Oklahoma Sooners: Robert Griffin III
Facing the Heisman winner, however, has usually not been a positive for the Sooners. OU is 5-11 against Heisman winners in the season they captured the award.
In fact, since beating Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke in the Orange Bowl to take the 2000 national championship, the Sooners have lost three in a row to Heisman winners.
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1. The NFL draft begins tonight at 7 p.m, and though it’s unlikely any Sooners will hear their names called during the first round, there will be plenty of familiar names coming off the board. Oklahoma’s defense was much maligned late last season but Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, who torched the Sooners' secondary, is set to get selected No. 2 overall by Washington and Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, who had 18 receptions for 200 yards and one touchdown in two games against OU, likely will be drafted in the top 10. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper also has OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden going late in the first round. Clearly the Sooners weren’t the only team who struggled to stop Griffin or Weeden and Blackmon.
2. You have to wonder what it is like to be Landry Jones tonight. He could be walking across the stage to meet Roger Goodell, but instead he’s in class? There are several NFL teams looking for a quarterback in the draft and it’s easy to believe Jones would have been a top 10 pick if he had elected to declare early. Regardless, Sooners fans should be happy, they’ll have an NFL quarterback at the helm this fall, someone multiple NFL teams would love to have in their locker room.
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Well, Oklahoma State had a little something to do with it, but so did two huge positions in need of improvement.
Both cracked colleague Travis Haney's list of positions with the potential for huge growth in 2012.
First up, the Texas quarterbacks.
Texas seemed to indicate it would like for the more athletic [David] Ash to be the guy, even as a freshman, but he could not sustain enough consistency to win the job outright. And, really, Ash simply could not take care of the ball. He threw an interception every 21.8 passes. (The most efficient quarterback in 2011, Wisconsin's Russell Wilson, threw one every 77.3 throws.My take: I totally agree with this one. How much Ash improves is the big question. An offseason full of first-team reps will be extremely valuable -- he got almost none last year before being thrust into the role of starter as a true freshman. During spring camp last year, he was a fourth-stringer. He could get better, but Ash has never really looked the part of future superstar to me. Fortunately for the Longhorns, the team is good enough everywhere else it doesn't need him to be a superstar. If he's solid, but able to get the ball to Texas' playmakers like Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis, the Longhorns will be a factor in the Big 12 race.
[Case] McCoy was more consistent in November, but no one was mistaking him for his older brother in terms of arm strength and accuracy. He did put up a 356-yard passing day in the loss to Baylor at the end of the regular season, but McCoy then gave way to Ash for the bowl victory against Cal. It was a yo-yo effect all season for the Horns, who would like to see one of the two emerge -- but still haven't really through spring ball.
Second, Haney looks at the Oklahoma defensive backs, who are under new direction this year with Mike Stoops.
Stoops has a variety of options for the different spots in the defensive backfield. Already, he has shifted Tony Jefferson from sam linebacker to free safety, his more natural position, and moved Javon Harris from free to strong safety. Harris was the goat in several games, including the Baylor debacle. Jefferson might be the most underrated defensive player in the Big 12 because he has yet to settle into one, specific position.My take: The league's best quarterbacks gave the Sooners all kinds of trouble last year, and it won't be much easier this year. Yeah, Brandon Weeden and Robert Griffin III are gone, but TCU's Casey Pachall and West Virginia's Geno Smith are the new guys very capable of tearing up anybody's secondary.
Another important piece of the OU defense, Aaron Colvin, missed the spring after minor shoulder surgery. He can play any of the secondary spots, again freeing up Mike Stoops to mix and match to find a solution for the big-play disease.
It's tough to know exactly what the problem for Oklahoma was. The Sooners could be dominant at times. They have the talent and athleticism. Most importantly, they have lots of experience. For OU, it's a matter of just doing it. Stoops will try to make it happen, but big improvement could result in a big, big year for the Sooners.
A national title, perhaps?
Quarterbacks' rushing talents are factored into these rankings. As such, it's tough to figure out how to weigh that vs. passing acumen. Ultimately, teams ranked 4-7 were really, really close.
In these position rankings, we take into account backups, though that impact is minimal at the quarterback spot.
If your quarterback wins the Heisman, you're not finishing below No. 1 on this list. Robert Griffin IIIlit up defenses and broke the NCAA record for passing efficiency, even though Wisconsin's Russell Wilson did the same this year, and finished higher than RG3. Even when RG3 suffered concussion-like symptoms against Texas Tech, backup Nick Florencecame in and burned Texas Tech's defense in a 66-42 win. Griffin finished with as many touchdowns as Brandon Weeden (37), but threw as few interceptions as Collin Klein (6), despite throwing the ball 121 more times than Klein.
