The Bedlam loss to Oklahoma State, which surprisingly was just over three weeks ago, was the first domino in a series of the devastating events for Oklahoma football in a very up and down but still successful 2021 season.
That next day, Lincoln Riley stuns everybody with the news that he is taking the head-coaching job at USC, which instantly puts Oklahoma in a brutal spot for players, coaches and recruits.
After all the chaos that had occurred, Oklahoma still has a bowl game to play, a week from today in San Antonio. The Sooners are preparing for the Alamo Bowl against the 14th-ranked Oregon Ducks, and they will have their former head coach, Bob Stoops, on the sidelines leading them.
Stoops was one of the first ones to address the coaching-change issue to the team and talk about where they go from here. The Sooners can’t ask for a better interim head coach in Bob Stoops, who is the winningest coach in Sooner football history. How many teams have the luxury of having a former coaching legend available and willing to step in in the interim?
It says a lot about Stoops’ integrity and infectious loyalty to the program. He refused compensation for his help, but OU president Joe Harroz insisted that he accept a bonus payment of $325,000 for his time and effort. The former Sooner head coach insists that he is still retired, but you can tell he is having a lot of fun revisiting his old haunts. He also gets the opportunity to coach his son Drake, a Sooner wide receiver, in a college game.
Given the circumstances, there probably isn’t a better man alive to be able to motivate the Sooners in a postseason game they didn’t expect to be in.
Oklahoma and Oregon are both coming off disappointing losses in their last game and both had their head coaches resign prior to their postseason bowl games. Oregon is ranked higher than the Sooners in the final College Football Playoff rankings, but OU, with interim head coach Stoops is a 4.5-point favorite, according to the Las Vegas oddsmakers.
Oklahoma will go into the game absent some key players on both sides of the ball due to opt-outs in preparation for the NFL Draft and transfers. The opt-outs include defensive players DTs Perion Winfrey and Isaiah Thomas, and LBs Brian Asamoah, and Nick Bonitto. The Sooners who entered the transfer portal include TE Austin Stogner, WR Jaden Haselwood, and QB Spencer Rattler.
Oklahoma may not have some of its main playmakers, but it’s still a time for players to develop their talents heading into next season. The impact for the bowl game will be felt more on the defensive side. The core of the offense, with Caleb Williams at quarterback, is still very much in tact.
Does this game mean anything heading into next season? Absolutely.
The main reason to be motivated to play this game: Bob Stoops. Not every day do you see a former head coach come back to coach a bowl game.
The players know how special of a moment this is for Stoops, and how much of an honor it is to play for him. Sophomore WR Mims reflected on how special it is to have Stoops for the Bowl game:
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it is pretty cool. He wants to win this game. He’s expressed that in many different ways. He’s out there with us every day and I’m grateful for that.” Mims said.
Another reason to be motivated for the Alamo Bowl and the next few years? It sounds like Caleb Williams will be under center against the Ducks. There’s been a sense of doubt, after Riley announced he was leaving, as to what Williams’ future looks like at Oklahoma.
Williams was a guest on the “The Podcast on the Prairie” which is hosted by H-Back Jeremiah Hall and Tight End Brayden Willis. After listening and watching the podcast, it should make Sooner fans feel better about the future.
We are a week away from the Sooners and Ducks squaring off in the Alamo Bowl and will find out how motivated this Sooners team is. Bob Stoops said he is not looking for redemption for what occurred in 2006 against Oregon, when an onside-kick recovery by OU that could have reversed the outcome, was ruled the other way. He says that, but you know it will be in the back of his mind, and I can assure you OU fans have not forgotten.
The Alamo Bowl may be a step down from where the Sooners desire to be this time of year, but it still provides a great opportunity for new head coach Brent Venables to evaluate what he will be working with for the 2022 season.