MattStrasen OU Football 2013: Overcoming Adversity

Image from (Photographer: Matt Strasen)

If Thursday night’s game against Alabama does not turn out in Oklahoma’s favor, or if it gets as ugly for the Sooners as some are predicting, it will be impossible not to be disappointed to end this season on a down note. However, if you are able to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of what this team and coaching staff have been able to accomplish it has been rather remarkable.

Heading into this season, almost everyone who knew anything about OU Football would have told you there were three individuals the Sooners could absolutely not afford to lose. Those players were Aaron Colvin, Corey Nelson, and Jordan Phillips.

Welp, OU obviously lost two of those three players for the year — and relatively early in the season — while Colvin missed two games and played hurt for at least the latter part of the season.

Coming into the year it would have been unfathomable to consider the loss/limitation of all three of those players and the idea that Oklahoma could field a Top 15 defense. And yet that’s exactly what happened.

But those are just three guys, albeit three incredibly important guys, but still just three guys. Oklahoma has also lost and/or played without at some point this season the following: Blake Bell, Jordan Evans, Tyler Evans, Keith Ford, Trevor Knight, Trey Millard, Torrea Peterson, Quincy Russell, Adam Shead, Sterling Shepard, Kendal Thompson, and Tyrus Thompson. And those are just the injuries. You could also include Damien Williams getting kicked off the team and the game against K-State Lacoltan Bester missed due to a suspension.

Seriously, consider that list and the three aforementioned players before them. That isn’t a list of guys who occasionally contribute. It’s a list that includes your three most important players on defense, eleven starters (if you count T.Evans), your top three quarterbacks, arguably your most talented player (Millard) and running back (Williams), your left tackle and guard, and a guy (Russell) everyone assumed coming into the season would have to play a major role in the middle of this OU defense.

All of which is to say, regardless of what happens Thursday night, both the coaches and players deserve a great deal of credit for overcoming all of it, putting up a 10-2 season, and managing yet another BCS bowl appearance.

Even if you didn’t play the game, if you follow it even casually you know that no successful team/program can afford to use injuries as an excuse. So when you see this OU Football team maintain that ‘next man up’ mentality despite all of the personnel losses previously discussed, you simply have to respect the dedication and determination of all those involved.

I’m certainly not going to sit here and try to convince you that if OU loses to Alabama in embarrassing fashion Thursday night I won’t be incredibly disappointed. That’d be a lie. However, what I will tell you is that after some time passes I will look back on this season with some perspective to appreciate just how much this program has overcome and accomplished this season.

  • Super K

    So true. Before the season I was one of the people that believed the scheme change would lead to a better defense (JD can attest to that haha). But if someone had told me we’d lose our difference makers at every level of the defense I wouldn’t have been remotely confident.

    • JD

      Yeah I remember back in the spring…you sold me early lol…we got to see some glimpse of things to come in the spring game..After seeing Striker in there wrecking havoc I predicted he’d be the third back playing along with Nelson and Shannon when most thought we’d only use two backers. We’ve pretty much used 3 and sometimes 4 the whole season…Alexander has been a pleasant surprise and Wade is become a pretty good NT himself…I think a lot needs to be given to the coaching staff..They have got this team ready to play and when injuries came the next man has provided solid depth…We have a lot to look forward to moving into the next few years

      • Gregor

        Do you think we could petition to get Erik to change his first name(or I guess add a middle name) to “Quarterback”?

        • JD

          His middle name is maybe he could use the Q…just kidding! I don’t know what his middle name is…he already has one of my fav hits on a qb when McCoy did a flip

  • ToatsMcGoats

    When this season began I was of the thought that this was a rebuilding year and that we’d be lucky to see 8 wins, let alone 9. A change in schemes meant that, more than likely, there would be a ton of growing pains and ill prepared outings that would have us fans pulling our hair out by the fistfuls, and that’s just on defense.

    Offense was not supposed to be the weakness of this team, although the ? at QB was definitely on the minds of all Sooner fans. The stacked WR corps. and the deep well of talent at RB looked promising to me, especially when I thought about the great shape we were in on the OL.

    Talk about being flipped on its head. The offense had me, on more than one occasion, fighting the urge to go lie face down in the front yard, although it was more Heuple than the players that made me feel this way. The D has been more than a pleasant surprise, and I personally cannot wait to see what Mikey can do with deeper talent. This supposed rebuilding year has turned into one of the more satisfying seasons for me personally. It ranks right up there with the year that Paul Thompson QB’d us to a Big IV championship after all of the offseason shake up the team went through. You’re absolutely correct, Jordan, we have definitely overachieved. But I, like you, will not be satisfied with merely this. The perfect ending to this season is undoubtedly a win against the best team in the nation. Not only would this have a huge impact on our ranking for next year and our recruiting, but it will also have the players returning next year believing that they can not only compete against the best, but actually BE the best.

