It’s Almost Bedlam Time in Oklahoma
On Saturday, the Sooners will look for their 84th victory over in-state rival Oklahoma State. The game is slated to begin at 11 a.m. at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., and will air on ABC. Oklahoma owns 83 previous victories against the Cowboys, more than any other foe the Sooners have faced.
Although OU enters this Bedlam matchup in the rare circumstance of OSU boasting a higher rating, head coach Bob Stoops doesn’t anticipate that his squad will approach this contest any differently as a road underdog.
“I think our team, in any situation, is always capable of winning and capable of playing well and doing well in this game or any other game,” Stoops said. “I think our history speaks to that.”
Running back Brennan Clay was the hero of last year’s 51-48 OT Bedlam win against the Cowboys in Norman. Naturally, Clay can’t think of a better way to close out the regular season than with a win in Stillwater.
“We played great this year,” Clay said. “We played some hard, tough games. We had some miscues but it’s football; you’re going to have your ups and downs. We’re going to go into this game and treat it like any other. It’s Bedlam, we know it’s a big rivalry game, but it’s football and whatever happens in between those lines is what’s going to happen and we need to prepare and focus up this week and treat it as another game.”
Clay is coming off a career-high 200-yard performance at Kansas State, giving Stoops an even greater appreciation for Clay’s subtle skills as a runner.
“Brennan has great vision and timing,” Stoops said. “I think timing is so important. I think timing is talked over so much with running backs that it’s all speed or power, but timing to allow certain seams to open and feel that timing, I think he has a great sense of it to allow things to open before he tries to go make his play.”
Last season’s Bedlam matchup at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium featured the first overtime game in the series. Not surprisingly, Clay has vivid memories of that contest.
“With Blake [Bell] going in at the end of the game to tie it with six, seven seconds left and going into overtime,” Clay said. “We were able to execute very well, I made a few plays, the O-line did a great job, and just being able to win that finale like that, it was something special to be a part of in overtime.”
And to say that touchdown run against Oklahoma State was one of the defining moments of his OU career would be an understatement.
“It’s up there,” Clay shared. “I’d say it’s probably one of my favorite career moments. I personally liked to be a part of my first 100-yard game last year against Iowa State. I just felt that was more of a confidence booster. With that being said, that finale was something special.”
Fellow senior, cornerback Aaron Colvin, savored that victory, well. Colvin likewise has fond memories of facing the Cowboys for the only time during his career in Norman.
“That was one of my favorite games of my career here,” Colvin quipped. “With that being such a tight game and a shootout and us coming from behind so close to the end of the game, that was huge for us. That will be one of my best memories. When Brennan (Clay) broke that it was huge and they still have a sour taste about that as well so we have to remember that. Last year doesn’t matter. It’s a new year and a new season so we have to come out and be prepared for this game.”
But Colvin balked at the notion that the Sooners might be savoring an opportunity to knock the Cowboys out of this year’s Big 12 title race.
“I mean it’s Bedlam,” said the Tulsa native. “That’s all the motivation we really need. We aren’t trying to knock them out of anything, we are just trying to get this win. That’s what we are trying to do every week. We are trying to beat everybody. It’s a rivalry game. We always want to win our rivalry games.”
Sooners Trying to Top Chelf & Cowboys
After Oklahoma State lost a 30-21 decision at West Virginia on Sept. 28, many pundits thought QB Clint Chelf and the Cowboys’ season was cooked. Instead, Oklahoma State has rattled off seven straight wins, including three against AP Top 25 foes, Texas Tech, Texas and Baylor.
Much of the OSU’s success during that stretch can be attributed to the play of Chelf, who ranks fourth in the Big 12 in total offense, averaging 189.7 yards per game. CB Aaron Colvin knows that in a league of talented quarterbacks, Chelf presents yet another multi-purpose offensive threat.
“He can run,” Colvin stated. “He can pass and he has been very efficient. And it seems like his confidence, especially here lately, is a lot higher. I’ve played Clint for a while now and he is a great player. I played him in high school. He is doing really well right now. We have to be ready for his best game.”
