Sooners have not treated fans to trick plays lately

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Associated Press

NORMAN, Okla. -- What happened to the Bob Stoops who gained a reputation as a gambler for his gutsy fakes on special teams?

Daring calls like his fourth-quarter fake field goal that won the game for the Sooners in their last trip to Missouri don't seem as common any more. It's been more than three years since the last famous call, a fake punt in the third quarter of a three-point game at Alabama that helped salt away a win in 2003.

"They're looking for them more," Stoops explained as the 19th-ranked Sooners (5-2, 2-1 Big 12) prepared to play No. 23 Missouri (7-1, 3-1) in this week's only meeting of ranked opponents in Division I.

Stoops' bold call in his last trip to Missouri in 2002 kept Oklahoma undefeated at the time in a season that eventually would bring him his second Big 12 championship. And what a call it was.

Led by a superb performance from quarterback Brad Smith, Missouri had scored 17 straight points to take a 24-23 lead in the fourth quarter on the third-ranked Sooners. Oklahoma drove into field goal range, but instead opted to go for the fake on fourth-and-8 from the Missouri 14.

Trey DiCarlo had already missed two field goals and an extra point from the long grass on Faurot Field, so Stoops decided to throw the ball to DiCarlo instead of having him kick it. Except that's not exactly what happened.

Holder Matt McCoy took the snap and lobbed the ball to tight end Chris Chester, who corralled it for the game-winning touchdown.

"He actually threw it to the wrong guy," Stoops said. "Luckily."

Oklahoma tacked on a 2-point conversion to make the final score 31-24.

The next bit of trickery came at Alabama the following September, when he called on punter Blake Ferguson to throw on fourth-and-10 from the Oklahoma 31. He completed a 22-yard pass to reserve defensive back Michael Thompson, and the Sooners scored on a 47-yard touchdown pass from Jason White to Brandon Jones on the following play to take a 20-10 lead. Oklahoma won 20-13.

Since then, though, Stoops hasn't reached into his bag of tricks -- maybe because he hasn't had to. After that Alabama win, the Sooners went on a dominant stretch that lasted through the 2005 Orange Bowl, their second BCS title game in as many seasons.

But the bag is still full.

"Every week, we go in and look at every snap and see how we can go execute and where we can get advantages, just like they do," said assistant coach Chris Wilson, Oklahoma's special teams coordinator. "What everybody's doing is seeing if they fixed their mistakes from the week before. If you don't fix your mistake, they go out and execute and they find them."

Wilson scours through tape of every game an opponent has played this season for those openings and develops ways to exploit them.

"If we have an opportunity where we feel like we can seize that moment, obviously you look into it," Wilson said. "That's one of those things that coach Stoops makes the decision at that moment. He gets a feel for where we're at in the game, the tempo of the game and he makes the decision."

Even a reputation of running trick plays can have an effect.

"It slows you quite a bit because a lot of the typical things you may do as far as all-out pressures in those situations, you kind of are a little leery of because you have to be responsible and know, 'Hey, these guys may fake it,'" Wilson said.

Stoops said it's key not to be "foolish" with trickery and just give away plays. In many instances, he'd just as soon have his offense go for it on fourth down as call for a fake.

"Sometimes they're there, sometimes they're not and sometimes you don't feel like you have to have it. In the end, I don't know, you've just got to have the right feel for it," Stoops said. "Fortunately, we've had pretty good success with them."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: