MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

OU

April 14, 2014

Spring crowd got Stoops pumped up

NORMAN — Oklahoma didn’t play a game as much as it put on a show Saturday at Owen Field. At least, that was the intent.

“It was really exciting to see 43,000 fans here. My thanks and compliments to the fans coming out on a great afternoon, making it an excellent day,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “Hopefully everybody had fun. I thought our athletic department did a great job of getting it all put together and having a band there. Hopefully, it was exciting and fun for everybody. Having it on TV is always a positive as well.”

Spring games have taken on a different meaning in the last several years.

For some players, it legitimately is a chance to get a leg up for starting jobs when preseason camp begins. However, those kinds of competitions are rare and can change in a matter of days in August. The days of players heading home in May and not seeing a coach against until August ended about two decades ago. The competition goes on every day in the weight room and offseason workouts.

What OU has figured out is the annual close to spring practice is the opportunity to stage a big event where it cannot lose.

Offense struggles? Defense played well.

Offense rolls a bunch of points and yards? The offense is good.

Both sides struggle? The plethora of recruits in attendance see there is ample playing time available.

That line of recruits — 30-yards long and two-deep when lined up on the sideline prior to the game — was the audience the Sooners played to on Saturday.

They’re a hot program coming off a Sugar Bowl victory with an extremely energized fan base.

Clearly, the vibe around OU has changed.

“There’s a lot of confidence; we know what we have to do to get there,” OU linebacker Eric Striker said.

“There” is winning a Big 12 Conference championship and gaining a berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff. The Sooners will enter next with those internal and external expectations.

The Sooners did an enormous amount to show why on Saturday. So many likely starters sat out, there was hardly a full gauge of their talent.

OU fully believes it is back to the level of legitimate national title contender.

Stoops joked about the expectations OU will face next season. If anyone wants to help taper them, he’d appreciate the help.

“If you can get everyone to print we don't have a prayer next year, we're going to lose 10 games by double digits, if you can get that done, I wouldn't have to worry about it. That's not going to happen,” he said. “That’s always part of when you're visiting with your players, to have the right mindset. No matter if they're saying good things or bad things, it's what are we doing to do something about it or to be our best? That's what we try to focus on.”

The Sooners believe their best is good enough to win a national championship next season. There’s an excitement that comes with that. OU showcased it on Saturday.

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