SEATTLE — Boats on Lake Washington today will bring fans to Husky Stadium, where the views are spectacular and the football once was. Such a setting will crack even the most stoic of hearts. "Beautiful venue,” said old Silly-Soul Bob Stoops, who was here with Kansas State in 1991. "Prideful program. Great area.” Oklahoma plays Washington today in one of those rare games where the Sooners go where they've never gone before. Sort of like Alabama 2003. You remember that one. OU's maiden voyage into the Deep South. A battle of college football royalty. Boomer Sooner vs. Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer. And a defining moment in the saga of Jason White. The night White showed he could quarterback the Sooners through rough waters far from home. Just what Sam Bradford needs to do today. White won a most unlikely Heisman Trophy that 2003 season, when he quarterbacked a team for the ages that famously flamed out in the post-season. Those Sooners were fire-sealed by their trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala., when OU escaped with a 20-13 victory against a Bama team that would finish 4-9. "That was a big game for us,” White said. "Traveling to Alabama, great football tradition, great football atmosphere.” Same thing can be said about today. Not that UW football matches Bama's mystique. But Washington and Alabama won national titles in back-to-back years (1991-92), the Huskies finished No. 3 in the polls as recently as 2000 and Husky Stadium is one of college football's regal settings, with the majestic scenery and an ancient coliseum (opened in 1920) that can rock when the Huskies roll. When OU went to Bama in 2003, the Sooners had won only four of their previous seven true road games, and one of those was at Tulsa. These Sooners, too, have not proven they can persevere in hostile environs. OU and Bradford went 2-2 in true road games last season; one win was at friendly Tulsa and the other a squeaker over lowly Iowa State. White and the Sooners gutted it out at Alabama in '03, and he became a road warrior: 8-0 in true road games in 2003 and 2004. "That was a tough game,” said Kevin Wilson, then OU's offensive line coach and now its offensive coordinator. "That would be the nice thing here. Go somewhere tough, get a good win under our belt.” A week ago, I raised similarities between the '03 Sooners and this edition. Often we remember too much the crash of '03, the losses to Kansas State (35-7) and LSU (21-14), and not enough the in-season explosion. Those Sooners scored 52 on Fresno State, 59 on UCLA, 65 on Texas, 34 on Missouri and Colorado, 52 on OSU, 77 on A&M and 56 on Texas Tech. That was the most remarkable run of scoring in OU history, even surpassing the great 1971 wishbone team. And yet, this Sudden Sam team looks capable of a repeat. "Way too soon,” Stoops said. "There's potential there. But that doesn't mean anything until you do it.” Fair enough. But before that '03 team could soar, it had to scratch. Perhaps the same with Bradford and these boys. Washington is wounded, but win here, among the beauty and the boats, and style points don't matter. Win here and soar, just like Jason White.
•Schedule: In '03, OU hosted North Texas, UCLA and Fresno State and played at Alabama, which was down that year. In '08, it's Chattanooga, Cincinnati and TCU at home, and at Washington, which is also a shell of its former self. •Dominant, veteran offensive line: In '03, OU had a line of Jamaal Brown, Wes Sims, Davin Joseph, Vince Carter and Kelvin Chaisson. Brown and Joseph are NFL starters. Current OU blockers Duke Robinson and Phil Loadholt are projected as high NFL Draft picks. •Dominant defensive line: OU in '03 had a defensive tackle supreme in Tommie Harris, plus Dusty Dvoracek, Dan Cody and Jonathan Jackson. OU in '08 has a defensive tackle supreme in Gerald McCoy, plus DeMarcus Granger, Auston English and Jeremy Beal. •Deep receiving corps: In '03, OU had a star in Mark Clayton (83 catches) but also Brandon Jones (46), JeJuan Rankins (33), Travis Wilson (25) and Will Peoples (24). In '08, OU has a Clayton clone in Ryan Broyles, plus veterans Manny Johnson (14 catches in two games), Jermaine Gresham (10) and Juaquin Iglesias (seven).
Comparable quarterbacks?The biggest similarity between the '03 Sooners and the '08 Sooners is quarterback. Sam Bradford is 6-foot-4 and comes from big-city Putnam North. Jason White was 6-2 and came from small-town Tuttle. Bradford rolls out frequently; the knee-damaged White was a pure pocket passer. But still, the likenesses in their games are striking. The condensed versions of four experts' take on the similarities between Bradford and White. •Bob Stoops: "Their poise. Their toughness. Accuracy. They never try to beat you up with the ball.” •Merv Johnson: "Same demeanor. Same work ethic. Smart.” •Kevin Wilson: "Larger guys. Nice, over-the-top arms.” •Jason White: "Sam approaches the game like I did after the injuries. Do your job. You don't have to make plays every time. Distribute the ball to the right places. Manage the game. Sam does a great job with that. He puts the ball where receivers are able to catch the ball and continue to run. Same thing I tried to do. Sam also throws the deep ball well.”