    I can’t wait for Thursday!

    • chasejamy

      for one I think we are fine at rb, for next year. Also overall defense, I think we have a chance of being better. Ol, coaching makes a big difference, we lose our off center, but I think we step up. Qb one will step up, I hope, & that will make a difference. Coaching makes a big difference. in less talent.

  • Shelby is a Patriot

    I’m always upset when we lose. I don’t care for public perception; favorite or underdog, I don’t care and neither should our team. However, I’m proud we’ve made it to the Sugar Bowl and have a ten win season, I’ll be upset for a day or two if lose, but will ultimately be able to look back and appreciate what this team has done.
    If we win…Well, I don’t know what I’m gonna do if we win, but it’s gonna be amazing.

  • L’carpetron Dookmarriot

    OU has had to rely on their depth, which was not considered to be a strength. In years past, Bob (or others) was ridiculed for not playing anyone but a starter. What happened when the backups went in because a starter got hurt? It was like Tong Po fighting Daniel LaRusso with his fists, elbows, and knees.

    • Super K

      This man dropped a Tong Po reference. You are a bad man!

      • Sooner Ray

        I think I ordered that in a china dive one time.

  • Sooner Ray

    Before the season began I had already decided this was a rebuilding year and had conceded to maybe four losses. I was expecting more from the offense and less from the defense so what transpired is amazing. No one can get down on these kids who have had to step up their game and play before they were actually considered game ready. It makes the future for this team look very promising. I think that based on the injuries and everything else that has happened this season, this could be one of the best coaching jobs we’ve seen. The players believe they can beat Bama so for now I will stand with them and cheer them on to a bowl championship!

  • blaster1371

    They have done better than most thought they would. It has been a roller coaster of a ride this season between injuries and confusing offensive play calling. The loss to texass was a huge WTH directed at the whole team- coaches and players alike. Next year this team will not have the depth in the o-line and RB positions it did this year. Some young guys are going to have to step up bigger next season. But overall this was an excellent team effort.

  • Gregor

    You can only play the game with who you got. So, there is only so much you can do when the lights are on and the ball is kicked. For whatever the reasons(many of which have been cussed and discussed ad nauseum), this was not set to be a championship year. It actually looked more like a 3 or 4 loss season. It has been nothing short than amazing what we have cobbled together.

    We can complain that we don’t have the depth, especially in certain critical positions. We can complain about the lack of elite talent. We can attempt to diagnose the source of the “malaise”, how long it has been affecting the program, and when Bob should have made moves, but at the end of the day(season) Bob proved yet again that he can take a team, coach’em up, and win games.

    It can be frustrating trying to balance long term strategic planning vs short term strategic planning and tactical success. You sort of get yourself into a chicken and egg paradigm.

    However, you have to be dumb or have an axe to grind not be in awe of seasons like these. For one thing they prove that things are never as bad as we make them out to be. If we could still manage 10 wins in a transition year that we were never settled at QB(for whatever the reason), in a season where the numbers were against us from the beginning, and that nearly everything that we “couldn’t afford” to have happen did, what do we have to look forward to in the next could of seasons as this team gains experience, depth, and fits new talent with the new schemes?

    A win against Bama would be remarkable. We don’t have any business winning this game. They are nearly everything we are not: deep, stocked with playmakers, with tons of big game experience, running established schemes. They have some minor personnel issues, but well within the normal level expected at this point. We are young, we have been forced to play first and second year players in the middle of the season, we are playing this year’s schemes with last year’s talent. The coaching matchup we can only hope to be a wash at best, but there are enough reasons to have certain fears there too.

    I am not sure that there are too many, even the most optimistic amongst us, that think that if both teams come out with their “A” game that we are within two to three touchdowns of Bama. I know I am hoping that Bama comes out without focus, not interested in this game and we get them on their heels because we want it more. I hope we throw in a few wrinkles that equalize the field. But I really just hope we have good effort and we don’t back down from the challenge!

