Though it felt like years, it’s been only about a month since the University of Oklahoma was like a sinking ship and everyone appeared to want off before it went under. Thankfully, it never happened. However, there were some scary moments fans, students, and alumni will remember for years to come.
The one thing no one will forget is how Bob Stoops showed up to not only keep the insanity at bay but also bring belief, determination, and a win back to the state. The return of Stoops, even just for one game as coach, was a tremendous boost to morale in the wake of Lincoln Riley’s sudden departure and the subsequent transfers and decommitments from the program. Also, four players opted out of the Alamo Bowl. Defensive lineman Isaiah Thomas, linebacker Nik Bonitto, lineman Perrion Winfrey and linebacker Brian Asamoah all opted out of the contest and declared for the 2022 NFL Draft. Needless to say, Sooner fans went through a whole gamut of emotions in a short period of time.
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Onward to the Alamo
Oklahoma faced the Ducks from the University of Oregon in the Alamo bowl. This was the seventh time Oklahoma and Oregon played one another, and now the Sooners are 7-1. Caleb Williams went 21-27 for 242 yards and three touchdowns while running back Kennedy Brooks, had 14 carries, and ran for 142 yards with three touchdowns. The Sooners got on the board first and never looked back. Oregon never had the lead at any point in the game and spent the night playing a game of catch-up. Oklahoma dominated the first half, playing a great defensive game. Anthony Brown and the Ducks drove down the field in the second half on four consecutive possessions, with touchdowns resulting from each drive. Brown ended the night 27-40 for 306 yards and three touchdowns.
Overall, the Sooners could crush Oregon using the running game. However, the score belies the fact that the Sooners were in charge of the entire game, always having an answer of some type whenever the Ducks appeared to be getting a foothold. The defense for the Sooners may have relaxed a little too much, or Oregon may have come up with a plan at halftime to get around the Sooner defense. No matter what may have happened, it was apparent the Ducks were attempting a comeback. However, the Sooners had built up too much of a lead during the first half, and time ran out fr Oregon.
The Future of Oklahoma Football
With the Alamo firmly in the rearview mirror, what comes next for the Sooners? New head coach Brent Venables will take the victory and use it to springboard into next season. Venables coached under Stoops at Oklahoma from 1999 to 2011. He left for Clemson University, and was there from 2012 to 2021, and was the associate head coach from 2018 to 2021.
He understands what the school and fans expect out of the program. High expectations can bring a lot of pressure on the coaches and players, but he can handle it. Also, there will be even more pressure when Oklahoma goes to the SEC.
Venables needs to talk Williams into staying instead of continuing with his plan to transfer. Williams has yet to make his decision known. However, he may be the cornerstone on which Venables can build the offense if he stays. If Oklahoma can get Williams locked down, they’ll be able to focus on other offensive players like Jalil Farooq. Brooks was eligible to come back and would have contributed significantly to the team. However, he decided after the bowl game to go ahead and enter the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Sooners will always remember the Alamo Bowl for a variety of reasons, with the victory over Oregon being the most important part of that memory. However, it will forever be remembered as a time when the Sooners faced a dark, chaotic time and found a temporary captain to right the ship. Stoops, now more than ever, has endeared himself to the Sooner Nation and has reached a new generation of fans who may have never had the pleasure of watching him coach.
Oklahoma has a rich and long history when it comes to its football program. It existed before Riley, and it will continue to exist without him.
Follow Liz Pendergraft on Twitter @lizzibear824
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