NORMAN — Even though Oklahoma leaned on its dynamic duo to stem an early tide Saturday night, it may have discovered a new combo.
A power couple of sorts.
Dominique Whaley and Trey Millard ran over Missouri at a point in the third quarter when the Tigers still had life. The Sooners popped ‘em, rocked ‘em and socked ‘em.
On a night when the Sooners won 38-28 and avenged a loss last year in Columbia, they turned to Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles after the Tigers got out to an early lead. But a year after the Sooners had trouble scoring when they needed points against the Tigers, OU might have discovered a couple guys who can help them in a bind.
Whaley and Millard give them a power game that was missing a season ago.
“Dom was running hard tonight,” offensive lineman Gabe Ikard said. “You can tell how hard he runs, runs with purpose. He was breaking tackles, which is something that we need.
“Trey had limited touches, but when he got it, you could tell he's an explosive player.”
Ikard nodded his head.
“Having those two power backs that can run hard and fast is definitely a perk.”
One five-minute stretch in the third quarter told you that.
With OU holding a 10-point lead, the Sooners moved the ball near midfield and handed it to Millard on first down. He headed left toward the sideline where Tiger defender Matt White awaited him.
“The guy was comin', tryin' to hit me,” Millard said, “so, I hit him back.”
Did he ever.
Millard hit White so hard that his feet flew out from under him and he landed on his back.
“I thought Trey knocked that kid out,” Ikard said, eyebrow raised.
A few minutes later, Whaley showed his own power. His number was called on three straight possessions, the second of which was a pass from Jones. Whaley snagged it near the sideline, and to avoid going out of bounds, he took a couple one-legged hops before picking up a few more yards.
He scored on the next play.
Three plays, 28 yards.
“He's a freak,” Millard said. “I love blocking for him. I know any block I can make can spring him.”
More impressive — Millard's knock down or Whaley's sideline hop?
“His one hop,” Millard said. “I was hoping he was going to score, though.”
So, not a perfect play?
“A nine out of 10,” Millard said, laughing. “You've got to score to get a full 10 on my scale.”
Whaley, who had 150 all-purpose yards, isn't just a power guy. He can spin out of tackles with his balance. He can make defenders miss with his speed.
But he has this strength that is unmistakable.
“When people try to tackle him,” Jones said, “kind of bounces off sometimes.”
Whether a running play or a passing play, Whaley's mentality stays the same.
“Run hard. Stay on your feet. Break tackles,” he said.
Millard would probably say the same.
These two aren't fancy or frilly. They are just big, powerful guys who aren't afraid to take contact and put defenders on the ground.
And that's something that the Sooners didn't always have a year ago. Yes, they had talented guys. Yes, they could do lots of things. But when they needed a yard or two, they didn't always know who should get the call.
Now, there should be no question.
Whaley and Millard should be primary options when the Sooners are in the red zone.
“Ultimately, goal line and short yardage, that comes down to the offensive line,” Ikard said. “We've got to block ‘em up and make a yard or two.”
True enough. But doing that becomes a whole lot easier for an offensive line to do when you know you've got a couple of battering rams in the backfield. Whaley and Millard should give the Sooner line peace of mind around the goal line, especially since it might be playing without center Ben Habern who left Saturday night's game with an arm injury.
“It's nice knowing that ... if we block ‘em up, I know they'll push the pile,” Ikard said of Whaley and Millard.
Jones and Broyles might be established safety nets, but it never hurts to have a few more.