Image from AwfulAnnouncing.com
Earlier this year, Coach Stoops drew a lot of fire for what he had said in the offseason about the SEC. When i first heard the comments I thought it was vintage Stoops. Stubborn, defiant, just Bob being Bob. A few of us long time Sooner fans have felt a lot of heartache in bowl games. Granted there are a ton of college football fans out there who would gladly trade places with us, but with losses against Washington, Miami, LSU, USC and Florida in National Championship Games in my memory, I’ve witnessed twice as many National Championship losses than I have wins. While you want to rationalize and say that a lot of teams just wish they could be there, it’s been tough to stomach those five losses. When you do look at it for what it really is, you see a program that is dominant.
We sport seven National Championships that we recognize, and if we had won those other five, you’re talking twelve. If we counted em like Aggy did, we’d have 17. I’m 37 years old, so on an average of about every five years in my life our Sooners are playing for a natty. The problem is that in my lifetime, we’re 2-5 in those games that I know of. Make no mistake, I thank my lucky stars every day that I didn’t wake up an Oklahoma State fan. I’m just trying to paint a picture of how everyone else perceives us, or at least perceived us until two weeks ago tomorrow.
I live in Kansas City, and naturally I know several people who are diehard Jayhawk fans. I have a lot of respect for the Jayhawks, and have come to the realization over the years that essentially they have the same school that we do. They’re a dominant basketball school with a football team that’s a far cry from it’s counterpart. We’re a dominant football school with a basketball counterpart that hasn’t had near the success the football team has. We both have redneck cousins or “little brothers” who are just down the road in Stillwater and Manhattan, and it seems like every year KU is in the top five or ten, and every year at some point, they are the talk of college basketball. Sound familiar? Like the Sooners they’ve won two natty’s in my lifetime, 2008 most recently and in 1988 when they ripped my heart out, but we won’t go there. When I look at KU as a basketball program, I no doubt respect them. They’re always good, other teams’ marquee wins are always against them, and when opposing coaches recruit, they say “hey we beat Kansas last year. Why would you want to go there?” Sound familiar? I caught myself looking at them this year after speaking with one of my good friends who’s a big KU alumnus about them, and thinking man we might get em this year since they aren’t that good. Later I thought that several other fan bases may have felt the same way about us, even this year. Before I take this thing too far off track, being so close geographically to a program that’s as historically dominant as KU is compared to what Oklahoma is in football has given me a true picture about how everyone else perceives us. I tend to look at our Sooners through what most would call “crimson-colored glasses,” but seeing a similar situation in Lawrence through a completely sober view has opened my eyes about the perception of us nationally. In a nutshell you could describe both programs as one that will make a lot of noise, has a lot of tradition, and is always going to be in the conversation.
Given our three losses in national championship games in the last 10 years, and two of them being against SEC champs, it made Stoops an easy target after what he said. In looking for his quotes from this last summer, I came across several articles that just roasted him, and naturally so. He was coming off of a 41-13 shellacking against the darlings of the SEC last year in Johnny Football and the fighting Manziel’s so part of me says damn man, why don’t you just keep your mouth shut? There’s another part of me that admires that defiance. There’s a part of me that really admires Coach Stoops’ ability to know that he and his team are good, and have been good for a lot of years despite everyone’s dismissal. Just his ability to believe in himself when no one else does.
Going into this matchup against Alabama, we were just that…dismissed. We were cast off…didn’t deserve to be there…Bama should be playing Oregon, and the only reason that Oklahoma is in the game is because they travel better etc…Mark May predicted a 48-10 blowout win for Alabama, and really, there wasn’t any question as to who was going to win the game. We were just a no-talent also-ran who just somehow lucked into the game. After all, Alabama was the crown jewel in the SEC kingdom, and the SEC IS the crown jewel of ESPN. The love fest that has gone on for the past few years has been sickening. All of the SEC chant’s you hear in every game, Mizzou’s already chanting it and they’ve been over there what ten minutes? A month before this Sugar Bowl game, the understanding was that Alabama was going to play Florida State for all the marbles and with a win cement Nick Saban’s legacy as the greatest coach of all time.
Before the game, K asked us to give our confidence on a scale from one to ten, and predict a score…
JY – From 1 to 10 my confidence is at a 7. I think we will see our best game all year. Too much coming out about the focus and edge these guys are going into it with. In 2003, we were the best team of all time, and K State wore us out. Anything can happen. I’m going to predict 24-21 good guys.
I felt good about the game going in simply because I knew how hard our guys were going to fight Alabama. After being around the game for so long, I also understand that the difference between teams and players isn’t that much. When one team feels disrespected that gap gets closed a little. When one team prepares harder than the other, the gap closes a little more. So when you pull back the curtain and you see things for what they truly are, you realize that you don’t necessarily have to knock the king off of the mountain top if you’re able to knock his perch out from under him.
I thought that it was only fitting that at the end of the night, after all of the smoke and confetti had cleared and our guys had accepted the Sugar Bowl trophy, that they rushed the stage where Trevor and Coach Stoops sat with Rece Davis, Lou Holtz and Mark May. On a stage that was prepared for Alabama, the coronation had occurred far before the opening kickoff. The anointing oil had to be put away and rehearsed questions for Saban and McCarron had to be swapped for inquiries for Stoops and Knight. Once most of the team was up on the stage behind their Coach and MVP winning QB, something profound happened. ESPN’s stage collapsed. That stage that was built for Alabama. That stage that pumped SEC propaganda for the past seven years. That platform that was built for a king simply couldn’t handle the weight of a TEAM, it was simply too much. In that moment, those Sooner pups did much more than win a football game. They shook the foundations of college football…They broke ESPN’s stage.