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More emails on Bedlam, Alabama, Mack Brown and Mike Gundy

by Berry Tramel Modified: December 13, 2013 at 7:05 pm •  Published: December 13, 2013

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy, left, and Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, right, meet at midfield following their NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. Oklahoma won 33-24. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy, left, and Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, right, meet at midfield following their NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. Oklahoma won 33-24. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

The weekly emails are in. Earlier in the day, I posted the dispatches about Bedlam Behaving Badly and officiating concerns. Now, everything else, ranging from OU exhilaration to OSU agony.


Jimmy: “I cannot believe how in God’s name you can claim ‘the Cowboys dominated much of the day.’ Are you serious? I began wondering if I watched the same game as you did. I don’t believe necessarily either team dominated the other, and it was a tight game by no accident. You didn’t give any halfway decent credit to OU’s defense for that result. You could have acknowledged OU’s good defensive play, including the goal line defense on the 1-yard line. You are assuming OSU at will could have done whatever they wanted to do to OU and they just simply for some reasons didn’t, and that’s unfortunately cutting OU’s good work yesterday short. I just believe your observation is simply wrong! I know most likely, as usual, you will defend your opinion and claim I’m wrong, or I don’t know what I’m talking about, but every once in awhile I believe you could and should rethink and revisit your observation and correct yourself later, when it’s so obvious like this one.”

I stand by what I wrote. OU faked a field goal for a TD, ran back a punt for a TD, staged a goal line stand and got a good performance from its third-team quarterback. And still trailed with 20 seconds left. OSU played that game like it was in complete control. The Cowboy coaches seemed to think they would win so long as they didn’t screw it up. And then suddenly, they were in a cliffhanger, and then suddenly, they had lost a game they had dominated much of the day.

Sean: How would you explain the Bedlam dominance by OU? Obviously the 84 wins to 17 is stunning. But even when you look at just since Switzer stepped down, OSU still has only won six times  (one against Smellsofbourbon, two against Blake, and three against Bob). It is simply amazing to me that with competitive games — many down to the wire, particularly in Stillwater — that OU has still won at better than an .800 clip.”

I have no ready explanation for it. Much of the time, OU has just been better. But the Sooners seem to win all the close ones. Think of it this way. In the last 37 years, OSU has beaten OU once by single digits.

John: “What has happened in the series in the last 13 years is twice OU has had the better team and lost and twice OSU has had the better team and lost. That is really all there is to it. People are panicking because in two of the last four years, OU has won despite having an inferior team. Well, that happens sometimes. Blake Bell is one of the worst quarterbacks in all of Division I this year and one of the worst I have ever seen. But for one drive he managed to look great, just like for one drive a freshman Josh Fields managed to play way above his head. The worst thing Gundy could do is panic and start having an attitude about the game. They used to say the same thing about Tom Osborne. He could never beat OU. But in the ‘70s, when he started coaching, OU generally had the better team. Despite this, Osborne still managed to upset what I think should be considered the best OU team of all time in 1978.  But sure enough when the early ‘80s rolled around, Osborne started winning. And when the late ‘80s and early ‘90s came around, he put his foot on OU’s throat.  Somehow Sooner magic didn’t mean much when Osborne had the superior team. The same thing will hold true for Gundy. It took him ten years. But he finally has equal talent with OU. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. And with equal talent will come equal breaks. The best thing for Gundy to do now is what he is doing, worry about beating Missouri. Even this year, if OSU goes down and beats Missouri and OU receives the epic beating from Alabama most people expect, OU’s victory won’t seem quite as significant as it does now.”

Man, you need to get out more, if the guy who won in South Bend and Stillwater is one of the worst quarterbacks you’ve ever seen. But excellent point about Tom Osborne. Dr. Tom absolutely had an OU problem. But in his final 10 games against the Sooners, Osborne lost just once.

