Archive for Saturday, December 4, 2004

Orange Bowl looks good to Sooners

Oklahoma must defeat Colorado tonight in Big 12 title game to reach national-championship match

December 4, 2004


Back when the conference was known as the Big Eight and guys like Bud Wilkinson, Barry Switzer and Billy Sims made the headlines, a trip to the Orange Bowl was always the goal for Oklahoma.

It is again this year, but for a slightly different reason. This year, that's where the Bowl Championship Series national champion will be crowned, and the Sooners need a win over Colorado in the Big 12 title game tonight to get there.

"The Orange Bowl is a great venue," coach Bob Stoops said of the game Oklahoma has been to 17 times. "It's always a great bowl game and we have an incredible tradition at the Orange Bowl. So, yeah, sure."

He conceded, of course, that he'd take a national title wherever he could get it.

For it to happen this year, the second-ranked Sooners (11-0) will first have to defeat the Buffaloes (7-4) -- 22-point underdogs -- in Kansas City, Mo., in a game known for its history of surprises.

The last one came last year when Kansas State swamped Oklahoma, 35-7, and denied the Sooners their 39th conference title.

Before that loss, Oklahoma was being hailed as one of the best college teams of all time. That isn't happening this year although, in many respects, the Sooners might be better, especially with two serious Heisman Trophy contenders in quarterback Jason White and tailback Adrian Peterson.

"You still have to go out and play and call the plays that help us win and, as players, make the plays when you get the opportunities," Stoops said.

Oklahoma has long had a knack for getting it done against the Buffaloes. The Sooners are 37-16-2 against the Buffs.

OU won, 29-7, in the Big 12 title game two years ago.

Among their more memorable meetings was Oklahoma's 82-42 win at Folsom Field in 1980, a game that wasn't as exciting as the score might indicate, mainly because so much time was spent hauling the ball back upfield for kickoffs.

With Switzer on the sidelines that season, Oklahoma won the conference and gained the Big Eight's customary invite to the Orange Bowl for the fourth straight year. Meanwhile, fans in the sparsely populated student section at CU threw oranges onto the field to mock a team that would finish 1-10.

This year, things at CU were difficult in a different way.

The program was plagued by a sex and recruiting scandal that led to a three-month suspension of coach Gary Barnett in the spring. The Buffs went 1-4 in October. The fourth loss was a 31-7 drubbing by Texas, a game that appeared to signal the end of CU's postseason hopes -- and possibly Barnett's tenure -- but wound up being a catalyst for a remarkable comeback.

"It forced us to refocus," Barnett said. "It forced us to redo our goals and to realize that everything we had talked about doing in August we could still do. It re-channeled our energy. We didn't even watch the film. We went to the next game, because it would do us no good to look at that game. We only wanted to look ahead."

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