NORMAN — Throughout Oklahoma's 45-31 Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama, no Crimson Tide defenders left the game with injuries caused by the Sooners' no-huddle offense.
But a few Alabama defensive players were spotted racing to check their wristbands as OU quarterback Trevor Knight received the snap.
“Bottom line, there's no evidence to support that it's unsafe,” OU coach Bob Stoops told The Oklahoman on Friday, referring to up-tempo offense.
Last week, the NCAA Football Rules Committee approved a proposal that would force offenses to wait until the play clock hits 29 seconds before snapping the ball, allowing defenses 10 seconds to make substitutions. The rule wouldn't be enforced with two minutes remaining in either half.
“The offense is capable of operating without substitution, in all downs and distances,” Stoops said. “If they're able to adjust to keep the same personnel on the field, they ought to be able to use whatever pace they want to. And the defense ought to be able to adjust.”
The proposal has been championed by Alabama coach Nick Saban and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, who have insisted that it's all about player safety, and is scheduled to be considered by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel on March 6. If approved, it would be implemented this fall.
Lots of prominent coaches who run up-tempo offenses have come out against the proposal, including South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, Auburn's Gus Malzahn and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin.
Friday, Stoops and his offensive coordinator, Josh Heupel, each added their voices to the chorus of opponents. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy declined to comment through a spokesman, but he did voice his opinion on Twitter the day the proposal was passed.
“The no huddle, fast tempo style has changed the game of CFB,” Gundy tweeted. “Our sport has exploded in popularity with high scoring games & packed stadiums.
“College Football is constantly evolving. Coaches have to make adjustments based on their team, their talents and their opponents.”
Gundy added that the 10-second rule is tantamount to “asking basketball to take away the shot clock” or “asking a blitzing linebacker to raise his hand.”
Heupel, speaking during a radio interview with former Sooners Dusty Dvoracek and Teddy Lehman, said that if safety is the issue, the up-tempo shouldn't be allowed at all during games, even during the final two minutes of each half.
Stoops echoed those sentiments.
“If it's safe the last two minutes of the half, how's it not safe the rest of the game?” Stoops said. “They don't allow targeting the last two minutes of each half.”
Thursday night, Bielema told reporters that those opposed to the proposal were “turning a blind eye to the fact,” and when asked for evidence that up-tempo offenses cause injuries, he responded, “Death certificates.”
Bielema was referring to the Feb. 7 death of Cal senior defensive end Ted Agu, who had reportedly tested positive for sickle cell trait.
“If one of those players is on the field for me, and I have no timeouts, I have no way to stop the game,” Bielema said. “And he raises his hand to stop the game, and I can't do it. What am I supposed to do? What are we supposed to do when we have a player who tells us he's injured?”
Stoops counters that the game already stops when a player is injured.
“We've been operating for six years in an up-tempo,” Stoops said. “If someone's hurt, play is stopped. … They talk about players with the sickle cell trait, or asthma, goes to a knee, puts his hand up and play is stopped. That's how the game has been played forever. Nothing's changed.
“The other thing is, if you're going to do this, what comes next? ‘Oh, the quarterback can't get in the shotgun and run the ball, because he might get hurt.' … Don't allow the defense to blitz more rushers than the offense has blockers. Because the quarterback might get killed. Somebody's going to be unblocked. To me, that's a lot more unsafe than going tempo.”