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November 24, 2010

Notebook: Shootouts, injuries and 'backs'

Don't mention shootouts to Oklahoma coaches heading into this weekend's potential Big 12 South Division Bedlam matchup.

In 2008, Oklahoma won a 61-41 shootout over Oklahoma State as the Sooners made their way to the BCS Championship game against Florida. But even with two offenses which seem to be the class of the conference, Bob Stoops and Kevin Wilson won't give in to the thoughts of a shootout in Stillwater.

"We don't get caught up in that shootout stuff. I remember hearing all of that going into the national championship game a couple years ago, and it was 14-14 going into the fourth quarter," said Stoops. "Who knows how it will go?"

"I think both defenses will get ticked off and it will be a 10-7 game," said Wilson. "Seriously, how many times do you go in thinking this will be like that?"

In Big 12 play, Oklahoma State leads the conference scoring 39.0 points per game while the Sooners sit in second place with 38.1 points per game. Both offenses are capable of putting up plenty of points on Saturday.

"Hopefully, at the end we have one more point," said Wilson. "Whatever we need to do to get that point. I don't know if we need to score every drive. We'd like to; that's our goal every game.

"I think this has a chance to be a heckuva a decent game," he added. "You have a 10-1 team, a 9-2 team. Both teams know each other. There's a lot of intensity and rivalry. It ought to be a lot of fun both ways from the offensive perspective and the defensive perspective.

"It matches up that if both teams play well, it should be a great game. Whether it is high scoring or low scoring, it ought to be a lot of fun more than anything else."



The question for Bedlam ultimately becomes which defense will be able to step up and limit the other's powerful offensive attack.

The Sooners have the edge statistically as their scoring defense ranks as the No. 2 overall defense in Big 12 play giving up 18.6 points per game while Oklahoma State ranks fifth giving up 25.0 points per game.

Those stats are complicated by the fact the Sooners have been outstanding at home while they've given up 36 points at Missouri and 33 points at Texas A&M.

But over the past three games, the Sooners have surrendered just 10 points to Colorado, 7 points to Texas Tech and 24 points to a potent Baylor offense in Waco.

So the question has to be asked, have the Sooners improved that much since they took a trip to College Station and gave up big plays in the running game?

"I do feel good about the way we've played defense the last couple weeks against teams that have been spread out and very productive," said Stoops. "We've played with more discipline and have tackled better. It will need to happen Saturday."

THE INJURY REPORT

Austin Box and Roy Finch are expected to return to action this weekend against Oklahoma State if you believe Bob Stoops and his statements early in the week.

"As of today they're set to play," said Stoops on Tuesday.

Box suffered a left ankle injury against Baylor on multiple occasions while Roy Finch lay on the field after being hit in the head by a Bears defender. Finch left under his own power and appeared to have his wits about him following the game.

"He looked great," said defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Venables on Tuesday when asked of Box's health. "He had no limitations, so I'm really pleased to have a guy that we have penciled in as a starter and he's actually going to start for you."

Quinton Carter also suffered a stinger against Baylor late in the game, but he said this week that he will also be good to go on Saturday.

"I'm good, it's just a minor stinger, no problem," said Carter. "I would have come back into the game, but there was only a couple minutes left."

HARD FEELINGS

One of the biggest topics this week is the battle between OU's Ryan Broyles and OSU's Justin Blackmon as both have been named as Belitnikoff Award finalists.

It's likely this game will be a showcase for both players. If one of the two players produces big numbers in a victory, it could go a long way in determining who wins the award next month.

But the question has to be asked, why was Blackmon, a Plainview, Okla., native, ignored by the Sooners?

"I'm still mad at Coach Sumlin, our receiver coach at the time, for not going
with him," said Bob Stoops, who didn't appear to be joking. "But ultimately, too, you say it's my fault. I put too much trust in his opinion. So, in the end, he's a great player."

Sumlin wasn't the only wide receiver coach in the Big 12 region who missed on Blackmon, who was rated as the No. 91 wide receiver in the country and the No. 10 overall player in the state of Oklahoma during his senior season.

Blackmon's scholarship offers were also a bit light for a potential Belitnikoff Award winner as Oklahoma State, Colorado, Missouri and Northern Iowa were the only schools offering him scholarships coming out of high school.

Kansas State and North Carolina were interested, along with Oklahoma, but all three passed on the Sooner state product.

THE NO-NAME GAME

Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are likely to display similar offensive sets on Saturday night as the Sooners have admittedly stolen a wrinkle on offense from the Cowboys.

Dana Holgerson calls his three-back set the "diamond" formation while the same set at Oklahoma is called, simply, "backs".

For Oklahoma, it's a chance to get Demarco Murray, Roy Finch and Trey Millard on the field at the same time. But there isn't a lot of hoopla surrounding the naming of the formation.

"With the shotgun running game this decade, everyone has evolved from zone read to the mid-line dive, like the old inside-veer kind of play," explained Kevin Wilson. "If you had a running quarterback and with everyone spreading out and passing, unless you're a true wishbone team like the academies or Georgia Tech, that's an opportunity of maybe getting some misdirection or lead blockers in a game, but still having the ability to free-release backs and max protect.

"There's limitations, but there's variables you can go with. You can do things a couple different ways: You can put your tight end back there, you can put in another fullback, you can go all little guys, you can move your quarterback in wildcat. There's a bunch of stuff you can get to."

Oklahoma got to a little bit of the "backs" formation against Baylor. But it's likely Wilson has an extended playbook with the formation this weekend when the Sooners take on Oklahoma State.


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