John: “I agree that this was the best Bedlam ever. Especially if you’re an OU fan – double-digit road dog, all the injuries, late lead changes and then the touchdown on the last play. But the biggest play of the game (other than the obvious go-ahead TD pass at the end)? The holding call on the first play from scrimmage, which brought back a 75-yard TD. If that TD holds up, the Sooners are getting blown out. There’s no coming back from that.”

I tend to agree. That would have  been a huge firestarter for OSU. Instead, it sucked the air out of Boone Pickens Stadium, and it took awhile to get it back.


Jeff: “I  couldn’t agree with you more. An F for coach Gundy.  For all the great things Mike Gundy does, clock management is not his forte. On OSU’s final drive, I don’t think we ran the ball once, used very little clock and gave OU the ball with plenty of time left.  Then when OU was moving the ball at will, Gundy never called timeout to slow their drive/momentum, not to mention the two calls. He does this all the time, often looking lost, check prior games and pay attention in the future.   Gundy can’t manage the clock.”

I don’t know. I really haven’t noticed any clock management problems with Gundy, but I haven’t studied it, either. Saturday, I had no problem with OSU’s final drive. Pass, pass, pass, pass. Four great completions brought the Cowboys inside the OU 10-yard line. Then OSU ran three plays into the end zone. You’ve got to score and can’t worry too much about the clock.

Herb: “Once again,   Mike Gundy coached not to lose instead of coaching to win.  Big difference. Same mindset that Pat Jones had in games with OU and Nebraska.”

I don’t know. Maybe. I thought OSU passed too much. That’s not playing not to win. That’s just playing silly.

Bob: “I am a diehard Cowboy fan, and I believe you were kind in your article. I think of Les Mile’s record against Bob Stoops, and here’s what I think, For the foreseeable future, the very best season a Cowboy fan can look forward to is 11-1. Sooners not only own Bedlam, they own Gundy.  That’s what you didn’t say. The coaching staff that produced the Baylor win, is same staff that the Sooners own. I am afraid that given current coaching staff, the Pokes have no chance of ever winning a national title.”

I can’t agree. Gundy made some mistakes yesterday, but OSU has done the hard part. Figuring out Bedlam should be the easy part.

Tim: “I am still smarting over the Bedlam loss.  For me the whole game comes down to one thing you touched on Sunday, and nothing else matters. Everything else in that game is a result of this one thing.  Yurcich did not commit to the run when it was dominating the game.  There is no doubt had he stayed with almost exclusively running the ball, OSU would have won going away.  OSU had the game in hand, and he quit running the ball.  Why?  OU couldn’t stop it and had not done well against the run all year.  What better formula to win any game than a defense that is shutting the other team down, and a dominating run game? How can anyone justify his play calling?  I would love to hear him or Gundy try to. We sometimes hear talk about how a certain game was too big of a stage for a young player.  Bedlam was way too big of a stage for Mike Yurcich.  He blew it, he choked, period.”

I don’t know about choking. But I definitely think Yurcich and/or Gundy let the game get away from them. The Cowboys got away from the run, for no apparent reason. And it cost them.

Brent: “Does Gundy have an OU problem like John Cooper had a Michigan problem? The three losses in the past four years suggest that it’s possible.  Look at the manner in which those three games have been lost.   Karma, jinx, whatever you wanna call it, one conference title & one win vs. OU are not acceptable with the resources he’s had in place the majority of his tenure.”

I would say the answer is yes. Gundy has an OU problem.

John: “I think Mr. Gundy needs to be the next football coach at Texas cause he don’t think Oklahoma high school football players can play on his OSU team. Seventy players on OSU’s roster from Texas. I think it’s disrespect to Oklahoma coaches, high school programs and players. After all, I think Oklahoma taxpayers still foot the bill for OSU.”

You can’t argue with the results. OSU has done very well recruiting in Texas.


