I don’t write it nearly often enough, but you guys are the best. Take a look at this passage from an email I received from a reader named Robert last Monday. It’s about watching a famous Oklahoma State (then A&M) basketball game in old Gallagher Hall:
“My sports personality must’ve somehow been established at 10, as my father took me to the Aggie/KU game when Wilt Chamberlain played for the ’Hawks (the year was 1957). A&M/OSU stalled away the last several minutes to take the final shot by Mel Wright, certainly one of the most remarkable victories by Henry Iba. I never forgot that moment and can still show you where I sat that night. I also recall the dignity and courage of Wilt as he left the chaotic court scene. He was tall and seemed very alone in hindsight. Little did I know or could’ve even understood the abuses he endured.”
I try to be vivid and insightful every time I write, but particularly in this column. Sometimes the best way to do that is to shut up and get out of the way.
Thank you for sharing, Robert. Beautifully done, sir.
For other highlights from last week we return to OU-Texas...
This made me laugh
You know by a recent column that I’m in the officials’ corner, generally. They do an underappreciated job often under some attack as well.
But c’mon... Flagging every Sooner and Longhorn for some pregame jawing that, by OU-Texas standards, was about as heated as the playground at Patrick Henry Elementary? That was bad.
Then referee Mike Defee made it worse by telling a pool reporter afterward: “What happened out there is an embarrassment to everyone.”
No, Mike, what happened out there was a bunch of worked-up Sooners told a bunch of worked-up Longhorns: “Where did you get those clothes, at the toilet store?” and your crew freaked out.
That’s what was embarrassing.
This made me cry
One of the coolest, most underrated fixtures of OU-Texas at the Cotton Bowl has been the puff of cotton painted at midfield. Saturday, they replaced that simple, iconic logo with an oversized shield including, naturally, the game’s corporate sponsor.
If it isn’t overzealous officials trying to kill the spirit of OU-Texas, it’s overzealous suits.
This made me think
Here is a snippet of Mike Stoops’ comments after his Waterloo, the Sooners’ 48-45 loss to the Longhorns in Dallas one year ago:
“Our lack of physicality at times was troublesome across the board, our inability to tackle and be physical. We had ’em stopped on, what, third-and-18 (it was third-and-21) and they drug us for 10, 12 yards, give it to ’em on fourth down. So schematically and other ways, just nowhere near good enough for a game of this magnitude, until we finally got in a bit of rhythm. I thought we challenged the receivers better in the fourth quarter. Just gave up too many easy throws until later in the game.”
I don’t mean to pile on here, I just don’t know a more effective way to compare the OU defense we saw in the Cotton Bowl in 2018 to the one we saw Saturday. Everything Stoops said was true. Everything the Sooners did under Alex Grinch was in complete contrast.
The Sooners were physical from Texas’ first snap Saturday, when safety Delarrin Turner-Yell chopped down stud receiver Devin Duvernay for a loss of two yards. They were brutes at all three levels of defense. They tackled at all three levels.
Here are OU’s missed tackles I noted: cornerback Tre Brown against Collin Johnson in the first quarter and linebacker Nik Bonitto against Roschon Johnson in the third. That’s it.
Last year, the Sooners missed that many tackles during singular plays (see: the third-and-21 pile drag).
Stoops mentioned his scheme being as lacking as his players’ strength last October. Here’s what OU safety Pat Fields said in postgame Saturday: “Everything is simple, so guys can just fly around. We don’t have to think about anything. We don’t have any clutter on our minds.”
As to challenging Texas’ receivers... Fields, Brown, Turner-Yell, Parnell Motley and Jaden Davis defended Duvernay and Johnson like West Virginia’s guards defend in basketball. They manhandled Longhorn wideouts, daring both those wideouts and the game officials to do something about it.
OU’s defensive backs were flagged a few times, but not enough that it interrupted their plan or their pass coverage. They made Duvernay and Johnson earn every catch, forced Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger to pinpoint every throw.
It was an astonishing case of night and day, from the back end to the front. You could measure the difference in the performance of players like Kenneth Murray and Neville Gallimore, and also the forlorn postgame comments of a beaten defensive coordinator one year ago.