Real quick before we get going... Doug Rigg walked into the airport and flew back with his team to Morgantown, West Virginia last night. Rigg laid motionless on the field after taking a scary shot in the fourth quarter and was taken off the field on a backboard and immediately transported to the hospital. As we reported in the post game it was more of a precautionary move and Rigg flew back with the team last night... Now onto some observations:
1 -- Is there a quarterback controversy? Of course there is... but Bob Stoops has said all along that he expected Blake Bell to keep competing for the starting job. When Trevor Knight struggled moving the team last night against West Virginia, Bell made the most of his opportunity. Now don't get too carried away, it's not like Bell came in and engineered a 15 play 80 yard scroing drive with a mixture of pass and run. Blake did exactly what the Sooners needed at that point in the game. He provided an offensive spark that was so desperately missing. Coach Merv said in the post game show that if he were the coach he would make the change. I predicted in the post game show that I didn't think that a change would be made. But there is one thing that is absolutely undeniable, all three of these quarterbacks support each other. Yes, I said three... lets not forget Kendall Thompson has started throwing and will play a role once he becomes healthy enough to participate in full practices. Also take a moment to identify the way in which a redshirt freshman handled getting replaced in the fourth quarter of just his second game. Trevor Knight did not pout nor did he openly or publicly feel sorry for himself. He went right up to the offensive line and congratulated them after the scoring drive and was right in the middle of the offensive huddle. A very mature way to handle a very difficult situation that had to be much tougher on Knight when he heard the way the crowd roared when Bell took the field. And lets not forget to go ahead and cancel the obituary for the BellDozer, as the great John Hoover pointed out when the game had wrapped up... "The BellDozer Lives". Kudos to Bell for making the most of his shot. Again he was not really asked to do much, but he provided an energy that had been lacking throughout the game offensively. The question on the mind of Josh Heupel, Jay Norvell, and Bob Stoops... Are they willing to wait on a redshirt freshman and live through the inevitable mistakes that will occur. Is the ability of Knight so sky high and his ceiling so unlimited that a 4 turnover performance is just a bump in the road for what could be a special first year starter. OR... is it time to hand the reigns to Bell who seems to have a little bit more of an edge to him, is more accomplished even in limited action throwing the football, and may be a better game manager. The defense has been so good in the first 8 quarters it has allowed Knight to learn on the job quite a bit without costing the Sooners too terribly much on the field. But last nights turnovers, specifically the interceptions and fumble on a poor read by Knight, might have been enough for Coach Stoops to say its time to go with the veteran.
2 -- Get Used To It!! This is not going to be the OU offense that you were used to under Landry Jones the last three seasons. This running game is solid and as we witnessed against West Virginia and Louisiana Monroe, is definitely capable of carrying the Sooners to a win. Will teams force the Sooners to throw the football at some point? Yes they will and that could come as soon as this Saturday against Brent Guys University of Tulsa defense. Most of last season fans and observers seemed disappointed in an offense that relied too much on the pass and would often put the defense in a tough spot with quick scores or quick three an outs. This is a much more physical brand of football from Oklahoma, and it's not going to change. Against a team like Tulsa this Saturday morning the Sooners may throw the football a bit more to build the confidence of either Bell or Knight, but it will be rare in 2013 when you see this team attack by throwing the football more than passing the ball. It might not always be pretty and it might not always make the highlight shows. But it will give the defense more of a rest and will allow the deepest position on the team, running back, will be showcased.
3 -- Defense Continues to Shine. Despite giving up 75 yard touchdown run on the first drive of the game for West Virginia, the Sooner defense again buckled down and stole the show on Saturday Night. Despite losing Aaron Colvin early in the third quarter to what appeared to be a concussion, the Sooner defense buckled down and shut down the Mountaineers time after time. Gabe Lynn has truly developed into a leader for this defense and has embraced his role as a play maker. Lynn made a big interception as the Sooners forced 4 turnovers to help counter the 4 turnovers that stalled the Sooner offense. Eric Striker is making such a big impact early in the season that West Virginia was sliding its protection to account for the attacking linebacker. Corey Nelson has continued to show marked improvement from last year and the defense just looks faster. Perhaps the biggest difference maker has been the defensive tackle position. Jordan Phillips has been a major factor on just about every snap he has been a part of in 2013.