Mitchell: “I think Mack is gone but Saban stays. I know Switzer says Texas is the best job in the country, but I do not buy it. It is one of many. If it were the best job, we would see more empirical evidence. I can publicly debate that OU has been better. The ‘potentially’ best is speculation. They have strapped on cleats since Chester Arthur was president, so we would know by now if they were the best. Think back to the likes of Hayes, Schembechler, McKay, Parseghian, Royal, Bryant, Osborne. These guys do not leave for lateral positions. I think Texas is actually a little less than Bama. There is almost no modern precedent for an elite coach to make a lateral move without some intervening factor (NFL, scandal, etc.). In reality, Texas is a hard job to sell to an established coach at a great program. The idea they ‘get who they want’ is poppycock. After Royal they got Akers, McWilliams, Mackovic and finally Mack from North Carolina (an upgrade hire for him, not a lateral). OU got Wilkinson, Switzer and Stoops from the ranks of assistants. Truth is there is hardly anyone who they can hire that is not either a top assistant or a rising star (like the old Miami of Ohio pipeline). This is the historical precedent of college football at least the last 50 years or so.”

I largely agree, though you could argue that Urban Meyer went from Florida to Ohio State, with a year hiatus. But the thesis is right. The Longhorns have not hired an already-paramount coach since D.X. Bible in 1937.

David: “I agree 100 percent that Nick Saban is the best college football coach on the scene today. This, despite the fact that Bob Stoops has a higher winning percentage than Saban and has averaged more wins per season than Saban.  Even if we suppose that Nick Saban were to travel to Austin, Big 12 fans would probably only be enjoying his coaching prowess for five or six years, judging on his past history.  As an OU fan, I would still take Bob Stoops, even with his five-loss seasons in ‘99 and ‘09, over any other college coach on today’s scene.”

Warms my heart to know someone still likes their coach.

Vernon: “I read Saban was quoted as saying he was a long time ‘friend of the Stoops.’ I don’t see it. Saban was born in West Virginia in 1951, played college ball in Ohio but was too old to have played with any of the Stoops boys. I don’t think he ever coached with any of the Stoops boys. What’s the deal? Why would Saban say he and the Stoopses go way back?”

Apparently, when Saban coached at Kent State in the ’70s, and West Virginia in the late ‘70s, and Ohio State in the early ’80s, he recruited Cardinal Mooney High School and got to know Ron Stoops Sr. (Heck, Saban might have recruited Bo Pelini, who did go to Ohio State out of Cardinal Mooney). Saban said he got to know Mark Stoops through the recruiting process and was at Ohio State when Mike and Bob played at Iowa. And it grew from there.

Gary: “If Mack does resign, and is replaced by Saban, it will hearken back to 1976, when OU beat Wyoming and Fred Akers in the Fiesta Bowl. Shortly afterward, he was named coach at Texas to replace Darrell Royal.”

Except Alabama isn’t Wyoming.

Bob: “I believe Saban at Texas would be great for the Big 12. Steel on Steel. Ones vs. Ones. Isn’t that what makes everyone better? I believe the SEC overall got better with Saban (both times).”

I agree. It might give OU and OSU some hairy moments, but Texas being better would enhance the Big 12, and the Big 12 being better would enhance OU and OSU.


Charles: “Just can’t believe OU will play Alabama. They are arguably still the best team, despite its one loss, in the country, so I hope you will encourage and challenge Bob to put his Big Game Bob skills to good use to prepare for this game. Using your great reporting skills, I hope you can provide some incentive in your words to get those coaches to rise above their current skills and abilities to create a winning game plan for this game. You know Saban will. I remember Bob talking about the weaknesses of the SEC earlier in the year. Now it’s his chance to prove his words playing probably the best team in the country.”

Who knows? Maybe Bama will be down. Lost to Utah in the 2008 season Sugar Bowl. I’m not going to be able to motivate the Sooners into anything.

John: “I would be interested to read your dissection of this unproven theory: Big Game Bob is bigger in big games as an underdog than he is as a favorite.  I have not broken down the data to confirm this, but it seems to be true. He coaches more aggressively and his players seem to respond. When Stoops gets backed into a corner he comes out swinging, and his Sooners seem to play with a reckless abandon.  KSU, Nebraska and FSU in that magical season of 2000 come to mind, as do several UT games, and of course, 2013 Bedlam. Do the numbers prove this theory? I understand you don’t need many double reverses, fourth-and-twos, and fake field goals if you are a heavy favorite. But even in tight games against the likes of TCU, OSU, and Tech, he calls a much more conservative game, and his teams don’t play with the bravado they do as dogs. True or not?”

