College Football Week 13: Legacies & Legacy Trail
PLACES IN THE HEART
Saturday night clearly was one of the strangest games in Owen Field history. A late-November showdown that was both an elimination game for the national championship and the Heisman Trophy that was upstaged by another plot.
Bob Stoops’ call-out of his own fans was Storyline A.
OU fans were juiced, no doubt about that, which they would have been anyway. But Stoops’ matter-of-fact statement that Sooner fans were inferior to Florida’s, at least in terms of volume, resonated, pro or con, with everyone in crimson.
They either admitted Stoops was right and vowed to make him change his opinion about them, or they were hacked off that their coach would throw them under the bus. Neither side was wrong. You feel how you feel.
Either way, they came to the game ready to be scream their lungs out.
It was a brilliant move by Stoops. With a simple statement, he turned up the heat on Texas Tech’s offense. The stadium was loud, the stadium was energetic, the stadium was alive.
But the ploy came at a cost to Stoops. The message was well-received; alas, the total message. Which included this truth: the fans are outsiders. The fans aren’t part of the amazing Sooner success story.
I don’t believe that. I don’t know if Stoops believes it. But that’s the message he sent.
Stoops’ coaches never got disrespected by their boss. Stoops’ players never get disrespected, unless it’s something so obvious it’s not up for debate (Mark Bradley in the Orange Bowl).
But the fans found out their status. They already knew they weren’t on the inside, but Stoops let them know they were expendable. Under the bus they went.
Stoops humbly tried to make amends after the game. A game ball for the fans. The bowing to the crowd after the game. Those were legitimate gestures. I promise you, bowing to the crowd wasn’t a natural move for Stoops. I think it helped patch up things.
But as I chatted with fans surrounding Owen Field after the game, one theme was prevalent. “How’d we do?” “How was the crowd?” The unspoken question was this: Does he like us now? Not with Toby Keith attitude, but with Sally Field attitude. “You like me, you really like me.”
The cost to both sides was this: A place in the heart. Sooner Nation already knew that Stoops didn’t hold the fans dear; that was reinforced earlier in the week. And though OU fans love Stoops’ championships and his attitude and his persona, they also will close up a little of their heart and not get so close to the man who is willing to sacrifice them.
TEN BIGGEST WINNERS OF THE WEEK
10. Ball State: The unbeaten Cardinals get back-to-back games in the spotlight. First, last Tuesday, a 31-24 victory over Central Michigan in an ESPN2 game. Now, this Tuesday on ESPN2, Ball State plays yet another Mid-American Conference showdown, against 9-2 Western Michigan.
9. Pat White: The West Virginia quarterback, the hero of the Fiesta Bowl rout of OU last January, has not had a sterling senior year. But his 200 rushing yards against Louisville gave White an NCAA-quarterback record 4,292 rushing yards, breaking Brad Smith’s record of 4,289, set at Missouri.
8. Clemson: The Tigers upset Virginia 13-3 to get within one victory of bowl eligibility. Clemson is 6-5, but since two of its victories came against I-AA teams, it must go 7-5 to reach a bowl. South Carolina is next.
7. Turner Gill: Buffalo beat Bowling Green 40-34 in two overtimes to give the Bulls a 7-4 record and make Gill a hot candidate. Two straight quality seasons by Buffalo, which had been one of the nation’s worst programs.
6. Kansas State fans: Hope has been restored in Manhattan with the hiring of Bill Snyder. The Miracle Man might be out of magic, but fans can dream, and hope was fast fading on the Flint Hills.
5. Houston Nutt: I don’t know what went wrong at Arkansas, but this I know. The Hogs are 4-7 and mostly stink. Meanwhile, Nutt’s new team, Ole Miss, has beaten the last two national champions, Florida and now LSU, on the road, and is 7-4 and perhaps Cotton Bowl bound.
