NORMAN, Okla. — Last weekend was no repeat of the Game of the Century. One team was far better and one team was simply far overmatched, as the Sooners scored their highest-ever total in Lincoln and walloped the Nebraska Cornhuskers 49-14 Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
The mark eclipsed their previous best of 48 in a shutout over the ‘Huskers back in 1949. The Sooners only managed more than 40 points on one other occasion there, a similar 41-0 shutout for Bud Wilkinson’s crew in 1955.
“Great win today,” said head coach Brent Venables. “Offense rushed for 300 yards on the road. Challenged our opponent. Team 128 has an opportunity to develop and create. And to go into an environment like this and have the ability to establish the run game early and attacking the second and third levels like we did with the variety of backs, really proud of our guys. Obviously, 49 points is the most ever by an Oklahoma team here in this stadium. And we weren’t very good [here the last few times]; nobody told me this stat going into the week. I found out this after the game that we were 1-7 in our last eight games here in Lincoln. Y’all forgot to ask me that.
“So, glad we got the W today. Again, the offense scored seven of the first eight drives. Defense came out and got punched in the face and responded after that. I think they had 77 yards in that first drive, and then 71 yards the rest of the half, and averaged just under two yards of play the rest of the half. So, I’m glad that happened because I believe that you develop a lot, again, you develop an identity, you develop a mindset, you develop through some failure and adversity. And that’s how you grow. And nobody likes that happen for you, for a coach, but you need that to happen.”
With all that said, Venables took the podium to host his weekly press conference Tuesday morning with the Big 12 Conference opener against Kansas State on tap this upcoming weekend. OUInsider.com was live on the scene and presents the first part of all that discussion below. You can find the second part here and the third part here.
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“All right, good afternoon. First quarter of the season’s over, and we’ve got a pretty healthy team. I see a team that’s improving each week. Really like the maturity of the team right now. I like the leadership. Really, again, incredibly impressed by the focus and the attitude of our players last weekend. Going on the road for the first time and having to play at 11 a.m., logistically it’s not ideal. But our guys handled it terrifically, our coaches and support staff that helped keep us organized and detailed for the first time getting out. Really pleased with everybody’s effort. You know, had a great crowd, again, like we talked about after the game, and thought our guys really had tremendous poise, focus, confidence, played aggressive on both sides of the ball and did all the things that you would want to do, you have to do to win games: establishing the line of scrimmage, running the ball, stopping the run, possessing the football, not turning the ball over, playing well in the kicking game and creating explosive plays, limiting explosive plays. Loved coming out of halftime the hunger and the edge that our guys have had. I think we’ve shut our opponents out in the third quarter so far this season. So, coming out of the locker room there’s nothing less important than the score at halftime, and our guys have bought into that attitude and mentality and reestablishing momentum and, again, what we want to be about, our identity. And so I think we had a one-score game coming out of the locker room against Kent [State], maybe it’s 28 to 10 against UTEP at halftime, and of course we had a 35-7, I believe, lead.
“So, [that’s] three kind of different halftimes to deal with, and our guys have responded the way you would want them to. I think that’s important, again, both in the short term and the long term as we can develop who we are culturally and what we’re going to be about and how we’re developing this team continuously. I thought getting Wanya [Morris] back was good just to have another good player, first of all, to throw in there and continue to give us the kind of depth and development upfront. Our guys are playing hard right now. [We’re] far from perfect coaching and playing as we continue to figure each other out. But I really like the attitude and the hunger for improvement and the work that goes along with playing at a high level. Our guys have not been naive, whatsoever. They’re willing to put the work in and pay the price to be successful, that you have got to pay a price. It doesn’t just continue to happen. And we’re gonna—the schedule gets more difficult moving forward, starting with Kansas State this week. But I really am pleased with, again, the improvements that we’ve made, and hopefully we’ll continue to be committed to making continued improvement because we’ve got to get better in a lot of areas. So, with that I’ll open it up.”
“No question, and I would say every bit as important is the special teams play. You know, whether we’re pinning somebody deep, which offensive coordinators don’t like or you get, you spring a great punt return. And really, if you go back and watch the game again, you’ll see all the momentum plays that we’re creating in special teams and the field position that we’re creating in special teams, I think we were plus-64 this week, which is excellent, to say the least. I think we were 50 game one, we were 30 game two and plus-60 this week. So, we’re creating a lot of field position and momentum through special teams that, whether it’s, again, pinning somebody deep and that creates momentum and an edge and a different mindset for the defense or we’re punting out of our own end zone and [Michael] Turk smashes one for 57 and now we’re on the negative side of the field and now the defense has a different type of charge or we’re forcing a three-and-out, creating good field position that way and not only that, but now we’re returning one for 30 yards, which charges up the sideline and gets the offense excited and everybody.