2. Oklahoma State
Brandon Weeden is a solid second place in this ranking, and backup Colton Chelflooked good in lots of mop-up duty, too. Weeden was the star, putting together an All-Big 12 caliber season, though Griffin's otherworldly performance in 2011 knocked him off his first-team perch from 2010. He led the league with 4,727 yards and 37 touchdowns. He also had the second-most pass attempts in the league, with 564.
Landry Jones got some help late in the season when Blake Bell's BellDozer racked up a team-high 13 touchdowns. Jones wasn't outstanding late in the season after Ryan Broyles' knee injury, but his receivers didn't help him much, either. The dropsies seemed to infect everybody after Broyles' college career ended. Jones finished with 4,463 yards passing, second most in the Big 12. He also added 29 touchdowns but must improve on his 15 interceptions, a regression back to freshman-year Jones.
The SoonerNation staff is wrapping up Oklahoma's 10-3 season by answering 10 questions, just like we did during the Sooners' bye week in November. Today:
What was the Sooners' biggest disappointment of the season?
Widespread rules violations
This one is easy. The widespread lack of attention to the “little things,” as defensive captain Travis Lewis put it, leading to a number of players being asked to transfer in December. Injuries plagued the Sooners. But just as detrimental were the numerous suspensions, stemming from skipped workouts, missed classes and failed drug tests. The Sooners didn’t have the intangibles needed to compete for a national championship. Very disappointing.
- Jake Trotter
Jackson Laizure/Getty ImagesJamell Fleming and the Sooners' secondary ranked No. 79 in pass defense in 2011.
For a team expected to compete for a national championship, the Sooners didn’t approach every game to dominant their opponent. All too often they started slowly, seemingly with the belief they could just “turn it on” and win. Their slow start against Missouri was a perfect example and it finally caught up with them against Texas Tech when they ran into a 31-7 halftime deficit and couldn’t rally for the win.
- Brandon Chatmon
Lack of leadership
When things started to go downhill for OU, there was nobody there to bring that spark back to the team. Landry Jones is a great player, but it just feels like he doesn’t have the natural born leadership qualities. Defensive captain Travis Lewis went silent and stopped addressing the media after the loss to Texas Tech, something he even said might not have been the best idea in hindsight. Nobody could rally the troops together.
- Bob Przybylo
After giving themselves a clever nickname in the preseason, Oklahoma's defensive backs didn't play consistent enough to warrant the moniker. Despite having an abundance of talent, Oklahoma ranked No. 79 in pass defense in 2011, and the Sooners were burned several times through the air. OU gave up 452 passing yards to Seth Doege and Texas Tech in a loss, and 485 passing yards to eventual Heisman-winner Robert Griffin III and Baylor. The Sooners had solid individual performers - the corners Jamell Fleming and Demontre Hurst were mostly solid -- but they didn't perform well as a unit. There is hope for the Sooners' secondary, however. Mad Mike Stoops returns to tutor the defensive backs in 2012.
- Dane Beavers
What do you think? What was OU's biggest disappointment this season?
Oklahoma's three-year starter (give or take a few games) says he's coming back to Norman for his senior year and a fourth year behind center for the Sooners.
"I want to accomplish the goals that I set before I got here, and there is still a lot more to do," Jones said in a release. "I want to make sure I've exhausted every effort in that area. And I want to be a senior. I enjoy being at OU and with my teammates, and look forward to graduating with the guys that were in my class when I got here."
ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both ranked Jones as their No. 3 quarterback in the upcoming NFL draft behind Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Jones is 15th on Kiper's Big Board, and ranked 17th overall by McShay.
The Big 12 looks open for the taking in 2012, but Jones' decision makes it pretty simple: the Sooners will slide into the spot as the favorite.
They won't be heavy favorites as they were in 2011, but Oklahoma will have the preseason edge on Kansas State, TCU, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas.
Now, the spotlight turns to Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, who says he's undecided and plans to make his decision next week after meeting with coaches.
He's the final big piece of the Big 12 title race puzzle in 2012, but for now, the Sooners have the edge.
Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III is still undecided on his future, but he moved all the way up to No. 6 from No. 11 on Kiper's last Big Board update.
"Not buying any talk he'd be higher on some boards than Luck, but his altered delivery has resulted in better accuracy on downfield throws," Kiper wrote. "Great kid, underrated passer, big-time athlete. No ill effects from 2009 knee injury. Remarkable numbers."
That's an unbelievable rise for Griffin, who was nowhere to be found on the Big Board at midseason.
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones simply slid up to No. 12 from his spot at No. 13 last week.
"I still like the way he's battled in 2011, but it's fair to say his reputation outpaced his performance this season," Kiper wrote. "Accuracy is still very good. Good size, strong arm but needs to improve footwork. Still a very good prospect."
Jones hasn't announced his decision, but Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said last week he expects Jones to stay. That's what he should do, too.
Justin Blackmon stuck at No. 5 on the Big Board.
