, Muskogee, OK


October 21, 2012

Couldn’t see this coming, but Irish ahead is clear

— NORMAN — This, we did not see coming. This, nobody could have guessed. This, even at Oklahoma, was well beyond expectation.

No, we’re not talking about what happened on homecoming Saturday night at Owen Field, where OU ran over Kansas 52-7. We’re talking about the season at its halfway point, of which homecoming Saturday was the latest exclamation point.

Are you kidding? Nobody saw this coming.

Who knew a newcomer would be the Sooners’ most explosive running back? Who knew a Penn State transplant would give them their biggest threat in the return game since Antonio Perkins?

Sorry, Ryan Broyles.

Who knew their two most exciting receivers could be a true freshman, Sterling Shepard, and a transfer from Fresno State, Jalen Saunders, even in the midst of Kenny Stills’ terrific season?

Who knew Bob Stoops would finally live up to his rhetoric, forcing Josh Heupel to incorporate Trey Millard (if that’s how it happened, because nobody really wants to talk about it, but it’s the best explanation going) as an entirely new offensive weapon, even though it arrived a game too late to chase a perfect season?

Who would have thought in a season in which OU’s deepest returning unit — the offensive line — has turned horribly thin, this level of dominance might nonetheless be reached?

There’s no other way to reference what’s become a 41-20 victory over Texas Tech, a 63-21 victory over Texas and the utter annihilation of the Jayhawks.

Red October, 12 years later, indeed.

There may be no leapfrogging Kansas State in any of the polls and certainly not the conference standings, so no championship may be available.

On the other hand, nothing’s in stone and, anyway, what this team has done to date is about to give us a week, beginning today, that once again places Norman in the center of the college football universe, when No. 5 Notre Dame visits Owen Field, reprising what has to be the greatest intermittent rivalry in college football history.

If not for the Irish, way back when, OU would have gone seven seasons with a loss.

People remember.

Still, that should not be today’s focus. Instead, think about what OU has done in one short month.

It was all there against the Jayhawks.

For a fourth straight game OU played very good defense, and for a third straight game the Sooners played it for four quarters, and for a second straight game the top unit did not allow a point.

OU did not punt until 4:52 remained in the third quarter and the offense was already finished scoring points. Kansas’ two-to-one time-of-possession advantage was meaningless because the Sooners brought back both a punt and a kickoff to paydirt and, when that wasn’t happening, was big-playing Kansas right off the field.

“The best thing about this week was I didn’t hear a word about Notre Dame,” Sooner center Gabe Ikard said.

Of course, that was last week, but would appear to prove an intangible point, that the Sooners are playing only as well as they’re preparing, or the best they’ve played since marching to the 2008 BCS national championship game.

Don’t worry about the pass-run discrepancy, OU throwing for 304 yards and running for 93. Bob Stoops had that covered, too.

“We chose not to run it quite as much because we thought we had opportunities to throw it,” he said.

Throw it, Landry Jones and (eventually) Blake Bell, did, but not without getting everybody involved, with running backs accounting for 5 of  21 catches, including a Trey Millard touchdown. On the ground, the backs carried 14 times for 103 yards and there’s nothing wrong with that.

It is the way you set a stage. It is the way you announce to a college football universe, not to mention yourself, that you’re ready for the game of the year, or maybe the game of the last dozen years.

“It’s probably the most anticipated game since 2000,” Bob Stoops said, “when Nebraska came in here, middle of the year, ranked No. 1 in the country and we were right behind them No. 2.”

Who knows where it will lead. The right folks need to lose and OU must continue winning to turn it into any kind of history.

But you know what they say? It’s about the journey.

This one’s pretty good.

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