MANHATTAN, Kan. – Travis Lewis pranced toward the Oklahoma locker room and announced to all who would hear, “Y'all better jump back on that bandwagon, baby.”
The Schooner is crowded again, after the Sooners' 58-17 thrashing Saturday of eighth-ranked Kansas State that proclaimed the Texas Tech debacle of a week ago a mere aberration. Proclaimed that when put on the big stage, these Sooners respond, just as they did at Florida State and against Texas.
Twenty minutes later, leaving the locker room, Lewis' bluster was gone. But his message was the same.
“Back on track,” Lewis said to OU athletic director Joe Castiglione.
On track for at least a Bedlam Big 12 title showdown. Maybe not the Big Bowl. Too early to put the Sooners on that boulevard. The 41-38 loss to Tech could prove too costly.
But don't sleep on the Sooners. This was a statement to America.
“First thing I said to the team was that this was an overall complete team win,” Bob Stoops said. “As much of a team win as we have had in a long, long time, because of all the different guys that stepped up to have a hand in it.”
The Sooners played with an attitude that was missing against Tech. From the pregame woofing session with the Wildcats, to the dogged defense that eventually wore down single-wing quarterback Collin Klein, to the stylistic offense that replaced dropped passes with acrobatic catches, the Sooners played with a swagger.
OU went from ledge to edge. From the cliff of a disastrously disappointing season to playing like a team “with its hair on fire,” as defensive coordinator Brent Venables said.
“Last Saturday was embarrassing,” said flanker Jaz Reynolds, who made two one-handed catches worthy of highlight reels. “Our backs are against the wall. If we lose another one, we're going to be out for Big 12 hopes, national championship hopes. Everything was on the line.”
Aside from a brief K-State flurry in the first half, the Sooners dominated every phase.
Klein ran for touchdowns on successive possessions, then directed another threat late in the second quarter, which crashed with a missed field goal. From that point on, the ‘Cats had but two first downs.
Meanwhile, the OU offense, despite losing tailback Dom Whaley to a fractured ankle on the game's first play, produced eight touchdowns and a field goal on 13 possessions. The ‘Cat defense isn't the Purple People Eaters, but it entered ranking No. 1 in Big 12 total defense.
“It was good to see them (enjoy playing) in a competitive environment, playing snap to whistle,” said OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. “Good to see our guys fight.”
The Sooners fought a week ago, but too late. This time, they fought from the time they saw the autumn colors on the Flint Hills trees.
“We played better,” Stoops said. “Whether it's attitude or not, doesn't much matter to me. We need to play like that all the time.”
But it's obvious to all that the Sooners were more mentally into this game. From the jawing match pregame to the defensive discipline to the precision on offense.
“The psyche is so undervalued,” Venables said. “We came in with a sense of desperation. We came out to fight for every inch.”
Maybe the Sooners learned that a sense of desperation is handy to have every Saturday, even if the Schooner is crowded again.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.