TEMPE, Ariz. – The Sooners came to the desert and discovered the solution to all their problems.
Join the Big Ten.
An even bigger commitment to the Belldozer, the return of Mike Stoops, Robert Griffin and Brandon Weeden moving on, Case McCoy and David Ash coming back. Ideas all that warm Sooner hearts.
But nothing would make the Sooners shine like a regular dose of Big Ten football. OU bounced Iowa 31-14 Friday night in the Insight Bowl, a game the Sooners mostly dominated but also dallied with. By now we should know, this is who they are.
Yet the Hawkeyes failed to take advantage, mostly because the quarterbacks who slew the Sooners in this 10-3 season were much better than what OU saw in the Insight.
Iowa's James Vandenberg, a heady, tough player, was second in the Big Ten in passing yards per game. But he's no Griffin (Baylor) and no Weeden (OSU) and maybe not even Seth Doege (Texas Tech).
OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables will pack the boxes if the Sooners can get to the Big Ten. Mike Stoops, who spent the game on the OU sideline and is looking more and more like the cavalry coming to the rescue to work with Venables and brother Bob, would probably vote yea, too.
Bob Stoops admitted that after watching Baylor's 67-56 victory over Washington in the Alamo Bowl on Thursday night a Big Ten offense was a welcome sight.
"We had a one-night reprieve from it," Stoops said. And while the likes of Weeden and Griffin are probably gone, "I'm sure they'll be adding a mess more of them."
This was a weird bowl game long before ESPN's overhead camera fell with 2:22 left in the game and nearly took out a Hawkeye or two. Long before the Sooners whiffed with the Gatorade bucket – Stoops sidestepped R.J. Washington, though they eventually doused Stoops and covered the playing field with so much ice the officials might have delayed the game had the skycam not already done the same.
The best quarterback on the field, by default, was a backup. On a night when Landry Jones was off target, Blake Bell scored three touchdowns, and his Belldozer offense might have been the best thing OU had going offensively.
Bell was voted the Insight offensive MVP for the simplest of reasons. Someone had to win.
For most of three quarters, the Sooners appeared ready to add to their list of bowl shutouts: the 1949 Sooners against LSU in the Sugar Bowl, the '53 Sooners against Maryland in the Orange, the '72 Sooners against Penn State in the Sugar and the '00 Sooners against Florida State in the Orange, honorary members since the Seminoles got a safety.
But even while blanking Iowa, the Sooners weren't dominant. Bob Stoops said his defense was “outstanding,” but Iowa reeled off drives of 14, 16 and 12 plays. The Hawkeyes produced two fourth-quarter touchdowns and made OU sweat for this one.
“Guys played well,” Stoops said. “First half, we weren't far off. And the second half was outstanding. I'm happy for our seniors, and it gives us lots of momentum for next year.”
Jones returning would be even more momentum. I don't know if he'll go pro or not, but even if Jones is back, the Belldozer will be. That package is just too efficient for the Sooners to do anything but add to it.
“The substitute quarterback, that guy's a load,” said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. “Makes it a challenge. They're a good football team, top to bottom.”
Truth is, OU fans had to sit through this game thinking, more Belldozer. More Belldozer.
Come to think of it, the Belldozer would make a heck of a Big Ten offense. Put it with a gunslinging Big 12 offense, and it's a nice weapon to have.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.