Oklahoma senior running back Dominique Whaley saw his first game action in three weeks Saturday, when OU won 35-20 at Iowa State.
Whaley was only in for a few plays, though, and got just one touch — a 2-yard run in the second quarter. The former walk-on from Lawton became Oklahoma's starter last year before a season-ending ankle injury against Kansas State, and has never seemed able to reach his 2011 success through eight 2012 games.
“He's healthy,” running backs coach Cale Gundy said after Saturday's win, “but I don't know if it's ever completely 100 percent like the first go-round.
“He's just a little hesitant. Just is what it is.”
Whaley was a backup at NAIA Langston before eventually walking on at OU, bursting onto the scene as a junior and leading the Sooners with 627 yards before his injury.
Whaley started OU's 2012 season opener at UTEP, but quickly fell behind junior-college transfer Damien Williams on the depth chart.
Before Saturday, Whaley — who was featured in a 2011 Sports Illustrated edition — hadn't touched the game field since a six-carry, 51-yard outing against Texas on Oct. 13.
Williams was severely limited Saturday, still recovering from his own ankle injury suffered in last week's loss to Notre Dame, and junior Brennan Clay started in his place. Clay finished with 157 yards on 24 carries.
Coach Bob Stoops had said earlier in the week, though, that Whaley would start against Iowa State if Williams couldn't go.
JOHNSON ONLY ACTIVE ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Senior tackle Lane Johnson, who also hurt his ankle in the Notre Dame loss, was expected to fully participate Saturday against Iowa State.
But during warm-ups, Stoops said it was clear that he wouldn't be able to play at full strength.
“He did some things in practice; that's why he was suited out and tried,” Stoops said. “You could just tell in warm-ups he wasn't going to be effective.
“Same thing with Damien. We tried and you could tell it just wasn't quite what he needed it to be.”
Williams rushed for 7 yards on three carries, all in the first half.
Johnson did get in the game on special-teams units, but never played Saturday in his usual spot on the offensive line.
STOOPS TIES WILKINSON ON WINS' LIST
Saturday's win was the 145th of Stoops' career, tying him with Bud Wilkinson for second among OU football coaches.
Wilkinson, who coached the Sooners from 1947-63, famously led the program on a 47-game winning streak and to three national championships.
“I had no idea about that to be honest with you; I truly didn't,” Stoops said. “I've got the greatest respect for what Coach Wilkinson did. The stories I hear from his players … I'm very proud to be at a place that he sort of ... built.
“I don't want to quantify it because I'm still working. I'm just thinking about the next one when I'm walking in here. I'm fortunate to be at a great place, a great university with great leadership in my administration.”
Stoops will need 12 more wins to tie the all-time winningest Sooner football coach, Barry Switzer, who won 157 games from 1973 to 1988.
STOOPS DENIES POSTGAME FUED WITH RHOADS
Stoops and Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads each denied there being any altercation between them during their postgame handshake.
“I have no idea what you're talking about,” Stoops said when asked about the alleged dispute, which had lots of people on social media sites convinced that Rhoads had to be held back from the Sooners coach.
“It was a pleasant one,” Stoops said of their postgame conversation. “I wished him luck and he wished me luck. I thought he had a great game.
“I asked him who he was playing next week. He said Texas, and I said, ‘Good luck again.' That was it. Paul and I are great.”
BIG DAY FOR ‘CALI TRIO'
Clay, safety Tony Jefferson and receiver Kenny Stills — who have called themselves the “Cali Trio” since arriving on campus in 2010 — had perhaps their finest collective performance Saturday at Iowa State.
Clay rushed a touchdown to go with his career-high 157 yards; Stills caught six passes for 92 yards and two scores; and Jefferson led OU with nine tackles, while also coming down with a fourth-quarter interception that halted Iowa State's late momentum.
“It was a good day for the trio,” Clay said. “Kenny and Tony ball all the time. I expect that. It feels good to be out there with the boys and see them do so well. We're all just really pushing our team, doing whatever we can to help our team win.”
CYCLONES STUFF BELLDOZER
Oklahoma took its first offensive possession from its own 26-yard line into the Iowa State red zone, and went to backup quarterback Blake Bell on third-and-2 at the Cyclones' 6.
But on two straight plays, the Belldozer picked up only one yard against the stingy Iowa State defensive front, forcing a red zone turnover on downs.
“We got an opportunity in the first drive and we go down ... and we don't convert,” said co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel.
“We need to correct that. It got us a week ago against Notre Dame, and down the stretch you've got to take advantage of every opportunity you get because you don't know when you'll get your next one.”
Oklahoma went back to the Belldozer three more times Saturday after the package's opening drive failure, picking up two first downs.
In two games now against Iowa State, the Belldozer has had mixed success. The Sooners rushed for two touchdowns last season out of the package, but also attempted a pass that was intercepted near the goal line.
NINE SOONERS CATCH PASSES
Nine different Sooners caught passes from senior quarterback Landry Jones, and another seldom-used receiver — junior-college transfer Lacoltan Bester — even got on the field Saturday.
Senior Justin Brown, a Penn State transfer, led OU with seven catches, 107 yards and a touchdown. True freshman Sterling Shepard caught five passes for 77 yards and a score.
Fresno State transfer Jalen Saunders, who led OU with 15 catches last week against Notre Dame, finished Saturday with four catches and 54 yards.
The Cyclones' 20 points against Oklahoma on Saturday were the most Iowa State has ever scored on the Stoops-era Sooners. In the seven prior meetings, ISU had scored a total of 36 points. ... Patrick O'Hara resumed his kickoff duties Saturday after sitting the last two games out. He was injured in OU's Oct. 13 win over Texas. His first two kickoffs didn't reach the end zone, and his first of the second half went out of bounds. After that, he was replaced on kickoffs by field-goal kicker Michael Hunnicutt ... Sophomore Geneo Grissom made a return to defense Saturday in the second half. Grissom had switched from defensive end to tight end during the summer, but hasn't seen the field much at all. An OU official said Grissom has been practicing on both offense and defense.