Loss of DeMarco Murray not the end of the world for Sooners

by Berry Tramel Modified: December 17, 2008 at 8:13 am •  Published: December 17, 2008
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NORMAN — The Sooners will miss DeMarco Murray in the Big Bowl.

It’s never good when your starting tailback undergoes major surgery 17 days before the ultimate game. Especially a tailback who has 1,397 scrimmage yards in basically half duty.

But two things to consider as you plot Oklahoma’s fate against Florida on Jan. 8.

1. Murray is well down the list of most indispensable Sooners. Probably not in the top 10, as talented as he is.

2. The loss of Murray will not affect the Sooner running game. It most definitely will affect the passing game.

First, Murray’s value. He’s a wonderful player, but the presence of Chris Brown and now Mossis Madu cushions the blow.

The Sooners have uncommon depth at tailback. Two 1,000-yard rushers and a third-teamer who dented Missouri for 114 ground yards in the Big 12 title game, after Murray was lost on the opening kickoff.

OU is much better equipped to play without Murray than without several of his comrades.

Sam Bradford, naturally. Juaquin Iglesias, who is Sammy B’s bailout receiver. And Jermaine Gresham, whose tight end talents are rare. Center Jon Cooper, who keeps the line humming. And Twin Towers Phil Loadholt and Duke Robinson, who protect Bradford’s backside and combined stand 13 feet one inch and weigh 672 pounds before supper.

That’s just the offense. Throw in defensive tackle G.K. McCoy, d-end Jeremy Beal, linebacker Tyrone Lewis, cornerbacks Brian Jackson and Dom Franks and whoever’s healthy enough to play middle linebacker.

When you think of it that way, it’s count your blessings time.

Of course, Murray doesn’t feel blessed. Nor should he. Two straight years, his season has been zapped late.

The virtual last play of the game at Texas Tech in 2007, on an onside kick, resulted in a dislocated kneecap. The first play of the 2008 Big 12 title game, on a kickoff return, resulted in a ruptured hamstring.

It’s enough to make the star-crossed Vegas native take his chances somewhere besides the kicking game.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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Sooner Bowl Abscences
→1939 Orange Bowl: Bill Jennings, Novel Wood, Cliff Speegle

OU’s first bowl game was played short-handed, as Jennings suffered a broken leg in the season finale and Wood and Speegle suffered knee injuries in the next-to-last game. A Sooner team that went 10-0 and allowed only 12 points all season was beaten 17-0 by Tennessee.

→1959 Orange Bowl: David Baker

OU’s starting quarterback was ruled academically ineligible, but the Sooners beat Syracuse 21-6. Baker’s replacement, Bob Cornell, didn’t throw a pass.

→1964 Gator Bowl: Jim Grisham, Ralph Neely, Lance Rentzel

Gomer Jones suspended his three senior standouts for signing professional contracts, and the Sooners struggled. Grisham was an all-American fullback, and offensive tackle Neely and flanker Rentzel were future Dallas Cowboy stars. But OU’s offense struggled without the trio; aside from a 95-yard pass play, the Sooners generated just 185 total yards and lost 36-19 to Florida State.

→1976 Orange Bowl: Horace Ivory

OU’s breakaway fullback was sent home from Miami for violating team rules. Ivory and Jim Littrell had shared the position all season. But third-teamer Jim Culbreath came up big with 63 yards on 11 carries, including a 21-yard gain on 3rd-and-20 that set up a touchdown in the Sooners’ 14-6 win over Michigan that secured the national championship.

→1987 Orange Bowl: Brian Bosworth

The Boz was suspended for failing an NCAA steroid test, but backup Dante Jones filled in superbly at linebacker as the Sooners routed Arkansas 42-8.

→1988 Orange Bowl: Jamelle Holieway

Holieway suffered a major knee injury in Game 9; backup Charles Thompson led OU to victory at Nebraska in Game of the Century II. But the Sooner offense was stymied by Miami in the national championship game. OU lost 20-14.

→1989 Citrus Bowl: Charles Thompson

CT had subbed for Holieway the year before, but this time, a wounded Holieway had to sub for Thompson, who suffered a broken leg in the regular-season finale against Nebraska. The Sooners were totally ineffective against Clemson, losing 13-6.

→1994 Copper Bowl: Garrick McGee

OU’s starting quarterback missed the game with spinal meningitis. Backup Terence Brown, moved over from flanker, completed just 13 of 30 passes for 163 yards as Brigham Young rolled 31-6.

→2008 Fiesta Bowl: Malcolm Kelly, DeMarcus Granger, Lendy Holmes

West Virginia rolled 48-28, dominating both sides of the ball. Defensive tackle Granger was sent home for theft and safety Holmes was academically ineligible, and the Sooner defense never corralled the Mountaineers. Kelly, OU’s top receiver, missed the game (except for one half-speed series) with a deep this bruise. Backup Quentin Chaney had four catches for 129 yards and a touchdown, but West Virginia took advantage of Kelly’s absence to blitz constantly.

BY BERRY TRAMEL

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