4 -- Trey Freaking Millard. I know that the continual charge is to get Millard more touches and at some point it will happen. But Millard had an amazing impact on the game and only touched the ball once. I know fans want to see him more involved, but he absolutely is more involved. Millard is the best special teams player on the roster and pro scouts are taking notice. On punt and kick returns the Big Cat is routinely the first player in position to make a play. On offense he has developed into a bruising blocker. The time will come when the game plan calls for Millard to be more involved in the game plan both rushing and receiving the football. But so far in the early part of the 2013 season, Millard is one of the biggest difference makers in the Sooner run game. His job blocking can NOT and should not go unnoticed.
5 -- Game Ball to the Fans. Brennan Clay made sure to give kudos to the fans during his post game interview on the Sooner Radio Network and OU fans deserved it. In fact, Clay said it was even hard sometimes when OU was on offense to hear the play change because the fans were buzzing. I understand that with this offense there can be lulls and four turnovers can add to the frustration in the seats. But when they were called upon to do so, the Sooner Nation was loud and made a difference. I think that we have this striping thing down too... the stadium looked incredible and despite the heat and humidity the atmosphere was electric.
1. Impressive but room to improve. That seemed to be the common theme after the Sooners 34-0 win that had the feel of a game that was an absolute beating. ULM had to come away from last nights game feeling dominated. OU used its size, physicality, and athleticism to essentially control the game in a manner that you would expect them to against an inferior opponent. Former Sooner Ted Lehman said it best in the post game show... "If you lost 34-0 to OU last year, as the opponent you would probably sit in front of your locker wondering how that just happened. Tonight Louisiana Monroe is sitting in front of its lockers feeling beat up and dominated. This was bruising. This was Oklahoma Football."
2. This was a new era for the Oklahoma offense with an old school feel. After watching the spring game you knew that the quarterback run game was going to be a major part of the offensive attack in 2013, you just did not know exactly how much. I guess one early answer could be... quite a bit. Trevor Knight ran several zone read plays while the Sooners even broke out a series of option looks where Knight would wait until the last possible moment to flip to a waiting running back. The Sooner offense almost had a "wishbone" feel to it for most of the game. Smash mouth football was the order of the night and appears to be the order of the season for this Sooner attack. Oklahoma rushed for 305 yards while its defense held ULM to just 38 yards on the ground and 61 total plays. Keep in mind this offense averaged almost 80 plays per game last year. Equally as impressive, the Sooners ran 83 total plays with 50 of those coming in the first half. What should excite fans even more is that it appears as if OU has only scratched the surface in what they will do this year running the football.
3. This is a much more athletic Oklahoma defense than what we watched in 2013. I'm trying to temper my excitement and fan expectations, but its hard to not get excited after watching Corey Nelson, Frank Shannon, Erik Stryker, Charles Tapper, and Jordan Phillips flying around and making plays like they did last night. Tapper is only going to get better as he becomes bigger, stronger, and more familiar with the game. Tapper just started playing football as a Junior in high school and did not lift a weight until he came to the University of Oklahoma. The Sooner defense will get back Chuka Ndulue and Cortez Johnson after each served a game suspension. This will not only add to the depth on the interior but also the strengthen the corner position. Johnson was the projected starter opposite Aaron Colvin. Quincy Russell played about 10-15 snaps and is a house inside. As the season progresses he will become a bigger part of the defensive tackle rotation but it will be hard to find too much time behind Jordan Phillips who played extremely well last night. I know that many of the staff kept expecting the WarHawks to try and go deep on the OU defense but the Sooners kept constant pressure on quarterback Kolton Browning making it virtually impossible to allow anything to develop down the field. The Sooners will get tested against better offenses and better offensive lines, but last night was a solid and exciting launch for the 2013 campaign.
4. Trevor Knight passed his first test, now lets see how much he improves from his first start to his second start. You knew pretty quick that things were going to be different after Knight rushed 25 yards on 3rd and 10 during his opening drive. But the Sooners were unable to score on its first 4 possessions and at times Knight struggled. But OU managed to score on 3 straight possessions to end the first half and despite some hiccups in the passing game, the Sooner signal caller looked in control after what was frustrating start. Finally...I don't know how to best put this without it sounding incredibly cheesy so here goes... Trevor Knight is a pretty cool kid. After the spring game we had a brief chance to chat with Knight but last night was the first time that I really had an opportunity to sit and talk with the Sooner signal caller. Respectful, confident, impressive, well spoken, solid leader... I could go on and on. Beyond what you saw on the field, off the field Trevor Knight was equally impressive on Saturday night.