It’s a good question. My initial response is no, Stoops’ record isn’t that great as an underdog. Most coaches aren’t. But it’s worth researching. And think of it this way. OU was a huge underdog in the Florida State Orange Bowl, but the Sooners didn’t play with reckless abandon. In fact, OU played fairly conservative that night.

Gray: “I am happy for Blake Bell that he did great last week. He deserves good things. Hope he stays.  But it would not be the right move to go back to him as starter. Bama has few weaknesses, but like most teams, an athletic QB can give fits. Here are three weeks to hone the offense and work with Knight without a gameplan needed for a game in five days. The future is Knight.  But clearly Bell is there in reserve and you could do worse.  But going back to Bell as a starter would be regressive in my view. I know they play to win, but this bowl season will also prep for next year.  Give TK the start here and you have a sophomore QB that has already faced the ultimate. It will make the future brighter.”

Well, I think that in any bowl game, you have to play the quarterback that gives you the best chance to win. To do anything else is cheating your seniors. So the question becomes, who gives OU the best chance to win? I don’t know. I need to talk to some coaches and get a better read. A more mobile quarterback no doubt helps against Alabama. But you’ve got to be able to throw, too, despite what Auburn did. The truth is, OU doesn’t have a Johnny Manziel or an Aaron Murray or an Auburn running game.

Lynn: “Bob Stoops had high praise for A.J. McCarron, who was named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy the next day. ‘I think AJ McCarron is the best player in the country, I really do,’ Stoops said. ‘If I had a vote, that’s who I’d vote for.’ So does Stoops really feel that McCarron is better than Johnny Manziel?  Gosh I hope not, or this season’s Sugar Bowl is going to be even worse than last season’s Cotton Bowl for Stoops and his Sooners.  I can’t see McCarron shredding any defense the way Johnny Football did in last year’s Cotton Bowl.  That was a clinic.”

A&M scored 41 points. I don’t necessarily think Bama will score 41 points in the Sugar Bowl, but it wouldn’t be a big surprise if it happened. And this OU defense is better than last year’s OU defense.

John: “Doesn’t it seem a bit odd to you that the Big 12 champion is playing a directional school in the bowl game, and a ‘rebuilding’ OU team, now ravaged with injuries, is playing perhaps the best college football team in the country? I will not miss the BCS! I think that the basic premise was flawed, in that a Central Florida or Northern Illinois could get into a BCS game, even though their regular-season opponents were usually not in the same class as those of the BCS automatic qualifier schools. Boise State notably excepted, most of these Cinderellas  turn into pumpkins on the BCS game field.   OU will have to play like Boise State did in the Fiesta Bowl to have any chance against Bama.”

John: Yes. But also, don’t count out mid-majors. Utah beat Alabama. TCU beat Wisconsin. Northern Illinois was very competitive last year in the Orange Bowl against Florida State. More competitive than Florida was against Louisville. Giving the little guy a chance, if they meet certain standards, I think is fine.

Steve: “Being an OU fan, I was very pleased with the way they tenaciously held up against OSU. Showed some character. I do not expect them to beat Alabama, but a good showing on that stage will be invaluable for the younger players and should help a bunch with recruiting.”

Well, if OU can avoid getting blown out, it will help recruiting. Win, lose close, sure. But get beat 41-13 again, like the Cotton Bowl last season, could hurt recruiting.

Ron: It looks like we need all of the quarterbacks. The Bama game could be great for recruiting.  We don’t have to win….if we can just keep it close and look competitive. If we play well, it could cause us to turn the corner on recruiting again.”

I agree. A competitive game would put the Sooners in a positive light. A blowout would be bad for business.