  • JD

    I feel very strongly that our lack of identity on the offensive side (qb) is the sole reason why we weren’t in the championship talk this year…better play calls to fit the qb during RRR cost us that game..had we mixed in some TK I feel like we win easy…The Baylor game is a toss up. The D was holding strong early but the O couldn’t get anything going at all..Baylor got away with a couple of pick and rolls to go with Bells INT and that was all she wrote…we were closer than some think to being 12-0..and without the big losses (Phillips and Nelson) I’d feel even stronger about the losses

    • Sooner Ray

      Totally agree. The difference in a good season and a championship is usually a couple of injuries or a handful of plays.

      • JY

        That’s exactly why I don’t think this is going to be the Bourbon Street Bloodbath everyone is predicting. We have a pretty darn good team, and I believe we can hang with em.

  • territorysooner

    Great thoughts JE, thanks for sharing. I can guarantee you that our players are fired up and will give it everything they have Thursday night. BTW, don’t forget to add Metoyer to your list, a la Williams, which didn’t help when Bester was out. Not that he was integral to the success of the WRs, but he was definitely a player that had to be accounted for by the defenses.

    • Indy_sooner

      Correct, you have to absolutely have to consider that as a loss. Metoyer, with his immense talent level had so many chances and I thought this would be his breakout year. Very disappointed for him and his family.
      Between him and Brandon Williams, looks like both 5*s for 2012 were strike-outs for us.

      • ctsooner

        All make great points. As bad as it’s been, it’s been a very fun year. So many youngsters have been able to play due to injuries and it makes us better next year. These kids all have motors that don’t stop. JR mentioned to me before the season started that in order for us to have a chance this year, that they DL had to over achieve. I think we all felt that way and boy have they. This is a transition year with all the new faces making decisions. Next year may be our time, but this year isn’t over and even though we are big underdogs, these kids deserve to play a team like Bama in a bowl game. I feel the same way about this game as I did for OSU. We have a real shot here, but we can’t make mistakes. Don’t tell this team they can’t win…they won’t believe you ;)

        • Indy_sooner

          Yup. Looking at all the practices interviews, our D-line hates the suggestion that they are somehow “afraid” of Bama. I love the chip these guys have. If anything they need the respect from the fans. Lose or not, these guys give me alot of optimism that we are on our way back.

          • ctsooner

            We are. Now all we need is for O to figure out who they are so that Josh can call the right plays with the right personnel.

  • soonermusic

    Nice job, Jordan, you summed it up very well. The ability to have “next man up” ready to step in and play at a high level has been nothing short of amazing. For a lot of teams, the loss of the starting qb by itself is enough to derail a season, let alone several captains, and key players on both sides of the ball. Yet here OU is, 10-2, in the bcs Sugar Bowl against arguably the best team in the country. What a tribute to the coaches and players, from top to bottom, to be able to weather the storm, continue to manage to find ways to deal with the issues presented by the injuries and to win games. Remarkable.

    • Jordan Esco

      Much appreciated!

  • Aunum

    With all of the injuries and the major changes this team has been through, they are still on the right path(still watching you Josh Heupel). How great they can become is unknown, but remember this: Harold and Kumar did make it to White Castle regardless of the random setbacks.

  • Jared Tyra

    Great article and summary of OU’s bad luck (or curse perhaps…) with the injury bug. Our guys showed tremendous character this season — character that defined the season IMO. And on top of all that, Jordan Phillips didn’t play a down past ND; I thought he was the most integral piece to the defense, and JWade came through as a very solid backup.

  • dahldennsull

    While an embarrassing loss like last year would be awful, I have to agree that this season is a wild success. I thought our absolute highest ceiling this year was 10-3, and that’s assuming we finished the regular season at 9-3, and won an easier bowl game! To be in a BCS bowl against a top team, and even with a loss going 10-3 with a huge win in Stillwater on the road, down a lot of players, to cap off the season, I can’t be anything but very pleasantly surprised. It’s a shame we lost so many guys, but I’m hoping another offseason of getting some of this young guys (especially class of 2013) in the weight room and supplying good depth at each position, as well as any difference makers to complete the 3-4 transition (Bond/Obo at OLB, Dimon/Walker/Romar at DE) and hopefully Phillips back, this defense could be really nasty next year.

    Will be a lot of fun to watch this spring, and hope we can get some good QB development out of Knight or Thomas and really take us to the next level.

  • pitbull17

    I’m so happy I was wrong about what this year would be. I called 4 losses at the start of the year. I thought the offense was the one thing we wouldn’t have to worry about. I thought the D was going to be painful to watch. Glad I was wrong on all 3 counts. All in all I’ll say that this was Stoops finest job coaching at OU.