Oklahoma football: 2003 Big 12 title game loss to Kansas State still stings former Sooners

During Bob Stoops' 13 years in Norman, the 2003 conference championship game is his only loss to Wildcats coach Bill Snyder
by Jason Kersey Published: September 19, 2012

NORMAN — Mike Stoops insisted he doesn't think much about — or remember much from — the last time he matched wits with Bill Snyder.

“Shoot, that was 8 1/2 years ago,” said the Oklahoma defensive coordinator. “It's a blur to me. I don't really think much about it.”

As for some of the Sooners who spent the evening of Dec. 6, 2003, chasing Darren Sproles down the Arrowhead Stadium field, watching their perfect season wiped away in humiliating fashion?

They think about the 35-7, Big 12 championship game drubbing from Kansas State all the time.

“We didn't go out there and play hard enough,” said Teddy Lehman, then a senior linebacker who won the Bednarik and Butkus awards.

“We didn't block, didn't tackle. Didn't do the things we'd done that whole season. They weren't even close to the team we were; it's not even debatable.”

Many who watched the 28-point rout that day would probably take that debate.

During Bob Stoops' 13 years in Norman, the 2003 Big 12 title game is his only loss in seven meetings with Snyder, who had both Stoops brothers on his Kansas State staff in the early 1990s.

The Oklahoma defense has generally done pretty well against Snyder's offenses, with this one giant exception.

Oklahoma took a 7-0 lead on its first drive but watched Kansas State quarterback Ell Roberson and Sproles, the small, lightning-fast running back, light up the scoreboard for five unanswered touchdowns to win the game and Snyder's only conference championship.

On the first play of the second quarter, senior cornerback Derrick Strait — that year's Jim Thorpe Award winner — blitzed and hit Sproles five yards behind the line of scrimmage. But the diminutive Sproles spun off the tackle and sprinted for a 55-yard gain to set up the Wildcats' first score.

“The whole thing started there,” Bob Stoops said. “If we make the tackle, who knows what happens?”

Bob Stoops refuses to blame the game entirely on his defense that night, pointing to the offense's stagnant performance and inability to capitalize on several opportunities throughout the game.

Still, Sproles finished with 22 carries for 235 yards — a stunning 10.7 yard-per-carry average — against a defense that gave up a season average of 3.8 yards. One of Roberson's four touchdown passes was a 60-yarder to Sproles.

For a variety of reasons, the game was a shocking and difficult pill to swallow for Sooners everywhere.

Oklahoma was being hailed as the greatest college football team to ever play, and for a time, it certainly seemed like a possibility.

Seven Sooners became first-team All-Americans, and four won prestigious individual awards — including Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jason White.


by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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