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Sugar Bowl notebook: Bob Stoops says Alabama 'still the best team in the country'

by Berry Tramel and Jason Kersey Published: January 1, 2014

/articleid/3919699/1/pictures/2307066">Photo - Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops watches practices during a Sugar Bowl practice at the New Orleans Saints' football practice facility, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in New Orleans. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops watches practices during a Sugar Bowl practice at the New Orleans Saints' football practice facility, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in New Orleans. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

Asked for the strangest thing he saw on Bourbon Street, Reynolds laughed and said he's pretty sure he saw a drunk dog.

“I don't know if he was drinking, but the dog was wobbling, then he just fell over on the curb,” Reynolds said. “I thought he had to be drunk. I've never seen a dog that lazy. It was a little lab. That was the craziest thing I saw.”


OU tailback Brennan Clay: “If we come out with a victory, it definitely puts us at a high benchmark – that we are definitely a national championship caliber team.”


Defensive end Chuka Ndulue likes OU's switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4.

“I like it because it gave me a chance to gain weight,” Ndulue said. “For a fat kid, I got to go to Chipolte and double up on my burrito. Little stuff like that makes me happy.”

Then Ndulue stopped and considered what he had said. “That makes me sound so fat,” Ndulue said. “But you know, I got to gain weight.”


Saban's relationship with the Stoops family goes way back to his days as an Ohio State and Michigan State assistant coach in the 1980s.

Saban recruited the Youngstown, Ohio, area, and became close friends Ron Stoops Sr., Bob's late father, and Bob Stoops, the OU Bob's uncle, also an area high-school coach at the time.

“Ron was just a fantastic person and a really good coach and very well respected by all the players that he coached,” Saban said. “And (Uncle) Bob was a good friend. And he's a little different than Ron in that he was a little bit of a free spirit. 

“So I remember that when I would be recruiting there, most of the time when the schools close you have to wait until people get home from work before you can go do home visits at night. 

“I used to meet Bob at the boiler room at South High School and used to play cards, gin rummy, until I could go on a home visit. That was the kind of relationship I've had with them.”


OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops describes Alabama as “old school.”

“It's NFL style of football,” Stoops said. “It's refreshing to see ... there isn't anything tricky about what they're trying to do. So I'm excited to play in a game like this. I say that now. I don't know, come Thursday night about 11, I might not feel the same way, because if you can't stop the run, you can't win.”

OU defensive end Charles Tapper called it “powerhouse football. Like the old days. It's going to be fun.”


Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell share the OU offensive coordinator title, and this week, they were asked to describe how that dynamic works.

Heupel calls the plays and sits in the press box during games, while Norvell is on the sideline.

“I think it's my job just to remind Josh of things we talked about, ways that we want to attack people,” Norvell said. “Throughout the course of preparation, you talk about a lot of different things, and it's hard to keep it on track sometimes.

“But I'm like a reminder, I'm just poking at him saying, ‘Man, remember when we talked about this?' And it works well. … I've had a chance to work on a lot of different staffs with a lot of different people, and this is by far the best working situation that I've ever been a part of.”


Saban talked like the coach of a 7-5 team, not an 11-1 team that is coming off two straight national championships and lost to Auburn on Nov. 30 only on a flukish last play.

“One of our players said it best: Our victory is what defeated us,” Saban said. “When you win, sometimes you start to lose focus on the things that are important to being successful. The process of things that you do to pay attention to detail, play with discipline, do the little things correctly, all of a sudden don't seem as important and you don't practice as well, you don't prepare as well, you don't pay attention to these things, and all of a sudden it starts to show up in your play.”

Saban said that's why the Sugar Bowl is important: “How do we respond to getting back to doing the things that we need to do to play Alabama football, be the kind of football team that we really aspire to be and have an expectation to be, which I really don't think we finished the season that way.”

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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by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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