Stoops Stayed Optimistic With Sooners

By Adam Caparell - November 29, 2006

The prospects of Oklahoma winning the Big 12 South seemed far fetched when they lost starting quarterback Rhett Bomar before the season even began. Then all-world back Adrian Peterson went down with a broken collarbone Oct. 14 and any idea of the Sooners making it to Kansas City, and leapfrogging Texas, became improbable as soon as word came down.

But Bob Stoops didn’t buy it. The Oklahoma coach knew his team was still in the race, even when they trailed the Longhorns in the standings as the season was coming to a close.

“If I say yes, it sounds arrogant and I'm not that way. But why wouldn't we?” Stoops said.

Just three weeks ago it looked like the Sooners had no shot at a Big 12 Championship and now they’re getting ready to face Nebraska for a shot at another conference title.

Stoops kept tabs on the Longhorns and knew as his team kept improving the prospects of sneaking past Texas became all the more realistic.

“We've been playing in a good way,” Stoops said. “You've seen some of (Texas') early games were pretty close. Nebraska played the heck out of ‘em. They turned the ball over when they have a first down otherwise they have a chance to run the clock out. You always feel that the door is open, you don't ever shut it. We always felt there was a chance and fortunately it worked out for us.”

It worked out in a big way. In spite of inserting wide receiver Paul Thompson in at quarterback and also having to deal with injuries to Peterson’s backup, Allen Patrick, the Sooners persevered in some tough, close games down the stretch and are now the favorites to head to the Fiesta Bowl, marking the fifth time Stoops will have led Oklahoma to a BCS bowl in his eight years in Norman.

For that Stoops was named Big 12 Coach of the Year. But he wasn’t the only Sooner honored this week as linebacker Rufus Alexander was named Defensive Player of the Year.

Stoops was flattered, but wants all the focus to remain on the team.

“I'm pretty sensitive about it in that I appreciate it – anyone that recognizes individuals on our team – but you preach year-round that team accomplishments are what really matter,” Stoops said. “The sum of all our parts is what really matters, not any one individual.”

But Stoops should give himself some well deserved credit for arguably his best coaching job at Oklahoma yet.

Posted by Adam Caparell at 04:04 PM on November 29, 2006

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