, Muskogee, OK


November 12, 2006

COLUMN: QB turns in gutsy showing

NORMAN — The Don Key Award isn’t something Paul Thompson can wear on his hand like a national championship ring.

But it sure fits his grip.

The award is given annually to an Oklahoma Sooner senior who demonstrates character and courage.

Thompson, whose major might as well be adversity, should graduate at the top of his class after his Senior Night performance.

His is a career that saw him expect to take the quarterback job two years ago, only to be forced to wait for Jason White to leave town after a sixth year of eligibility. Then he got it, only to lose it in his mistake-prone first outing as a starter.

It took some hanky-panky on a time card to gain him that job back from one Rhett Bomar back in August, then as he began to hit a mid-season groove, he lost arguably the best running back in the country to a broken collarbone.

So the week that ended with Saturday’s 34-24 victory over Texas Tech shouldn’t be any different, should it?

First, sideline Peterson’s heir apparent, Allen Patrick, coming off a career-high 173 yards, in pre-game street clothes with a sprained ankle. Throw in a starting receiver, Manuel Johnson, who took a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit that resulted in his being carted off the field to an area hospital with numbness throughout his body.

Then, when Texas Tech cornerback Antonio Huffman stepped in front of a Thompson toss and took it to the house with 1:43 showing in the second half, Thompson found himself looking at a 24-10 hole against pass-happy Texas Tech.

Buckle down, Paul. You’re used to this.

Thompson immediately directed an artsy two-minute drill, connecting with Malcolm Kelly on a 40-yard strike with 10 seconds left in the half to cap a five-play, 69-yard march that stole the momentum, if not the lead. Tech would never score again, and Thompson directed two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, the last a 14-play, 80-yard dagger, and finished with a career-high 309 yards passing on a very precision-like 77 percent completion rate.

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