Johnny: “The Sugar Bowl could not be a worse matchup for OU and the shape the team is in physically.  I probably need to have my head examined, but I might go to the game even though we have no chance. My friends I usually go with have already said they are not wasting their money.   Of course it would have been a bad matchup if they were in perfect health, Bama is that much better. All of the talking heads on TV last night were almost laughing at this matchup. The Sugar Bowl agreement with the SEC and Big 12 will not last more than three years. After three blowout games and falling ratings the network will make the Sugar Bowl drop the Big 12 and open it up to the best team available.  Just look at your article for that proof.  OSU has a little better shot than OU but not much. The Big 12 goes 0-2 against the SEC.  This is not a trend it is reality.

I don’t see it that way. I don’t see this as an opportunity for OU to get whacked. I see this as an opportunity for OU to make a statement. Maybe win, maybe not, but let people know that Big 12 football and OU football is alive and well.

Hardin: “Trevor has started four games and been knocked out of two by injury.  Is that the future of this offense?  Better have QBs stacked up like running backs.”

I think it’s a concern. I think it’s a major concern.

James: “OU is in a better bowl than Oregon, LSU, Texas, Baylor, Missouri, Texas A&M, Nebraska, BYU, Notre Dame, Georgia, Arizona State, Oklahoma State and Boise State. OU haters will come out of the walls. It’ll happen.”

So what if it does. Who cares?


Mike: “Interesting how conflicted the media seems to be about the Sooners. On the one hand, I have read and heard a lot of rhetoric about the Sooners’ ‘talent slip’ over the last few years. I think you even wrote something on this in the days leading up to the bedlam game when pretty much every one of you picked OSU to win. Then, in the days since, instead of crediting the Sooners for still having talent, you guys wanted to talk about how OSU still had better talent but that the coaches blew it. Now, I hear virtually every day on the radio, most of the local talking heads discuss how OU is going to be ‘really good’ next year and a ‘national championship’ contender if they can settle the quarterback position. You cannot be on a talent slide one day and then project to be the type of team to contend for titles the very next year. If overall talent has declined, it’ll take much more than a settled quarterback situation to come anywhere near contending for a title.”

Easiest question of all time. If you’ve got a question about what somebody said on the radio, call the radio.

Press: “Since it’s apparent to you that OSU has better talent than OU, I think it would be appropriate for you to write an article about the outstanding job Stoops and his staff have done this year especially in light of the victory.  This would include all the adversity they have encountered — injuries on the O-line & D-line, quarterback changes, suspensions, dismissals, etc. I also believe this should include the obvious impact the three new coaches have made on the field and in recruiting. No one gave OU much of a chance today but it might be fair to say that Stoops and crew can still coach ‘em up even though they may have less talent. It remains to be seen but with their youth playing so well, the future still looks promising.”

I agree, the future looks promising. And Stoops’ staff clearly outcoached OSU’s. No doubt about it.

Richard: “OSU was the better team??  What exactly do you smoke when you watch these games?  The OU staff completely out coached the OSU coaching staff.  After losing the starting quarterback and having to juggle the two backups as well as dealing with other injuries, they found a way to win.  The coaches made gutsy calls and the players executed.”

If OU had the better team, why did Stoops need to outcoach Gundy?

Chance: “I’m still somewhat amazed at the Bedlam loss and Gundy’s overall record against OU.  At the same time, Gundy HAS beaten OU, so you’d think he’d be over that hump.  What was special about 2011?  That team was elite, but the 2011 Sooners team was pretty good too.  I would say the talent disparity between the two teams was greater this year than 2011, but maybe I’m just overrating this year’s OSU team. Any thoughts?”

Interesting question. 2011 OSU was much better than 2013 OSU. And 2011 OU was much better than 2013 OU. I’d say OSU probably had a bigger edge this year. That 2011 OU team was in national title contention as late as Nov. 19.


Isaiah: “Is Boise State now too high profile of a program that they would not consider Josh Heupel for head coach, if Bob Stoops recommended him?”

