NORMAN – For the first time since the Great Depression, and I don't mean last Saturday night in Waco, the Sooners played a non-rivalry game on Thanksgiving weekend.
Uh, tried it. Don't like it. Don't like it one bit.
Oklahoma beat Iowa State 26-6 Saturday at Owen Field and that's the extent of the excitement. Dour, dour day.
Bad crowd, with probably 15,000 no-shows. Bad weather, chilly with Apocalyptic winds. Bad kickoff time, 11 a.m. Bad moon rising, with the Sooners coming off that demoralizing loss at Baylor a week before.
“Odd day,” said Bob Stoops. “It was pretty strange.”
Center Ben Habern agreed, saying, “It was a little weird, looking up at the crowd, not seeing the stands packed … a little different atmosphere.”
But the Sooners got the victory, which in this wacky 2011 season can't be discounted, to set up a Stillwater showdown. Bedlam next Saturday night, with a Big 12 championship on the line that would make history for the Cowboys and salvage a season for the Sooners.
Expect the atmosphere, if not the atmospheric conditions, to be far different at Boone Pickens Stadium than what we had Saturday. Iowa State did not entice the students, scattered for the holiday, to return to campus. And the older crowd voted with its absence, too, the empty seats announcing the displeasure of not just losing to Baylor, but playing a non-marquee game on a marquee stage.
Not since 1934 (at George Washington U.) had OU played against anyone but OSU or Nebraska on Thanksgiving Weekend. Not since 1930 (Missouri) had OU played at home on Thanksgiving Weekend against neither Cowboys nor Cornhuskers.
So if the Big 12 needs OU to play on Thanksgiving Weekend the week before Bedlam – and the Big 12's networks most assuredly need the Sooners to play on Thanksgiving Weekend – it needs to jerry-rig some kind of rivalry that makes people care. West Virginia (wild turkey for Thanksgiving) or TCU.
Stoops won't like it, but welcome to life after conference realignment. The Big 12 has to ruffle feathers to stay relevant.
And speaking of ruffled feathers, at least this dour day didn't turn sour.
“We got a win,” said quarterback Landry Jones, sitting in the Big Red Room, glad to be out of that howling wind. “That's all we're looking for each week. If you win, you win.”
True enough, but this dud game didn't even give the Sooners any kind of decent prep work for OSU. The Cyclones are as from the Cowboys as two teams could be.
Paul Rhoads has turned Iowa State into a gutty over-achiever, and the Cyclones hung tough most of the game, but never did this smell like another Tech-or-Baylor shocker.
Brent Venables' defense pitched a virtual shutout Saturday, but what does that mean against a team that can't pitch and catch like Brandon Weeden and the ‘Boys?
“Every week has its challenges,” said Venables. “This will be our most difficult challenge of the year. A great, great challenge, without a doubt. We haven't played like we're capable of playing defending the pass.”
Iowa State's gutty Jared Barnett entered unbeaten as a quarterback, but he was no threat against the Sooners.
About the only Bedlam preparation this game provided was the potential bad weather. Long-range forecast for next Saturday in Stillwater: high of 53, overnight low 32, light winds. So not even that.
“I never make too much out of any one game,” Stoops said. “Still gets down to what you do during the week.
“We'll go in confidently. We're a bunch that's been over there plenty of times. We understand the challenge of it, we respect the challenge of it. We're excited about the challenge of it. We know it's a one-game season for the Big 12 championship. That's where you want to be.”
Unlike Thanksgiving weekend against Iowa State. Compared to that, whatever happens Saturday night in Stillwater sounds like fun.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.