White leads a balanced offense

Updated: October 26, 2004, 7:51 PM ET
Associated Press

NORMAN, Okla. -- Jason White's numbers are down, but Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops says his quarterback is better than he was last year.

That says a lot given that White won the 2003 Heisman Trophy.

Stoops says his sixth-year quarterback is a stronger leader for the No. 2 Sooners while remaining a major weapon for a team now balanced with Adrian Peterson's rushing.

"Jason is the guy commanding the huddle every snap, the cadence," Stoops said Tuesday as the Sooners prepare for their annual showdown with No. 20 Oklahoma State.

"He's the leader of the offense, definitely," Stoops said. "I believe he is playing overall in a better way."

White's not so sure. He faults himself and the rest of Oklahoma's seniors for the offense's recent sputtering starts against Texas, Kansas State and Kansas.

"I really don't compare this year to last year," White said. "We're doing a lot of different things on offense. This year I'm just trying to be a better leader and a better commander of the offense."

Through seven games this year, White has thrown for 1,617 yards, the second-most in the Big 12 but 423 yards below his output last year at the same point in the season. His touchdowns are also down to 17 from 22.

A big reason for that is Peterson's emergence.

The freshman has rushed for 1,023 yards, giving the Sooners (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) the consistent running attack they lacked last season and vaulting himself ahead of White in this year's Heisman race.

White, who as a winner has a vote for the Heisman, said Tuesday that he would vote for Peterson if the balloting were held now.

Oklahoma's shift on offense from focusing on White to featuring Peterson was never more apparent than in the 12-0 win over No. 8 Texas.

Peterson rushed for 225 yards on 32 carries against the Longhorns, providing the Sooners with virtually their only offensive spark. White completed just 14-for-26 passes for 123 yards and two interceptions.

"At Texas, our passing game wasn't as effective," White said. "Regardless of what it was, whether it was bad throws, bad catches, or protection, it wasn't there and our running game was."

But White is coming off perhaps his two best games of the season as Kansas and Kansas State keyed their defenses on stopping Peterson -- with some success -- freeing up White to return to last season's form.

White completed 47-of-75 passes for 645 yards and eight touchdowns in Oklahoma's wins over the Wildcats and Jayhawks.

"The last couple of weeks, the receivers, the offensive line, the backs and myself have stepped up to the challenge that if you're going to try to stop the run, we're going to throw," White said.

With White firing and Peterson spinning, racing and breaking tackles, Oklahoma will bring a balanced offense to Stillwater Saturday that Oklahoma State (6-1, 3-1) hasn't seen in the series in years.

"Talented receivers, a guy who can throw the football to them, a little bit more mobile than he has been, great balance in the run and the pass, a big strong offensive line, it's a very capable offense," Cowboys coach Les Miles said.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press