Mike Stoops had a pragmatic response when I asked him what winning the Bedlam game in 2013 did for the Sooners. We wrote about the effects of OU’s Bedlam victory for the Sunday Oklahoman, a package that you can find here. We focused on Justin Gilbert’s near-interception in the final minute, which would have sealed the win for OSU. OU’s upset of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and all the residuals from that victory, all came about because OU’s Lacoltan Bester knocked the ball from Gilbert’s grasp as he fell to the turf.
But Mike Stoops was quick to remind that all kinds of things can happen.
“We won the Bedlam game the year before and we got Johnny Manziel (in the Cotton Bowl),” said OU’s defensive coordinator. “We thought we were going to get Louisville.”
Actually, OU seemed headed to the Sugar Bowl against Florida at the end of the 2012 season, but Stoops’ point is well made. No matter where you’re sent, it’s up to you to play well.
But Stoops did admit that beating Alabama “validated our reemergence, let’s put it that way, of coming back to hopefully being an elite, top-10 perennial, and getting the players that we need. You started to see signs of that. But there was also signs of lack of consistency throughout the course of the year.”
By season’s end, “we started to see some toughness in our program.”
Down the stretch, OU won at Kansas State and at OSU as underdogs, then beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl as a big underdog.
“Those are the type of wins that gain confidence and change your whole attitude,” Stoops said. “K-State wasn’t an easy game to win, either. They were both hard games. That day (in Stillwater), we played good, we played well on third down, we didn’t stop the run very well. They came up with a couple of good schemes. We did what we had to do to win. It wasn’t an artistic game in any stretch of the imagination, offense, defense. Special teams probably played the biggest part of the game, but we made enough plays to win.
“That’s what we were a year ago. We’re hopefully becoming a much more complete (team). You want to win any way you can, but I think we’re starting to, especially with the young players we have, we’re starting to get that swagger back to really play at the level you want to.”
As for Gilbert’s near-interception, Mike Stoops said he was sort of distant from the action. In the final minute, with OU having the ball down 24-20, the game was out of the hands of the Sooner defense.
“There’s not much we can do at that point,” he said. “I was just hoping if (OU) scored, we didn’t have to go back out there with too much time. I knew we were gonna drive the ball.”
When Blake Bell threw the lob pass and Gilbert leaped to intercept, “I probably jumped up, like I usually do,” Stoops said. “I think by me jumping, kind of helping Bester get the ball out , might have helped a little bit. Like one of my DBs trying to get the ball out, that’s what it was alike. It was such an aware play, because he became the DB in the whole situation and did what we try to get our DBs to do. Turned out to be a great player and a great ending.”