ESPN's coverage of Oklahoma's 48-20 victory over Connecticut in Saturday's Fiesta Bowl was nothing if not consistent in two areas.
* 1. Sharp-tongued announcers Sean McDonough and Matt Millen were pulling no punches in praising or condemning both teams.
* 2. The network was hell-bent on making sure viewers were aware of OU's record in BCS bowl games.
While McDonough was matter-of-fact with his well-informed offerings, Millen was even more brazen with his.
But before viewers could get a listen to either of them, the Sooners' 2-5 record in BCS bowl games had already been repeated ad nauseum … and it was still being bandied around in the postgame visit with Bob Stoops.
ESPN's intro to the broadcast kick-started it all.
“Well Oklahoma, this must seem familiar. A Big 12 championship – your fourth in five years. Favored to defeat an alleged overmatched opponent once again. But you know better than anyone that hard reality of letting an underdog sneak up and bite you in the heart when it counts.”
The plain-speak didn't slow from that point. Early on, Millen played off a commercial promoing ESPN 3D to lambaste UConn's offense (or praise OU's defense, depending on who you favor).
“Whatever (this game) is in, 2D or 3D, hey you could put it in 4D, whatever, it doesn't look good to UConn tonight.”
At the half, Millen minced no words declaring the game one-sided despite the 20-10 score.
Said McDonough: “Oklahoma feels like they have dominated this game from start to finish.”
Quipped Millen: “And they should. Because they have.”
The third quarter brought Millen's best line of the night. After OU running back DeMarco Murray was stopped on a third-and-1 by a submarine tackle from UConn safety Jerome Junior despite the fact that Murray was never technically down because he was sitting atop Junior on the ground, Millen pounced during the replay:
“He's not down … still not down … not down. He could have still gotten up. Instead he uses him as a chair.”
McDonough was less acerbic, but had plenty of sharp drop-ins. On the Huskies' inability to react to OU's fast-paced, no-huddle offense, McDonough was prepared with a comment from UConn assistant coach Hank Hughes:
“Hank Hughes told us. ‘We play against teams that go fast – West Virginia, Cincinnati -- in recent years. But Oklahoma is at warp speed. They're not like these other hurry-up offense you see.'”
NEWS AND NOTES
* Making his final broadcast of an OU football game, Bob Barry didn't use the forum to get misty-eyed.
Barry, who called his first game on the radio 50 seasons ago, was prepared for the emotions.
"That's a lot of blabbing," Barry said from the University of Phoenix pressbox before the game.
Barry said he didn't think he would be emotional. "This is not a decision I made last week," he said. "I've been thinking about it two years."
Barry called the OU-Central Arkansas basketball game Thursday night, arrived home at 11:45 p.m. and awoke at 3:30 a.m. to catch a flight to Phoenix.
"I'm ready to not do that anymore," he said. "Plus, you're probably not as sharp as you used to be.
"It's not a deal that's, 'oh, god, this is it.' I love it and I'll miss it, but I'm ready."
Barry will call the rest of this OU men's basketball season.
* ESPN's crew behind the scenes was clearly prepared for the Sooners' quick-to-the-line offense. While many OU games this season have been nearly sans replays because they couldn't get them in before the next play, such was not the case Saturday.
Perhaps it was because of familiarity, as the Fiesta Bowl was the Sooners' 10th appearance on the network this season.
* In-studio analyst Jesse Palmer was sharp as usual and offered insight of interest. Critiquing Josh Heupel's debut as the Sooners' play-caller, the former Florida quarterback offered the following:
“In his first game calling plays, he's found a great rhythm running and throwing the football. His up-tempo offense has kept UConn defensively off balance. It's kept them vanilla. They haven't been able to substitute and as a result Landry Jones completes his first 11 passes today and Oklahoma scores on all its offensive possessions except one.”