Originally Published: Sep 24, 2010 7:6 PM CDT
Nine to twelve true freshmen are expected to play Saturday for the Sooners against Cincinnati. This is their first road trip and it’s important that they respond to the challenge and play well and not be overwhelmed by the big city, the big stadium and the different atmosphere.
The team arrived here at the hotel at 5 P.M. CST. They ate as soon as they arrived, have a team meeting at 6:45 P.M. CST, and have a snack at 9 and with curfew at 9:30 CST which is about the time college kids usually take a shower before they head out for a night on the town about 10:30. It’ll be tough for some of them to get to sleep.
And it’ll be good for them that they get a taste of the road before the circus-like pressure cooker they’ll be thrust into next Friday and Saturday in Dallas. I’ve played in a lot of big games: rivalry games; bowl games; national championship games. Called a lot of big games--Ohio State-Michigan, USC-UCLA, Alabama-Florida, and BCS bowl games. And OU-Texas. There is no greater atmosphere and pressure to perform than in the Cotton Bowl.
Hatred. Winner in position to make a run at the BCS title. Loser considered a dog. Cincy is an ESPN2 game. OU-Texas ain’t on no ESPN2 (pardon the grammar.)
This handful of 18 year-olds need to be mentally and emotionally prepared to perform in that kind of an atmosphere. While there will be a ten to one ratio of Cincy fans to OU fans (50,000 expected), this is like a JV game compared to what they’ll see in Big D.
But tomorrow is what’s important now. Lots of difference between limping to Dallas at 3-1 than feeling good about yourselves and 4-0.
The young and old will enjoy playing at a place where the best of the best play. Paul Brown Stadium will fire them upoutdoor stadium where the weather could not be better as they expect it to be sunny and 72 without Oklahoma’s standard two-club wind.
Traveling with them and seeing them look around reminds me of the days of long, long, long ago. I loved the road trips, mainly because it was fun to be the team that many people disliked but almost all respected.
Checking into hotels, going to the theater for team movies. Then at the stadium, it was a wonderful feeling knowing you were now a part of an elite program. Fun knowing you were the team everyone loved to hate. Fun to know that your team was favored in every game.
There was a tremendous sense of pride. Walking in with Little Joe Washington and Lee Roy Selmon put a pep in your step. Frankly, being led into visiting stadiums and down visitors ramps with the cocksure and controversial Barry Switzer made it that much more special.
I can only hope these kids have similar experiences. And that the scoreboards have similar results.
Landry Jones is the one OU is probably more concerned with than a rookie wide receiver who touches the ball three times a game. Jones possesses it 80 times a game. And too many of that 80 last season on the road did not turn out very well. Jones is the one who needs to either shed the road pressure or embrace the road pressure.
If he handles it well and his mates play hard and smart, OU should win and be sitting’ pretty heading to see Big Tex in a week. But if he plays as he did much of last season on the road, this one will be tough to win, meaning the game with the Longhorns will have become a significant challenge.
It will help Mr. Jones if those 18 year-olds revel in the atmosphere. Busing out from a quiet stadium is one of the best sounds in the world.