Running out of time in Thursday's final pre-Insight Bowl news conference, a longtime Iowa media member gave it one last shot. The reporter wanted to know if Kirk Ferentz would name a starting running back, in place of the suspended Marcus Coker.
“The whole world is waiting on that one,” Ferentz said, grinning. So, nope.
He added that he expects four backs, including fullback Brad Rogers, to play in a committee. Jordan Canzeri, Damon Bullock and Jason White were the other backs he mentioned.
White, a senior who has three carries for 12 yards this season, was the running back representative at Wednesday's media day.
Coker rushed for 1,384 of Iowa's 1,714 yards this season.
“They will do a good job,” Ferentz said. “As long as we get the young guys out of the locker room, they may be nervous, they'll be fine.”
Without Coker, it's not as if OU coach Bob Stoops expects Iowa to turn into, say, Texas Tech or another spread-and-throw team. Pass-happy offenses are the ones that have given OU's defense fits. It has played well, for the most part, against run-first teams.
Oklahoma State, though, did gash the Sooners for 278 rushing yards.
“I don't believe they are going to change offenses,” Stoops said. “So I think what you still prepare for are the formations and the plays that they are used to running.
“What I see is an excellent offensive line and tight ends and a quarterback that play really well. I'm sure they will find guys that if they have space, they will be able to jump in and make something happen.”
Receivers coach Jay Norvell, one of three Iowa grads on the OU staff, is 0-7 against his alma mater. Norvell was 0-3 with Iowa State (1995-97) against the Hawkeyes and 0-4 with Wisconsin (1989-94).
But that doesn't worry Stoops. “I like those odds,” Stoops said.
He recalled the 1996 national title game, when his Florida Gators played Florida State. Bobby Bowden's Seminoles had won 11 straight bowl games.
Stoops' response? Great.
“He's bound to” win, Stoops said of Norvell. “The odds get you at some point.”
WINCHESTER, POWELL COULD BE TARGETS
Without Ryan Broyles and Jaz Reynolds, there's a chance some seldom-used OU receivers could play in the Insight Bowl.
One is senior snapper James Winchester. Stoops said the chances of him making a catch are “probably pretty good. James has done an excellent job, really, in the last couple of weeks. We'll see how it goes. I think (the chances are) pretty good.”
And then there's Joe Powell, who returned this week to receiver after a stint at defensive back.
“Joe is ready,” Stoops said. “He's really gathered things back up quickly and has done a nice job through the last week and a half.”
JEFFERSON ENJOYS NBA EXPERIENCE
OU safety Tony Jefferson did one thing once he knew the Sooners would be returning to Phoenix: He checked the Suns' schedule.
The big NBA fan saw the team play Monday night against New Orleans, and he wanted to go again later in the week for another game.
How into the experience was Jefferson? He bought a Steve Nash jersey. And Jefferson got his face painted, with a giant sun on the side of his head.
“I was just having a blast,” he said. “He did like a little design on the side of my face. I was walking and everyone would look at me. I'd just smile.”
One problem for Jefferson: The Suns aren't very good. They lost to the skeletal Hornets and then were blasted by 20 by the Sixers.
KING CELEBRATES … THE BIG TWO-TWO?
Sooners defensive end David King celebrated his 22nd birthday Tuesday.
It wasn't a milestone birthday, but King joked that he's one step closer to one right of passage into adulthood.
“I can rent a car in three more years,” he deadpanned.
INSIGHT BOWL REMATCH
In 2010, a 7-5 Iowa team played in the Insight Bowl against 12th-ranked Missouri, which had a first-round NFL Draft prospect in quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
Friday night, a 7-5 Iowa team plays in the Insight Bowl against 14th-ranked Oklahoma, which has a first-round NFL Draft prospect in quarterback Landry Jones.
“It is almost scary how similar the circumstances are,” said Ferentz. “Missouri was very athletic, very talented, very well coached, outstanding quarterback. They came in with 38, 37 sacks, very similar to what Oklahoma does.”
Iowa beat Mizzou 27-24.
“To have a chance in this game, we will have to play our absolute best in all three phases,” Ferentz said.
HAWKEYE QB SOLID
Junior quarterback James Vandenberg has played well in his first season as the Iowa starter. The 6-foot-3, 212-pounder from Keokuk, Iowa, is listed on some boards for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Vandenberg has completed just 59.4 percent of his passes but has thrown for 23 touchdowns and just six interceptions.
“James has really had a good season,” Ferentz said. “Just off the top of my head, I can think of two passes he wishes he could have back and I wish he could have back. They are both just dumb plays. Not bad for a full season's work, 12 games work.”
BIG TEN DROUGHT ENDS
Iowa will be OU's first Big Ten opponent in Stoops' 13 seasons as head coach. But Stoops said it's not for lack of trying.
Athletic director Joe Castiglione's “always searching,” Stoops said. “He's looked across the country trying to get games.”
ANOTHER LATE OU NIGHT
An OU season marked by a rash of late-night kickoff times ends with an Insight Bowl that starts at 8 p.m. Arizona time, 9 Oklahoma time.
But Stoops doesn't mind, this time. “Bowl games are a little different story,” Stoops said. “You don't have another game coming at you. You don't leave right after the game and walk into your house at 4 o'clock in the morning.”
Stoops said the Sooners will pass the time Friday with a walk-through practice, some meetings and watching football.
Redshirting OU freshman linebacker Franklin Shannon drew raves from teammates last week for his practice performance, and now Stoops has seconded the motion.
“A young linebacker we have really been impressed with,” Stoops said. Stoops also said redshirt freshman defensive back Quentin Hayes “has really shown a lot in the last several days or last few weeks.”
Stoops and Jones also complimented freshman receiver Kameel Jackson, who has been playing. “Kameel continues to really show,” Stoops said. “Hopefully he is going to play more, can really do some things in this game.”
DON'T WIN ONE FOR THE STOOPSTER
If this game is personal for Stoops – his first game against his alma mater – he's not letting on.
“He hasn't expressed that,” said OU defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland. “It's more, this is a great bowl game to be in, against a good team. Good opportunity. In beautiful Arizona.”
Stoops said he wants to win. And he wants to win when OU plays Texas, and Nebraska, and, well, you get the idea.
“I don't view these contests as personal,” Stoops said. “In the end, it's not about me.”