I think the answer is yes. Boise State just hired Arkansas State’s Bryan Harsin. I think Ark State could be a good ft for Heupel.

Fitz: “I was thrilled at the play calling by the Sooners Saturday.”

Josh Heupel had a very good day, but let’s not get carried away by the playcalling. Here is how OU’s first nine possessions ended: punt, punt, punt, punt, field goal, interception, punt, punt, punt. Then the Sooners had a nice drive, led by Kendal Thompson, and faked the field goal for a touchdown. Then finished off with Blake Bell – field goal, punt, TD. Heupel had the cool triple option wrinkle, with Jalen Saunders or Sterling Shepard in motion and reversing to be the trailing halfback, plus the double reverse that Saunders turned into a big play. And finally, adjusting back to the old offense, with Bell. But it wasn’t like a bunch of fluid offensive gains.


Wayne: “A 92-year-old uncle of mine had the gall to die and have his funeral at 2 p.m. Saturday. It meant the wife and I had to leave the game, turn off the TV with score at 14-14 and go.  We joined the other sad-faced kin (just a few braved the slick ice) where a bunch of out-of-state kin proceeded to give impromptu eulogies for over an hour.  They were unaware of the game.  How could that be?  Luckily, the funeral director had a secret radio in his ear and we were able to learn the score.  Wile perhaps two mourners came out sadder (OSU fans), the vast majority left the church acting as if they were glad the old uncle was gone.  Or was it because of the splendid OU win?”

DVR, my man. DVR.

Brad: “I often hear you say that expansion for expansion’s sake is bad.  But wouldn’t expansion regardless of the teams tend to show that the Big 12 is truly committed to remaining a conference long term? My belief is that the Big 12 is viewed nationally as an unstable/dying conference, and that is one of the reasons why OU and UT recruiting has been down in recent years. Elite schools recruiting against UT and OU have an easy trump card given the national perception of the Big 12 as a brand.”

I think the Big 12’s brand has been damaged, but you don’t repair it by expanding for expansion sake. Adding two ho-hum schools would damage the Big 12 much more than staying pat. OU and UT recruiting has been down because of the SEC’s rise, which is not due to expansion but to success. Everyone wants to play in the SEC.

Bob: “I have a question that if you don’t know, would you ask one of the OU coaches when you have a chance. I would like to know why OU’s DBs on a whole do not look back for the ball? OU has had several pass interference calls because the DB did not look back. Do the coaches tell them not to look back? I’ve see occasionally they do, but not on a consistent basis. Drives me crazy.”

OU’s defensive backs are being told to get their head around. But it’s hard to do. You’re running full speed, trying to keep up with a receiver, but you’ve got to turn your head at just the right time, else you’ll be left behind. There’s nothing easy about it.

Geary:  “The comments that are written about your articles remind me of a basketball game crowd, and you are the man with the striped shirt and whistle.  You know what I mean, and I don’t have to explain.  Now, I will say that about the only time that I see a good officiated game is when my grandkids’ teams are not playing!”

My skin is thick.

Craig: “I did not understand why OU would challenge the best defensive back in the country when they did. There were different times he came out ahead. One interception and another time it could have been, but he dropped  the ball when he landed.  The defensive back would always have position on the receiver. Ask Stoops, why challenge him?  It appeared OU receivers could not make the moves to get loose from him and he would take away the inside position.”

Good question, but maybe I’ve got the answer. At that point in the game, last minute, do or die, you can’t worry too much about who you’re picking on or interception possibilities. Third quarter? Sure.

David: “With Michigan State ending Ohio State’s 23-game winning streak last night, I guess Florida State now has the longest streak at 15 games. With all the parity in today’s college football, I will never live long enough to see any team break Oklahoma’s 47-game record. It may be decades before any team approaches it. There were no undefeated teams in 2011, and only Ohio State last year and Florida State this year were undefeated.”

I agree? 47? No way.


by Berry Tramel
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 Oklahoman,...
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