OU Viewed Through an Opponent’s Eyes
ULM head coach Todd Berry himself is no stranger to the state of Oklahoma, starring as an all-state quarterback in high school in Miami, Okla., before playing at the University of Tulsa. Berry later returned to his alma mater as receivers coach in 1984 before coaching a year at Oklahoma State in 1985.
As an Oklahoma native, the Warhawks’ head coach maybe has an even better appreciation of the direction that Bob Stoops has taken the OU Football program since his arrival in Norman.
“I have tremendous admiration for Bob Stoops and what he’s done there, partly because I grew up in the state of Oklahoma and I recognize the monster that that thing is,” Berry commented. “Maybe as coaches we tend to appreciate this more than the fan bases do sometimes because you look at the number of wins that he’s had and the average wins that he’s had, 10.6 or 10.7 per year.
“I don’t care where you’re at, in college football today that’s astounding,” Berry continued. “It is hard to win games, and that is astounding. We know we’re going to face a team that is talented and very well-coached in a hostile environment, and golly, you wouldn’t want to open up the season any other way, would you?”
Berry also has the unenviable task of preparing his defense for a quarterback who has played in a grand total of zero college contests. In other words, it was time to track down some of QB Trevor Knight’s game film from Reagan High School in San Antonio, Texas.
“First of all, I don’t think Oklahoma has a bad player, so we know we’re facing a really good player,” Berry said. “Second, we went back and we watched his high school video to get a better idea of who he is and what he’s about. He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s a guy who can extend plays. He’s got a very, very live arm. You know I’ve talked multiple times before about how much I enjoy watching the prolific quarterbacks on video and just studying them, and he’s a guy who is going to present an awful lot of problems, not just for us, but for everybody else in the rest of their season.”
Starting Debuts For Freshman Sooner QBs
After Trevor Knight rushes out of the tunnel at historic Memorial Stadium on Saturday, soaking in the roar of thousands of Sooner faithful, he’ll hopefully channel the performances of Sam Bradford, Eric Moore and Steve Collins – a trio of freshmen quarterbacks who got off to solid (and victorious) starts as Sooners.
Bradford came away with victories in their inaugural games, with Moore claiming a 38-22 win over San Diego State in 1995 and Bradford’s squad thumping North Texas by a 79-10 count in 2007.
Bradford, a future Heisman Trophy winner, put on a show against the Mean Green that no Sooner fan would forget, going 21 of 23 for 363 yards and three touchdowns as OU thumped North Texas by a 79-10 count in 2007.
Bradford not only set the school record for most passing yards in a Sooner debut, he also set OU marks for most passing yards in a half with 350 and most consecutive completions with 18. OU’s 79 points were the school’s second-highest point total since 1919.
The Oklahoma City native went on to have one of the most successful freshman seasons in collegiate history, setting an NCAA freshman mark with 36 touchdown passes and leading the nation with a 176.5 passing efficiency. Oklahoma went on to win the Big 12 title and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl.
Although he played in a much different era and a much different offense, Moore went completed 11 of 22 passes with 143 yards in the SDSU win in addition to rushing for 35 yards. The lefty started all 11 games that season, completing 90 of 200 passes for 1,375 yards with seven touchdowns.
According to the 1990 Oklahoma Football Media Guide, Steve Collins was the first freshman to start the first game of the season at quarterback for the Sooner. Collins led OU to a 73-3 rout of New Mexico State.
In the last three decades, Oklahoma has hasn’t been afraid to hand the reins to a freshman quarterback. While he didn’t start the season opener, Landry Jones did start in the Sooners’ home opener as a freshman in 2009, leading OU to a 64-0 victory over Idaho State. Jones, who went on to became the third-most prolific passer in college football history, went 18-for-32 for 286 yards and three touchdowns with all three of those scores going to WR Ryan Broyles. Jones finished the year with over 3,000 yards passing.
Current OU assistant coach Cale Gundy also saw significant time as a freshman, earning Big Eight Newcomer of the Year in 1990. Gundy eventually became the first quarterback in OU history to throw for over 4,000 yards in a career. And fervent OU fans will recall that Gundy also played baseball for the Sooners.
Of course, the 1985 season didn’t begin with a freshman under center. Sophomore Troy Aikman piloted the Sooner Schooner for the first four games of the year before suffering a broken ankle against Miami. Enter freshman Jamelle Holieway who started for the first time in week five and never looked back, reeling off eight straight wins to end the season as the Sooners switched back to the wishbone offense. Led by Holieway, the season was capped by an Orange Bowl victory that gave OU its sixth national championship. Holieway set numerous OU records on his way to being named a unanimous All-Big 8 selection.
Believe The Heup
OU co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel has been there, done that. Being a quarterback on a national championship team comes with a lot of lessons.
So what advice to give a redshirt freshman that’s never played a game?
