Sooners offense goes back in time
DALLAS -- For five seasons at Oklahoma, coach Bob Stoops won with an offense as modern as it was effective. The Sooners came out of the locker room throwing, and their speed and their scheme could slap 50 on the scoreboard faster than you could say a cloud of dust.
The running game, the mother's milk of football, the time-tested way of controlling the clock and wearing down your opponent, became a set-up to the punchline of going deep.
That's the reputation that Oklahoma had when it began the season, and that reputation lingered right up until kickoff Saturday at the Cotton Bowl. That's when No. 2 Oklahoma lined up on Saturday and gave No. 5 Texas a dose of 1953: Adrian Peterson right, Adrian Peterson middle, Adrian Peterson left, Texas grasping for air.
The freshman from Palestine, Texas, rushed for 225 yards on 32 carries. There are plenty of reasons that explain how the Sooners won, 12-0, extending their winning streak over their biggest rival to five games. The biggest, most bruising example is that Peterson allowed Stoops, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, to channel his inner Woody Hayes.
"I don't mind playing a tight, tough game," Stoops said afterward.
This was stink-on-stink, line-up-and-pummel-your-man football. Oklahoma has the most experienced offensive line in the nation. Senior center Vince Carter and tackle Jammal Brown wouldn't embarrass anyone's All-American team. But they've started for four years, and the Sooners never ran the ball like this.
The difference is Peterson, who shed tacklers as if he were in his own, private video game. He has played five college games, and rushed for 100 yards in every one. He rushed for more yards than any true freshman in the 99-game history of this rivalry.
"He makes people miss every week," said Texas coach Mack Brown, who tried and failed to sign the best high school player in his state last year. "He made us miss. He's a great player."
Peterson makes some kind of first impression. Most freshmen walk into a locker room and are a little intimidated by their surroundings, not to mention their senior teammates. Jammal Brown said he knew Peterson would fit in without a transition "the first day I saw him with his shirt off."
There were only two times Saturday that Peterson looked like a typical freshman. The first is when he didn't start, a decision made by the Oklahoma coaches because of the magnitude of the game. Offensive coordinator Chuck Long said they wanted Peterson to watch a series and process the speed of the game before he got into it.
On his first play, with the Sooners backed up on their 4-yard-line, Peterson took off behind pulling guard Davin Joseph and went 44 yards down the right sideline. So much for jitters.
"I thought I was going to go all the way," Peterson said.
That brings us to the second time Saturday that Peterson resembled a freshman: when he sat behind a microphone in the postgame press conference. He has a big smile, and he spoke politely but softly.
"I was looking forward to the game," Peterson said. "Coming back to Texas, playing Texas, a team that I grew up liking my whole life. It was a great experience for me."
Peterson is so talented that he has ruined any chance that Jason White had of winning a second consecutive Heisman Trophy. If no one believed before Saturday that White's job description is to stick the ball in Peterson's belly, they believe it now.
"For some reason, I think teams still believe that we want to throw the ball," Long said. "They're in pass coverage, still. I'm hoping after today that they know we're really trying to run the football."
Yeah, Chuck, the word might get out after Saturday. Oklahoma rushed 52 times for 301 yards and threw 27 times for 113 yards. Maybe Long, the former All-American quarterback from Iowa, waited until his fifth season in Norman to whip out a little Big Ten football. He laughed.
"Coach (Kevin) Wilson and Coach (Kevin) Sumlin, two of our offensive guys, are Big Ten guys," Long said. "That's exactly what they said: 'Hey, Chuck, this is a good-ol'-fashioned Big Ten game.' It was kind of Big Ten weather, too, all misty, a little sloppy. We got a little smashmouth going. I guess the Big Ten guys would be happy with that."
Texas coach Mack Brown retooled his defensive staff with this game in mind. He brought in two top assistants, Greg Robinson and Dick Tomey, made them co-defensive coordinators, and asked them to give the Longhorns more heart and more toughness.
Their efforts were obvious. Oklahoma held the ball for 36-plus minutes, but three turnovers meant that the Sooners only got in the end zone once, with 8:07 to play. Robinson rubbed off on Texas, and a little Texas rubbed off on Robinson. As he ran up the tunnel beneath the cheering, jeering Oklahoma fans, he did his best Dick Cheney, dropping f-bombs and making one anatomically impossible suggestion. Yes, Robinson understands the nature of the rivalry.
The Texas defense played well, but the Oklahoma defense played better. Texas has had trouble throwing the ball all season, but the Longhorns' game plan looked as if offensive coordinator Greg Davis never got the memo that the NCAA legalized the forward pass in 1906. Quarterback Vince Young completed 8-of-23 passes for 86 yards, and only three of those passes were caught by wide receivers, an inexperienced group that never came close to stretching the Oklahoma defense.
"We weren't smooth with the passing game," Brown said. "That was a concern coming in."
Tailback Cedric Benson, facing as many as nine defenders in the box, did well to rush for 92 yards on 23 carries. But he lost a fumble, and Young lost two, one at the Sooners 14 in the second quarter. Texas never got inside the Oklahoma 30 again.
Smashmouth defense, smashmouth running: Oklahoma won the old-fashioned way, and suddenly the spread offense that the Sooners used to win the national championship in 2000 looks as out of date as, oh, Al Gore. Peterson's shoulders look broad enough to take the Sooners a long way.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your question/comments to Ivan at email@example.com. Your e-mail could be answered in a future Maisel E-mails.
MORE COLLEGE FOOTBALL HEADLINES
- QBs fail to impress in Alabama spring game
- Texas LB Edmond: Loss to 'trash' Baylor hurts
- Sources: Wittek visits Texas for spring game
- Strong era begins at Texas with shaky QB play
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
- Antigua Men's Oklahoma Sooners Crimson Sugar Bowl Bound Leader Quarter-Zip Pullover