One not a lonely number in Oklahoma
The crimson shirts some of third-ranked Oklahoma’s players wore after their 55-17 blowout of rival No. 11 Texas on Saturday made the point subliminally.
Those two words on the shirts were to remind them there is only one University of Oklahoma, but after mauling the Longhorns behind a team-record three defensive touchdowns, they were also a subtle reminder the Sooners are ranked No. 1 in the USA Today coaches’ poll. As of Saturday, the poll was the lone component of the BCS formula that had been officially released.
Having been atop The Associated Press poll until late last month, OU entered the Cotton Bowl on Saturday having fallen behind top-ranked LSU and No. 2 Alabama. But while the Sooners have dropped, they haven’t forgotten it.
“I don’t feel like the media really respects Oklahoma,” Sooners wide receiver Ryan Broyles said.
If that’s indeed the case, the media had better start wising up because the last time OU gave Texas a beat down like this was when the Sooners won the national championship in 2000 and played in the BCS title game in 2003.
And with a favorable schedule until it plays at sixth-ranked Oklahoma State to end the regular season, Oklahoma is poised for another national title shot behind its Heisman Trophy-candidate quarterback, Landry Jones, a trio of playmaking receivers and a physical defense with a bloodthirsty secondary called “The Sharks.”
“We’ve got a lot of confidence,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “We’re building, and it’s only our fifth game. We feel we can still be better.”
Make no mistake about it, though, Oklahoma needed to be convincing in this victory. This Texas team is rebuilding on the heels of a 5-7 record last year and entered the game vastly overrated with a young offense that truly hadn’t been tested.
Even Texas coach Mack Brown had to know this long before his Longhorns trailed 34-10 at halftime.
Texas first-year co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin had disguised the youth of his unit with a trick-play-heavy attack during its undefeated start over the first four games. But even the genius who called the Statue of Liberty play for Boise State to beat Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl couldn’t hide how overmatched his offense was against a hungry Sooners defense that produced five turnovers and eight sacks.
Harsin’s quarterback rotation of sophomore Case McCoy and freshman David Ash struggled so much with OU’s blitzing schemes that he would have been better off playing a carny working a football-throwing game at the State Fair of Texas outside the stadium. Between the two of them, they hadn’t thrown an interception entering the game, but Ash finished with two, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
By the early third quarter of the rout, when Oklahoma’s Frank Alexander sacked McCoy and caused him to fumble, the senior defensive end didn’t even look to see teammate David King pick up the ball and return it 19 yards for a touchdown. Instead, Alexander stood up after the hit, turned around and pointed at a demoralized Texas sideline.
“We just did a good job pinning our ears back at the appropriate time,” Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables said.
The Longhorns didn’t want to look, either, and who could blame them? They stunk worse than the deposits that Bevo made just beyond the Cotton Bowl’s north end zone.
Oklahoma made the Longhorns look so crappy that for once as they walked off the field to Sooners fans’ chants of, “Texas Sucks! Texas Sucks! Texas Sucks!” it really was true.
“I don’t think I’m shocked about anything much anymore,” Brown said. “I’m disappointed for the players.”
So were the Texas fans who fled to drown their sorrows at the fair in the second half, some of whom had giddily worn burnt orange “O Who?” T-shirts. The answer is an Oklahoma team that might just have the nation’s best combination of offense and defense.
Jones was unflappable with his 31-of-50 passing for 367 yards and three touchdowns, which prompted Brown to say the redshirt junior “played like a Heisman Trophy winner.”
But what’s most frightening for opponents is that more weapons are emerging for Jones beyond Broyles, his star wide receiver who had game-highs of nine catches and 122 receiving yards along with a touchdown.
Jones also has a pair of stellar sophomore wide receivers in Jaz Reynolds, who had six catches for 92 yards, and Kenny Stills, who had five catches for 51 yards and two touchdowns.
Reynolds missed almost all of last season after being suspended for tweeting, “Hey everyone in Austin, tx.......kill yourself" the day a gunman committed suicide on the University of Texas campus.
The eccentric Stills has a Mohawk with a blond streak in the back, a pierced bottom lip and arms covered in tattoos. Jones quipped that Stills’ improved play is because of his hair.
“It just takes a lot of pressure off me knowing that I have receivers that I can put the ball up to in tight coverage and they’re going to make the play,” Jones said.
And don’t forget about “The Sharks.” It’s what Oklahoma’s ball-hawking secondary calls itself.
They make a shark fin hand gesture on the top of their helmets during games. They forced three of Texas’ turnovers.
“We ate them up today,” said senior cornerback Jamell Fleming, who recovered a fumble and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Texas knew it afterward. Its players and coaches couldn’t fathom that Oklahoma had fallen in the Associated Press poll and lost first-place votes in the coaches’ poll
“They’re No. 1 in the country,” Brown said.
The rest of college football had better start taking notice of Oklahoma. Because, in the one poll that matters right now, the Sooners are the only one.