Several Oklahoma freshmen not only are playing; they're playing key roles.
In OU's 28-20 win over Texas Saturday in the Cotton Bowl, freshmen helped the Sooners dominate the first quarter. Forced to play catch-up the entire game, the Longhorns never recovered.
"Look at the freshmen that stepped up," said coach Bob Stoops. "Aaron (Colvin) had a great game. He was really solid. Kenny Stills. Tony Jefferson. Trey Millard. Those guys played big minutes, made big plays."
Big first-quarter plays when OU seized control.
On the Sooners' first possession, Millard, an athletic fullback, moved the chains on third-and-short. Millard helped cap the drive with yet another kick-out block that sprung DeMarco Murray free for an 18-yard touchdown run.
Jefferson set the tone defensively on Texas' first play from scrimmage when he blasted James Kirkendoll for a 2-yard loss on a bubble screen. The Longhorns went three-and-out and punted, and the Sooners snuffed out Texas' short passing game much of the day.
On OU's next offensive possession, Millard once again converted a third-and-short to move the chains. Stills' 16-yard TD reception capped the drive for a 14-0 lead.
Blanketed by linebacker Emmanuel Acho, Stills leapt high to win a one-on-one matchup. The acrobatic catch sent a statement.
Texas' game plan was to double-cover Ryan Broyles. It worked, as the Longhorns negated Broyles' impact, but Stills stepped up with a team-high 78 yards on five catches.
Stills also provided a pivotal 32-yard fourth-quarter reception that helped milk the clock. On the play, Broyles once again was double covered. Stills turned around UT cornerback Curtis Brown and used a spin move to turn a medium gain into a long-gainer.
Millard's impact is subtle. His primary role is a lead blocker but he ran for 16 yards on five carries and caught two passes. Informed five carries is believed to be the most by a fullback in the Stoops era, Stoops responded that Millard is the first fullback that deserved that many carries.
Jefferson had a similar impact defensively. Third on the team with 34 tackles, Jefferson became the first true freshman to start a season opener since 2001.
"Tony has a chance to be an awfully, awfully good football player," said defensive coordinator Brent Venables. "He made some great plays out in space. He played with really good poise in one-on-one opportunities. He's very reminiscent of Roy (Williams) but at a very young age."
Colvin recorded seven tackles filling in for cornerback Jamell Fleming, who injured his ankle in the first half a week ago at Cincinnati. Colvin was burned for a 40-yard pass late. But when Texas tested him early Colvin provided solid man-to-man coverage.
Another freshman, Tom Wort, played his best game following a poor outing at Cincinnati. A redshirt freshman, Wort produced two key stops on first-and-goal situations when Texas settled for two field goals.
"A big part of their game plan, with some new wrinkles they had not done, was to attack Tom, create some mismatches, try to out leverage us," Venables said. "They made a few plays underneath but otherwise he really responded, winning a good share of those battles."
As did several other freshmen.