Stoops, Venables and players get passing grades after Sun Bowl win

Thursday, May 26th 2011, 1:19 pm
By: News 9

Originally Published: Jan 2, 2010 10:2 AM CDT

Reflections after OU’s exciting 31-27 win over Stanford  n the Sun Bowl.:

First, how in the world was the game so close? OU doubled the Cardinal in total offense and was 10-of-20 on third down conversions to only 1-of-10 for Stanford?

I guess credit the Cardinal for making it a four point game, but I’m still baffled.

One thing I’m not baffled about is what happened with the OU defense. They won the much-hyped battle between the strength of the two teams: OU’s defense vs. Stanford’s offense.

Kudos to OU DC Brent Venables. His match-up zone and personnel changes were effective against a power oriented Stanford offense. Getting true freshman Ronnell Lewis into the regular rotation worked, as the Dewar Hammer took advantage of extra bowl reps to tap into his all-star caliber potential.

Putting WLB Keenan Clayton on the back end gave OU a bigger safety with proven ability. Remember, Venables was forced to figure out how to stop a Heisman winning RB with several injuries to critical play on the fly which is all the more impressive.

Incredibly, the defensive injuries that OU sustained almost rivaled the ones on offense (somehow TV broadcast never detailed the extent of OU’s injuries and it wasn’t until late in the game that there was a mention of the loss of TE Jermaine Gresham. Frankly, if Sam Bradford and Jermaine Gresham were healthy OU would have exploited a weak pass defense and racked up 600-plus pass yards and countless points. That’s not a stretch when you realize Landry Jones threw for 421 yards and 3 TDs.)

Venables, Bob Stoops and the veteran defensive staff not only got Lewis into the lineup and successfully moved Clayton to Safety, but they beefed up in the defensive front by occasionally mixing in the use of three tackles.

Not easy to do when you have a dependable tackle go down early in the game to a gruesome injury. Adrian Taylor routinely gets every snap but when he went out Venables had to alternate true freshman Jamarkus McFarland and Demarcus Granger. McFarland should be a stud next year, but is raw and not ready. Granger is overweight and out of playing shape having not played a snap this season due to lingering injuries. When All-American DT Gerald McCoy went out with a leg injury, things did not look good.
But the combination of having talented depth and aggressive and creative scheming on defense resulted in allowing a Stanford offense that blew up USC’s defense only 88 yards and no breathing room.

Venables must feel good about what he will have with his linebackers next season—and for most of the defense for that matter. Redshirt freshman Tom Wort suffered a preseason knee injury that cost him the season. Venables simply called him the best young linebacker he’s ever coached. R Lewis will bring an explosive tackling presence that is rare. And Travis Lewis will be all-conference player returning for his third season of starting on the weak side.

We’ll wait for another day to dig into the potential of the 2010 team. Clearly, the upside of QB Jones will be the deciding factor, and the question will be is he good enough to lead a very good team to a championship.

For now, it’s time to hand out high grades to players who went into the El Paso game with the right attitude and played hard start to finish. And time to hand out high grades to coaches who are pretty darn good.

I don’t know that I would disagree with the assessment radio analyst/former OU assistant/current OU staffer Merv Johnson said about Bob Stoops: “Through all the adversity, this might have been the best job Coach Stoops has done.” Certainly worth consideration.