zone to give OU a 14-3 lead with 2:01 left.
“I remember getting up and seeing Teddy running into the end zone and everybody running over to him,” Williams said. “All I’m doing is looking up into the crowd (in the Texas end zone) and giving them the hook ’em horns down. That’s pretty much what I did.”
Because the ball was out of Simms’ hand before his arm had moved forward, technically it was a two-yard fumble return rather than an interception. “Whatever you want to call it, we scored and won the game,” Williams said. “First, I have to give all thanks and credit to Nathan Vasher for muffing that punt and them getting the ball on their two-yard line. He was our greatest teammate that day.”
It also was a great day for Williams. Just 15 seconds after the Superman play, he intercepted a Simms pass in the middle of the field. Earlier in the contest, Williams scooped up the ball after Andre Woolfolk had blocked a field-goal attempt.
As for Robin, “He took it maybe as hard as I did,” Simms said. “He felt like he let me down, the offense down by not making the block. I’ve never looked at it that way at all. We were all doing our best and unfortunately, sometimes even when you’re doing your best, things don’t work out.”
When Williams tried to jump over Robin earlier in the game. Simms saw Williams take flight and was able to scramble for an 11-yard gain. Williams sadly had failed to successfully clear Robin, who blocked Williams in his groin area.
“I promise you, I can still remember standing up when that play was over and I looked at the OU sideline,” Simms recalled. “I remember the OU coaches yelling at Roy (about leaving his feet) right then. Little did I know that it was going to come back two-fold, right in my face.”
Williams said he actually was asking to come out of the game to regain his senses after Robin’s well-placed hit, but Oklahoma coaches screamed at Williams to stay on the field. “The reason they said for me not to leave my feet was because I had gotten hit in the groin area,” Williams said. “They wanted me on the field and didn’t want to put myself in positions where I could get hurt.”
When Williams returned to the OU sideline after the Superman play, he was greeted and hugged by defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. “What people don’t know is that he (Stoops) was in my ear saying, ‘I told you not to (bleeping) jump,’ ” Williams said.
I was like, ‘Hey, that’s a cool play.’ I was just so hungry about playing the games back then that I never really took any time to appreciate the play itself.
Former Oklahoma DB Roy Williams
The first time Williams saw a replay of the Superman play, “I was like, ‘Hey, that’s a cool play.’ I was just so hungry about playing the games back then that I never really took any time to appreciate the play itself. I was like, ‘Who do we have to play next?’ Because that’s how we were taught with Mike and Bob Stoops. Enjoy it for what it is right now, but go on to next week.”
As enjoyable as the Superman play was, Williams said he had a chance to make a play that potentially could have exceeded it.
It came while he was blitzing Texas Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury, who is now the Red Raiders’ coach. “He tried to throw the ball over me and I picked it off in the air,” Williams said. “But then (teammate) Brendon Shelby bumped me and knocked the ball out of my way … and he didn’t even catch it. I remember that play. I mean, that would have been a great play. I had a bunch of other games where I thought, ‘Man, that could have been a great play,’ but that one (Superman) was a great play for me. It was the perfect stage, the perfect setup, the perfect environment in the perfect game to have that play.”
Eerily, Williams said he could have closed out the 2001 season by taking flight for a second time on that same stage.
With :09 left in that season’s Cotton Bowl, Arkansas began a drive at its own one-yard line. The score was 10-3 rather than 7-3. The line of scrimmage was in the south end zone rather than the north.
“Honestly, I had a chance to do the same Superman play against Arkansas, but I didn’t do it,” Williams said with a chuckle. “They were backed up. They called the same play and I could have did it, but I didn’t. I literally could have did it because it was the same setup. I didn’t do it because it was one of those moments you’re thinking, ‘Do you really want to try to repeat this?’ I was like, ‘Nope,’ and I didn’t do it.
“But I’m telling you, I could have done it.”
Superman II never transpired for Williams, but there was no need for a sequel because the original was perfect – even if Williams was under strict orders to not jump.
“Even though I’m on the bad side of it,” Simms admitted, “I’ll say that’s one of the best college football plays in history.”
SoonerSports.Com Top 10 Red River Plays of the Stoops’ Era
10. 2003: Dusty Dvoracek deflection, Jonathan Jackson return TD
9. 2011: Dom Whaley 64-yard TD with Brent Musburger “Bevo” call
8. 2011: A trifecta of defensive TDs
7. 2012: Trey Millard’s hurdle
6. 2000: Quentin Griffins scores six TDs
5. 2012: Damien Williams 95-yard TD and Kenny Stills’ block
4. 2007: DeMarco Murray hurdle TD
3. 2010: DeMarco Murray tight-rope act
2. 2000: Rocky Calmus’ interception with a cast
1. 2001: Roy Williams goes “Superman”
|About John Rohde|
|John Rohde is a respected name on the Oklahoma sports scene and will provide regular features for SoonerSports.com. Voted Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year five times, Rohde has covered OU football and basketball, the Oklahoma City Thunder, OKC/New Orleans Hornets, Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, the Final Four, Masters and PGA Tour. He spent over 26 years for The Oklahoman, serving as a columnist and beat writer. He can be heard on 107.7 The Franchise, the flagship station for OU Athletics weekdays from 5:30-9 a.m.|