5. OU finally has someone to handle kick-off duties that can put it through the back of the endzone consistently. Nick Hodgson had 7 kick-offs and ULM had zero returns. Now a light wind helped Hodgson out just a bit, but after failing in his opportunity to seize the kick off duties last year Hodgson looked the part of someone who can neutralize the oppositions kick-off return game. It is a somewhat stunning turnaround for Hodgson who last year had a chance to handle a couple of kick-offs against KU and line drived both in less than impressive fashion. If last night is any indication then Hodgson will be a major part of the Sooner special team success in 2013. While we are talking about special teams make sure to watch Jay Boulware coach up his guys. When Jalen Saunders had his big 3rd quarter punt return the first guy to meet him on the field was Boulware. Jay has a passion that is contagious on the sidelines and a laser focus on the special teams play that definitely made a difference in week one.
Final Thought --> Great start for all three facets of the game... Offense, Defense, and Special Teams. The exciting part for fans is that we have only scratched the surface of what this offense is capable of AND it appears as if there are several more defensive wrinkles that could be added. It is just the start, but it was a fun and entertaining start.
Stoops Names QB Trevor Knight Starter For 2013 Opener
NORMAN, Okla. – Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops announced Thursday that redshirt freshman Trevor Knight will start at quarterback for the 2013 season opener against Louisiana-Monroe on Aug. 31.
“Both Trevor and Blake (Bell) have competed hard and both will be ready to play against Louisiana-Monroe,” Stoops said. “Like every other position on our team, I expect them both to continue competing for the starting job.”
A four-star recruit out of Reagan High School in San Antonio, Texas, Knight threw for 27 touchdowns and 2,092 yards with three interceptions as a prep senior while also rushing for 943 yards with 15 touchdowns. He also registered 1,050 rushing yards with 22 touchdowns to go along with 1,629 passing yards and 11 scores as a junior.
Important OU Stadium Policy Changes, I-35 Construction in Norman
NORMAN, Okla. — Fans attending University of Oklahoma Football home contests should begin planning now to ensure they are fully prepared for stadium policy changes and construction on I-35 that will impact them. The Sooners begin their home schedule with a 6 p.m. kickoff vs. Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday, Aug. 31.
Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium has adopted several “best practices” that have been implemented at many major collegiate, professional and entertainment venues nationwide. Providing a safe environment for our guests remains an ongoing priority at the University of Oklahoma, along with increasing the comfort and efficiency of all individuals entering the facility.
Allowable Personal Items – Revised For 2013
Other Allowable Items – Revised For 2013
Non-Allowable Items – Revised For 2013
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 Locations
Gates 1-7, 9-12 Gates 1, 5, 7, 11-12 and Upper West Concourse
Fans that purchase merchandise outside the stadium or have items not adhering to these standard should plan to return it to their vehicles before entering the stadium. Advance planning will help our team serve you better on game day and alleviate potential frustration at stadium gates.
PLEASE PLAN FOR ALTERNATE ROUTES, CONSTRUCTION ON 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.
Southbound I-35 Traffic (From OKC)
o Exit 113 (Highway 77 – left exit) – continues into Norman as Flood Avenue
o Exit 112 (Tecumseh Road) provides access to alternate southbound routes running parallel to I-35
§ 36th Avenue NW (west of I-35)
§ 24th Avenue NW (east of I-35)
o Numerous other alternative southbound routes exist, including:
§ Sooner Road/12th Avenue NE
§ Western Avenue/60th Avenue NW
Northbound I-35 Traffic (From Pauls Valley)
A full list of items prohibited at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium follows. The OU Athletics Department also encourages fans to read the 2013 OU Football Fan Guide to learn more about stadium amenities, policies and procedures.
• Alcoholic beverages
• Any and all types of bags (merchandise bags, backpacks, fanny packs & hard binocular cases)
• Baby seats
• Baby strollers
• Beach Balls
• Cameras (professional equipment or cameras with long telephoto lenses)
• Coolers or containers
• Folding chairs or stools
• Food and beverages
• Ice chests
• Laser pointers
• Noisemakers of any type (i.e. air horn, plastic horn, whistles, etc.)
• Pets (with the exception of animals used by disabled guests)
• Personal heaters
• Seats (stadium seats, chair backs & seat cushions)
• Women’s purses larger than 10”x 10”
All carried items and entrants are subject to search. Prohibited items must be returned to the owner’s car or discarded. Any unlawful items are subject to confiscation, and the person in possession of such items is subject to arrest. Items left at gate will be discarded.
We look forward to hosting all University of Oklahoma Football fans at Stadium this season. We anticipate that the current modernization project on the I-35 corridor will lead to an improved game day traffic flow and safety when completed. In addition, revised the above policies have been enacted to help maintain Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium as one of the nation’s top venues in terms of both security and overall fan experience.