“It’s still football,” Heupel recounted telling Trevor Knight. “It’s still 11 on 11. You’ve got to enjoy and appreciate it, but once you cross the white line you’ve got to buckle down your chin strap. It’s still 11 on 11. There are going to be ups and downs, but you’ve got to continue to play ball.”
Heupel commented that Knight has worked hard to be at the level he’s at today.
“He’s smart, he’s competitive, he’s a great leader and he works extremely hard every day,” Heupel observed. “You know what you’re getting in the meeting room and on the practice field first and foremost. As a player he can distribute the ball on the outside and stretch the field. You’ll get a good chance to see him on Saturday night.”
Besides the strong arm and quick feet, Heupel pointed to Knight’s example as he leads the Sooner offense into their first game this weekend.
“He’s a young guy, so he’s leading by example,” Heupel said. “I think that’s the first way you can lead. He’s consistent in how he approaches every day. He’s been consistent in the offseason. He’s the same guy every day out there on the practice field. He makes a mistake, but he doesn’t hang his head. He comes back and responds in a big way, and we’ve got some guys who have played a lot of football who see the energy and effort that he brings, and I think our offense can feed off that.”
Heupel believes the entire offensive side has stepped up and put in the work necessary to succeed.
“I just believe that for a quarterback to play well 10 of the guys around him have to play well,” Heupel said. “Certainly that’s the case when you have a quarterback that hasn’t played before to make his job easier and allow him to make good decisions and not put him in bad situations, but the guys around him have to play at a higher level. The guys that competed worked extremely hard through training camp. They’ve pushed to be mentally and physically where you need to be on Saturday night. Now you finish up your practice week, but it’s time to play a football game to find out where you’re at.”
Defensive backs Tony Jefferson, Javon Harris and Demontre Hurst were three of the Sooners’ top tacklers in 2012. Attrition and graduation are a part of life in college football. Though the OU defense will need to replace the vacancies left by that trio left, the Sooners’ coaching staff believes the their collection of returning players and newcomers are stepping in and stepping up to the job.
“I think that we’ve got a chance to be really good,” said Bob Stoops of the secondary. “Everyone knows that Aaron Colvin and Gabe Lynn have played a lot of football. Gabe playing in the deep position has really looked good. I’m excited about Julian Wilson with the way he played last year, and now he’s a year older. Quentin Hayes is in one of the safety positions and has really come on and played well consistently through camp and played well.”
On the unofficial OU depth chart, Lynn and Hayes are slated in the top safety spots with Wilson at the nickel position. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Zach Sanchez is anticipated to see extensive duty on Saturday night.
“Zack’s confidence has grown a lot, and when you have confidence as a corner it allows you to make a lot of plays,” said OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. “That is his main suit right now. He has good feet, he has good quickness and he is really smart; really aware of things. When he goes out there he makes plays and he always finds a way of getting a hand on at least two or three balls. I know he will do the same this weekend.”
But Sooner fans can also be on the lookout for other new faces to see some playing time Saturday as a contingent of freshmen have performed well enough this fall to earn spots in the rotation. Freshmen Ahmad Thomas, Hatari Byrd, Stanvon Taylor and Dakota Austin are all listed on the depth chart heading into the contest against ULM.
“The young DBs are all really good, the young backers are good, the young defensive linemen are good,” said Bob Stoops. “It’s a really good class.”
Reminder – Stadium Policy Updates and I-35 Construction
Fans – have your game plan ready for Saturday. As a reminder, please plan for alternate routes to the game due to construction on the Interstate 35 corridor. A major reconstruction project is currently underway on the I-35 corridor in Norman that will have a major impact on game day traffic flow. The I-35/Main Street Bridge interchange is being completely replaced, meaning there is no egress to or from I-35 to Main Street. Fans are strongly encouraged to plan alternate routes to their parking destination in advance. Extra time should be allowed for both arrival to and departure from the stadium.
And remember, new stadium security policies go into effect on Saturday. Here’s a quick recap:
Allowable Personal Items – Revised For 2013
· Women’s purses (smaller than 10”x10”)
· EMPTY, clear personal water bottle (for drinking water)
Other Allowable Items – Revised For 2013
· Approved medical devices
· Approved family care items (diapers, formula, etc. in bag 10”x10” or smaller)
Non-Allowable Items – Revised For 2013
· Any and all types of bags and backpacks (conventional or string-type cinch bags)
· Seat cushions and chair backs
· Merchandise bags
Fans not bringing a women’s purse or another allowable item into the stadium are strongly encouraged to utilize Express Lanes. Chair back seats are available at Sooner Seat Customer Service booths.
Express Lane Locations Sooner Seat Customer Service LocationsGates 1-7, 9-12 Gates 1, 5, 7, 11-12 and Upper West Concourse