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Oklahoma football: Riverboat Bob talks trick plays

by Berry Tramel Modified: December 18, 2013 at 9:35 am •  Published: December 18, 2013

Bob Stoops says we always forget his gambling nature when his trick plays don’t work. Maybe he’s got a point.

“The surprise onside kick at West Virginia, went 91/2 yards, it’s, ‘What’s the knucklehead doing?’” Stoops said.

First off, props to Stoops for using the term knucklehead. It’s an excellent addition to his vocabulary.

But I also have to say, maybe Stoops is right. I don’t remember the onside kick at all. I don’t even know if he’s talking about 2013 West Virginia or 2012 West Virginia, and I was at both games.

So I looked it up, and turns out Stoops was talking about the West Virginia Fiesta Bowl. OK, now I remember. Not the particulars – I had to look those up, too – but his point was made. We forget the failures. Which in some ways is good for Stoops.

Anyway, in that Fiesta Bowl, after OU drew within 20-15 midway through the third quarter, Garrett Hartley tried an onside kick, it didn’t go the required 10 yards and West Virginia set up shop at the OU 39-yard line. Six plays later, Noel Devine ran 17 yards for a touchdown, and the 48-28 rout was on.

Stoops’ point: He’s remained a risk-taker. The fake field goal at Texas A&M in 2010 a great example. The Sooners had climbed back from a 19-0 deficit, drawing within 19-17, and had a 49-yard field goal attempt to take the lead. Stoops dialed up a fake, and it was a great call. Holder John Nimmo rolled right and threw into the end zone, where future NFL tight end James Hanna awaited. Hanna dropped the pass. Momentum swung heavily to the Aggies, who registered a 33-19 victory.

Trick plays are a topic of discussion these days in Soonerville because of what just happened and who’s on the horizon. OU is in the Sugar Bowl in part because another Stoops fake field goal worked in Stillwater – Grant Bothun passed to kicker Michael Hunnicut for a touchdown, forging a 17-17 tie and swinging momentum that allowed the Sooners to beat OSU 33-24.

And awaiting in the Sugar Bowl is Alabama. Perhaps Stoops’ greatest trick play came in 2003 at Tuscaloosa. Midway through the third quarter, OU led 13-10, but Bama had momentum and stopped the Sooners. OU faced 4th-and-10 from its 31. Stoops called a fake. Punter Blake Ferguson tossed a pass to wingman Michael Thompson as the Bama punt block team crashed in. The gain went for 22 yards. On the next play, Jason White threw a 47-yard TD pass to Brandon Jones, and the Sooners had command of what became a 20-13 victory.

Stoops reminisced Monday about that fake at Alabama.

“I knew when I called it, this is it,” Stoops said. “But I really felt … they had all the momentum. I felt the stadium closing in on us. We gotta make something happen. I felt our percentage was good. They weren’t covering our wing. So I called it. It’s one of those, if it didn’t work, you all would be calling me a bunch of things. We get a bomb the next play, all of a sudden, quiet the crowd. I thought it was a defining moment of the game.”

I wish Stoops would pull that 2×4 out of his butt on how we would call him names if gambles don’t work. No one grilled Stoops for that fake field goal at A&M. The fake field goal two years later against Florida in the national title game? Sure. That was stupid. And he knows it. No one really believed Stoops was going to ask Jimmy Stevens to kick a long field goal. But the A&M game was different. And so was Alabama.

“From game to game, it’s always different,” Stoops said.

So now, Riverboat Bob goes back to a city of riverboats, with his reputation as a gambler enhanced. Against a program in which his risk-taker reputation had its proudest moment.


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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