By Clay Horning
CNHI News Service
DALLAS – Landry Jones must have said it three times in about 5 minutes. He might have said it a dozen times in all.
“If we play like we’re capable of playing …”
It was the way he began several sentences. But think about it – how can he know?
How can he know what this Oklahoma team is really capable of? How can anybody know?
Little more than a week ago, the Sooners looking the way they looked against Texas Tech appeared inconceivable. Then, as good as that went, leaping from that to what happened Saturday afternoon at the Cotton Bowl was equally impossible.
Yet there it was. Oklahoma 63, Texas 21.
The Sooners dominant in a way nobody could have predicted. Texas lackluster in a way it has only ever been against OU in 2000, 2003, last season and again.
For a second straight week, the Sooner offense grew by leaps and bounds. For the third straight game the Sooner defense proved its ability to impose its will and for the second straight game, it proved it could impose it long after the result was decided.
In the now 14-year Bob Stoops era, we haven’t experienced anything this out-of-nowhere since Red October, 2000, when OU topped Texas, Kansas State and Nebraska back-to-back-to-back to leap atop the polls and fuel a national championship drive.
The familiarity is undeniable. A 21-point victory over until-then unbeaten Texas Tech, what happened at the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, with Kansas and No. 7 Notre Dame both on their way to Owen Field before November arrives.
OU’s whitewash of burnt orange was crushingly complete.
The Sooners put together three scoring drives of 10 or more plays on a day they possessed the ball almost 15 minutes longer than the Longhorns and broke the series record for longest run from scrimmage (Damien Williams’ 95-yard cut-and-dart in the first quarter) and longest pass (Trey Millard’s 73-yard catch, hurdle and run in the second quarter).
They picked off two passes and got a fumble and when they weren’t forcing turnovers, OU’s defense was getting stop after stop after stop.
The Longhorns had two first downs and 65 total yards at the half. Their first nine drives led to six punts, a safety and the two picks.
Bob Stoops lives inside the little picture, so when he talked about it, he offered praise to this unit and that unit, to every grouping of players, from both lines to each of his special teams, two observations became clear.
One, in a long-winded way, he was getting across a very direct point, as though all he was really saying was “this is what it’s supposed to look like.”
Two, you couldn’t help but think back 12 years ago, to his second season, to, really, the starting gun to his tenure, a 63-14 Cotton Bowl massacre. In retrospect, Stoops would later say, it was the victory that told him what might be possible.
Because, as he talked about his latest triumph, it seemed like it too, in retrospect, might tell him the same thing.
“It was a complete game,” Stoops said.
It was the game Damien Williams was not only yet again the first ground option, but an option that accounted for 167 yards. And it was a game that not only included Millard in the game plan yet again, but explored how much of the offense the junior fullback can be, as rolled for 119 in the air and 45 on the ground.
It was the game Jalen Saunders caught his first two passes for 54 yards, and there’s no reason to think that’s anything but a starting point for the former Fresno State receiver.
It was the game the defense wasn’t simply terrific, but good in a way defenses just aren’t good anymore, everywhere but Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge.
“I think that we were just kind of cutting it loose and having fun,” Jones said.
Also, he said, “You don’t get too many like this.”
That sounds right, but how can he know? Because nobody saw last week coming, as dominant as it was, and nobody saw this coming, a game, start to finish, like OU hasn’t played in so long.
“The sky’s the limit and we’re just trying to reach it,” defensive end David King said.
“I don’t know,” Jones finally said. “I don’t know how far we can take it. We’re building.”
He doesn’t know. How could he?
After this, in the best possible way, how could anybody?