“So, I love the strain that I’m seeing in the special teams as well. And we’re certainly not a finished product there or without mistake there, but there’s a tremendous amount of eagerness to be a part of our special teams unit. So, coaches are doing a great job of getting guys excited about that, and guys are doing a terrific job, our players are doing a terrific job of having ownership. And so really pleased. And guys are creating more opportunities for themselves positionally because of their work on special teams, too. So, I would be remiss if I didn’t point the special teams’ success and the things that they’re doing to contribute to what you’re talking about.”
“Yeah, Jay Nuñez is fantastic. He’s incredibly smart, super organized and detailed, does a great job of mapping out a really good plan. Our philosophies align. That’s what I know. Special teams, I made my [start], created opportunity for myself as a player at Kansas State, as a special teams player and earned trust that way. We were always aggressive going after punts or setting NCAA records in punt returns. And so, again, special teams is made up of a lot of things, schemes and fundamentals and techniques and putting explosive players in position to make plays, but at the end of the day, it comes to having a bad case of the wants. And you want to create that edge and that eagerness in all phases of the game, offense, defense and special teams.
“So, you can’t be ultra aggressive here and ultra aggressive here but we’re gonna be passive here. For us, that’s [not the way]. And we always want to be smart, too. There’s a time and a place for everything. But Jay’s done a great job. He’s an Oklahoma guy. And really pleased with [him]. He’s three and four and five steps ahead all the time, and he sees all the right things that you need to see. Like you would as an OC or DC, really you’re looking for the storms that are down the road. And so he does a great job of not being necessarily in the moment. Is he? Okay, yeah, that’s great, but we need to be mindful of this. So, he does a great job and he’s a huge part of the success that we’re having there up to this point. But again, our philosophies align very well.”
“Yeah, just maybe a week prior we weren’t showing based on what somebody was doing maybe on a particular unit. Picture wise, it looked like we weren’t as sound as we needed to be. So, the next week we needed to go out of the way from the very first play to make sure that we show them being sound, what that looks like, being more, having gap integrity, if you will. So, you know, people are always looking for opportunities where you’re weak at or what you’re not [ready for], if you’re vulnerable to something, again, all three phases. So, [it’s] just being very thorough and saying, ‘Okay, yeah, we’re doing this well, but here’s something that we’re not doing well.’ So, I just think that’s how you continue to improve and you become excellent in your area.”
“I didn’t. I didn’t hear that. So, like I said, I like to keep things simple. I’l be the last one to find out what happens at my house. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes it isn’t. I love rivalry games for all the right reasons. So, that’s what they’ve decided to do, that’s what they’ve decided to do. My opinion really doesn’t matter. But I love rivalry games for all the reasons. People have a deep, genuine investment in their school and take incredible pride, and so what that does in those environments is really cool. And again, as I’ve said before, I’m a traditionalist at heart. So, I understand what rivalries look like, whether it’s as the Sunflower State Showdown or that’s Oklahoma-Oklahoma State or you can go down and list all the other ones that are out there. But those are a great thing for college athletics.”
“Yeah, just I think it create awareness for our players. It’s not about them. It’s to be present in the moment and understand all the things about the university. It’s an opportunity to basically thank the university, thank the band, showing appreciation for their opportunity, what it means to be an Oklahoma Sooner, do things the right way win, lose or draw. Just you do things the right way. And I just think that it’s the right thing to do from a class standpoint. But I make sure that the players know it’s not about them. There’s a lot of other people that make all this happen and make their college experience great. So, [it’s] just creating awareness and appreciation for their university, show respect.”
“It’s starting with Coach [Bill] Snyder years and years ago, and they’ve maintained the same types of philosophies. That’s probably why Coach [Chris] Klieman was hired, one of the many reasons he’s been ultra successful. He’s a national championship coach, so he knows what he’s doing. But offensively, you know, they put you in a lot of conflict in the world of run game, in the RPO world. It really fits them well. And they’ve got tremendous playmakers at both the quarterback and the running back position, a super well coached offensive line, and excellent receiver. So, it puts a lot of stress on you, puts you in conflict, their ability. They’re very—it’s not just the scheme, but they’re also really good from a fundamental and an execution standpoint. And they understand defense incredibly well, too. And so it’s just a very hard thing to try to play good pass defense and at the same time have the right numbers. If the quarterback’s a runner, you need an additional defender than what you normally would. So, you’ve got to find ways to be able to do both, not concede one for the other. And so they know, again, how they put you in a very difficult position defensively. So, we’ve got to match their physical toughness with the precision and then the scheme wise the extra hats where you need them. It makes it tough.”
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