4. Justin Kahut: Sometimes when you make a big blunder, you spend the rest of your life seeking redemption. Just ask Brent Parker. Kahut had to wait only a few minutes. The Oregon State kicker missed a tying-extra point with 3:58 left against Arizona. But the Beavers got the ball back, and Kahut kicked a 24-yard field goal as time expired to keep Oregon State in the Rose Bowl driver’s seat.
3. Washington State: In what surely was the last game we’ll ever see matching 10-loss teams, Wazuu beat Washington 16-13 in double-overtime, keeping the Huskies winless and giving Washington State fans a victory they’ll revel in for the next 50 years.
2. Utah: The Utes sealed a BCS bowl berth with a 48-24 rout of arch-rival Brigham Young, and what mid-major ever deserved it more. Utah beat top-20 teams BYU and TCU, plus Pac-10 leader Oregon State. And don’t forget the win at Michigan to open the season. Sure, the Wolverines stink now, but Michigan didn’t know it stunk back in September.
1. Sam Bradford: The Oklahoma quarterback moved to the top of the Heisman Trophy lists and his team moved into BCS title game contention with a 65-21 smackdown of Texas Tech. Bradford’s numbers were video-game high again: 14 of 19, 304 yards, four touchdowns.
Saturday, my usual parking spaces along the railroad tracks just north of Eufaula Street in Norman were taken. So I parked along Eufaula, a half block east of the tracks. Which means I walked along Legacy Trail. I recommend it highly to anyone who lives or has interest in Norman.
Legacy Trail includes is a series of six plazas between Gray Street and Duffy Street which take visitors from the period before the Land Run through statehood, formation of OU, the Depression and both world wars up to the present.
Informational plaques and sculptures highlight the plazas, including three-dimensional maps of Norman in 1907, the OU campus as it looked in 1942, a bronze miniature Stearman biplane, a statue and tribute to actor James Garner and a clock that once graced the exterior of the First National Bank in early day Norman.
It was a fun walk. Next year, I’ll walk on the east side of the tracks to get to Owen Field and live a little of old Norman.
Rankings based not on what anyone thinks a team will do or should do, but on what they have done:
1. Alabama: Last man standing.
2. Florida: SEC not as good at the top as the Big 12, but much, much better at the bottom.
3. Texas: Probably won’t hold off OU.
4. Penn State: Regular season over; Nittanys will only fall the rest of the season.
5. Oklahoma: Probably rises to No. 2 with a win in Stillwater.
6. USC: How do you stay under the radar in LA?
7. Texas Tech: Guy in the pressbox Saturday night asked me, “Do you think anyone remembers Frazier-Foreman?” I said, “I don’t know, but I’ll bet they remember Tyson-Spinks.”
8. Georgia: Call me crazy, but I still think Georgia is a quality team.
9. Utah: You’ve got to hand it to the Utes, they’ve been impressive.
10. Ohio State: Call me crazy, but I don’t think Ohio State is a quality team. But the results say put them here.
11. Boise State: Isn’t it about time we got serious about getting Boise in the Pac-10? Or at least the Mountain West?
12. Oklahoma State: Picked a bad year to have a great team.
13. Oregon State: I’m pulling for a USC-Penn State Rose Bowl. Sorry, I’ve seen Penn State-Oregon State.
14. Oregon: Quacky season. Oregon State-Oregon has Rose Bowl implications, yet Washington State-Washington was the more compelling game.
15. Boston College: If Boston College wins the ACC, which it very well might, I promise a one-year moratorium on saying anything bad about the Big East.
I drove down Lindsey Street after midnight, just south of the stadium, and marveled at the mess. The tent city looked like Woodstock after the music had stopped. Trash everywhere. Beer bottles. Paper products flying around. Not a soul in sight.
I drove back down Jenkins Avenue early Sunday morning, before 7:30 a.m., and at the intersection of Jenkins and Lindsey, I again marveled. The mess was gone.
Amazing. In a few simple hours, the cleanup crew had dispatched all the ugly trash, and campus was looking semi-normal again.
I don’t know who cleans up college campuses after the carnage of game day, but I salute your work. Impressive. Very impressive.
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