MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

OU

November 2, 2012

Sooners' receiver coach prefers early start

— NORMAN — Being away from home is tough enough. Spending all morning and afternoon tucked away in a hotel just makes it worse.

It’s why Oklahoma receivers coach Jay Norvell on Tuesday offered up this nugget without even being asked.

“I’m glad we’re playing at 11 o’clock. We’ve started fast against Texas, and it was at 11. Hopefully, we can get our guys in the same mindset,” he said.

Those early kickoffs are loathsome to fans for good reason. Saturdays are supposed to be enjoyed. Waking up earlier than a workday, running into traffic that makes rush hour seem brisk and then finding the morning chill is still in the air at kickoff seems more like work than play.

For road teams, however, the 11 a.m. kickoff is as good as it gets. The players’ and coaches’ rationale is simple: They don’t have to sit around all day waiting to play. The bus is led into the stadium by a police escort, so traffic is never a problem. Parking is their concern.

“You get the business mentality on Friday. Once you leave out of Norman, no matter where you go. I mean, even here we stay in a hotel on Friday, so you’re already in business mode no matter if you play early or late,” defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland said. “Football is on your mind all day. Just wake up a little bit early and go out and play in the game.”

The Sooners have a thin history when it comes to 11 a.m. games. Since it is one of the Big 12’s marquee programs, they typically get stuck playing mostly night games or in the 2:30 p.m., ABC telecast.

However, some of OU coach Bob Stoops’ biggest victories were in games that kicked off at 11 a.m. The 2000, 2011 and 2012 blowout wins over Texas were all early starts. The 2000 win over Nebraska was at Owen Field, but the early kickoff provided plenty of time to celebrate in the sunshine.

A win over Iowa State wouldn’t go into that class. But OU knows being able to play an early road game is a rare treat.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a morning person. I don’t think anyone really likes waking up early,” center Gabe Ikard said. “It’s gonna be nice to not have to sit around and wait all day for the game. That kinda wears on you and you’re thinking too much. Sometimes it’s nice to get up and go and get ready to play quickly. That will be good for us.”

When it comes to playing road games, the waiting is the hardest part.

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