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops also noted that Chelf’s ability to run and throw gives the Cowboys’ offense another dimension.
“The quarterback draw has always been part of their offense, and they’re very strategic in how they try to get it and how they try to keep you off balance with it,” Stoops indicated. “They’re running it probably more with him (OSU QB Clint Chelf) than they have in the past, but I think we have to limit his plays out of the pocket. We don’t see him moving all around the pocket trying to get rid of the football. I think he’s a pocket thrower that they keep you off-balance with his ability to run. We saw that a year ago with their second series of quarterback draw hurt us early in the game a year ago, so that’s something you have to be prepared for from a defensive, you know, we have to account for him in certain situations.”
Turnovers and Third Downs Are Keys to Victory
“The consistency of their quarterback play has been evident through this second half of the year probably,” head coach Bob Stoops said of Oklahoma State. “The consistency on defense has been really good as well. Really the turnover margin as well if you look at the last few games. That is a major factor, as well.”
During their seven-game winning streak, OSU is +13 in the turnover column with 22 takes and only nine gives. The Cowboys have also converted 37.1 percent (39 of 105) of their third-down conversions over that span. No one knows the importance of winning the turnover battle more than cornerback Aaron Colvin.
“It is huge,” the senior captain said. “Coach Stoops is preaching it already. We have to win the turnover battle. They do so good at getting takeaways and not necessarily giving the ball away as well. Their turnover ratio is great and we have to be great, as well.”
The other thing that Stoops is preaching is playing complimentary football. That means moving the chains on third downs offensively and getting off the field defensively on third down.
“I think it’s what you have seen from a lot of people in these games is that you win together. Sometimes in these games everybody blames, like oh, it was the defense or oh it was the offense. It’s the two of you fighting together. Yes, the offense has to pick up third downs, has to move the football and have it’s time of possession and score points and the defense has to get its third down stops.
“If you look at them (Oklahoma State) in the past four or five games they’re like plus 16 in turnover margin,” Stoops continued. “If we’re on the bottom end of that we’re not going to win these games. If you’re on the plus end of it picking up third downs and scoring and getting your opportunities together, that’s how you win in these games. That’s how they beat Baylor. They win in the turnover margin. They win in third downs. They win the time of possession by a long shot. That’s how we beat Kansas State a week ago. We had a pick six. We won third and fourth downs by a long shot and we won the time of possession by probably 11 minutes more than they did, and that’s how you win, together. That’s what we have to do.”
If you think defensive coordinator Mike Stoops shares a similar mindset when it comes to this game, you’d be right.
“I think all games like this for us come down to third down and turnovers,” he said. “I think that’s always going to be critical to keep them off the field and not let them get in rhythm. So, early in the game trying to not let them get in rhythm becomes very important. People don’t realize how important from a defensive strategy to get the first couple of third downs or get them in situations that give you a little bit of an advantage, and I think that will be a big part of this game, just trying to get off the field and keep them at bay offensively will be a big part of what we do. That’s a big part every week when we play defense is getting off the field on third downs and getting them in third and longs where we can pressure and put more pressure on the offense.”
Iron Bowl Ending
The ending of Saturday’s Iron Bowl, the rivalry game between Auburn and Alabama, provided college football fans with one of the most memorable endings in recent memory. As a 57-yard field goal attempt for Alabama fell short, Auburn’s Chris Davis returned it for the game-winning 109-yard touchdown.
On Monday, Stoops was asked if his teams practice covering returns on long field goal attempts, much like the play that happened during the Auburn victory.
“Not very often,” Stoops admitted. “It makes you want to do it more, but to be quite honest with you I don’t think we’ve had one in a few years that has come up short. There is always the factor of are you good enough against the fake with a guy not all the way up there so there is a lot consider in those situations.”
Quote of the Day
“For a true freshman to come in and do what he has done through this period of time has been really one of the more impressive freshmen on defense that we have ever had. He has been really strong and consistent and continues to get better.” – Bob Stoops on LB Dominique Alexander