For nearly a week in the unforgiving grasp of Sooner Nation, the most hated assistant coach to set foot on Owen field prepped his defense for a battle with the most hated team amongst sooner fans.
Mike Stoops has come under fire for over a year for some of the most unquestionably bad games at the University of Oklahoma. After another head-scratching performance in a loss to Iowa State where OU gave up 449 yards of offense to a team quarterbacked by a linebacker!?!?, the seat was hotter than the stadium as fans poured into the cotton bowl. A lot was riding on this game going into Saturday. Lose and your season is essentially over. Win and all is forgotten and a better outlook on the future can at least be discussed. The best time to get this done is a rivalry game, and no sport does rivalries like college football.
College football rivalries are simultaneously everywhere and rare, played only once a year. Rivalry games that kick off Saturday go by names like Bedlam, the Civil War, the Apple Cup, and The Iron Bowl. Saturday, all eyes were on a game affectionately known as the Red River Showdown.
Baker Mayfield and his belly toting crop topped jersey played another fascinating game, completing 17-of-27 passes for 302 yards and a touchdown against a very physical and much improved Texas Longhorn defense. Mayfield threw his first interception of the season (broke Jason White’s school record of 198 consecutive passes without a pick at 200) to John Bonney, but in the end delivered a perfect, 59-yard strike to Mark Andrews for the game-winner with 6:53 to play.
Running back Trey (Perine) Sermon continued his exciting freshman campaign rushing for 96 yards on 20 punishing carries, catching two passes for 11 yards and throwing a beauty 42-yard pass to Marquise Brown. Texas defenders looked like they had seen the ghost of Perine after Sermon was done blessing them.
Yet still, with all of the good the offense was able to do early on, they sputtered out after halftime and had to rely on the defense to win the game. Every fan wearing Crimson and Cream stood with a grimace as the game unfolded. Freshman QB Sam Ehlinger had sliced up the Sooner’s defense all day to the tune of 384 total yards of offense and with the ball back and time to drive the field for a game-winning score; sweat began to drip from everyone’s face from nerves instead of the temperature. Still, time after time the defense came away with big answers to keep the Sooners in the lead. “It’s part of the business,” Stoops said. “You’ve got to take the good with the bad. A lot of it, some of it is deserved. You earn your criticism sometimes. It’s not always right — it’s easy for people to attack you personally. That, to me, is upsetting. But that’s just part of the business.”
After clear preferential treatment by the refs in a Red River Rivalry in 1984, Barry Switzer once said, “It might be a neutral field, but last I checked, Dallas is still in Texas.” This seemed to ring true time and time again as the Oklahoma defense was illegally assaulted to no avail, but Mike Stoops, sitting on a seat on fire, believed in his players for one last play and after a few laterals, the final tackle was made and a simultaneous exhale was released by Sooner nation. “I’ve been around too long; I know what my resume is. I know what I’ve accomplished in my coaching career. My players know, they understand it, and I’ll put it up against anybody.”
For Riley, it was his first win in what looks to be a promising Rivalry between him and Texas head coach Tom Herman. See you next Saturday.