On Baylor’s game-winning touchdown pass, Robert Griffin III showed why he’s earned the respect of Big 12 coordinators with his arm. The Bears quarterback threw from the left side of the field to the right corner of the endzone between OU safety Sam Proctor and cornerback Demontre Hurst.
It was a throw that few quarterbacks can make.
“I don’t even know how to explain it,” Hurst said of his thoughts when he saw the ball in the air. “I saw the ball thrown and it pretty much fell right into his hands. Watching film today I was sick to my stomach that he made a great pass like that. It was just an amazing throw.”
Film review in general was quite unpleasant for the Sooners secondary as they relived Griffin’s 479 passing yards in the upset victory.
“Watching it as a secondary we were pretty disgusted,” Hurst said. “Plays we could have prevented, just our eyes in the wrong spot. Watching it, it was pretty ugly but we have to man up to it, own up to it.”
Oklahoma safety Sam Proctor marveled at the talent of Griffin after the Sooners’ 45-38 loss to Baylor last weekend.
“He was by far one of the greatest athletes I’ve played against,” Proctor said. “He’s a great talent. The fact he could improvise with his legs gave his receivers more time and that added a little more stress in the cover game.
The Sooners defensive line did a good job winning their one-on-one battles with the Bears offensive line but expecting a defensive lineman to bring down the ultra-talented Griffin is a scary proposition.
“It wasn’t one, two, three, four, five [seconds then throw],” Proctor said. “He was more buying time, a few times we were back there for six or seven seconds in open field which is always a little more difficult.”
Griffin threw for a season-high 479 yards while averaging 14.1 yards per attempt. “RGIII” could be college football’s most explosive player with his combination of speed and superb passing skills.
Oklahoma had the talent. It had the experience, a BCS bowl win already under its belt.
"We have high expectations, and I don’t shy away from them,” Stoops said before the season. "My feeling is, it is about time. We need to win one."
There was no guarantee, but a 34-yard fling from Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III ended any hope Oklahoma had of achieving the biggest and loftiest goal on its mind: the national title.
The Bears rushed the field, and the Sooners were left to reassess a season gone wrong.
"To have just your one goal of being a national champion isn’t always very realistic, and percentages of that for everybody are pretty difficult," Stoops said Monday. "It’s always pretty tough. At the end, that’s always a goal for us."
That can be crossed off the list now, but the biggest goal lies ahead: keeping focus and motivation without a shot at the title to fight for. The new motivation, Stoops says, is an eighth Big 12 title since 2000.
The Sooners were marred by injuries to major contributors all season. First there was a broken toe for linebacker and captain Travis Lewis in preseason camp that had him at less than 100 percent early in the year. Receiver and captain Ryan Broyles set the FBS record for career receptions in midseason, but weeks later, his college career was over with a torn ACL. In between that, leading rusher Dominique Whaley's amazing story from walk-on to leading rusher hit a sad chapter when he fractured his ankle.
Yet, here's Oklahoma, toting two losses but still an opportunity to be Big 12 champions.
"That’s a great year, anytime you’re the champion of your league and that’s what we still have an opportunity to do. That’ll be great motivation right there," Stoops said.
A debatable point for sure, but Stoops reiterated that though it's the biggest, a national title isn't the only goal for his team. To reach that biggest goal, a conference title must come first. A BCS game -- not the big one -- will follow if the Sooners snatch another title, a point Stoops must pound home this week.
Oklahoma hosts Iowa State on Saturday, and a streak of eight consecutive wins over rival Oklahoma State will be on the line a week later. With it, a Big 12 title. We'll find out in coming weeks if that motivation truly is enough to keep the Sooners looking like the team it thought it could be in August.
"It’s a major focus and it’s a great focus. It’s great motivation," Stoops said. "To be honest with you, as the member of the whole drum beat leading up to the whole year was a one true champion, right? Because we’re all playing each other. we look at it as a chance to be the champion. That’s great motivation and it could be one year. That’s how we look at it."
WACO, Texas -- Robert Griffin III made his way into Baylor's locker room, but paused when he opened the door.
Nobody was there.
"I was like, where'd everybody go?"
They were still on the field celebrating. There was a postgame party at Floyd Casey Stadium, and everybody wearing green and gold was invited. The Bears had swiped the Sooners' picnic basket.
Before tonight, Baylor had never had a chance to celebrate a win over Oklahoma.
With a 34-yard toss from Griffin to Terrance Williams in the back corner of the end zone, that all changed.
"There at the end, God works in mysterious ways," Griffin said with a wide smile. "When I looked down the field, I saw him one-on-one. All this is happening in milliseconds, so I saw him one-on-one and I was like, 'Well, I’ll give him a shot.' I threw it up, and he made a great catch."
Sarah Glenn/Getty ImagesBaylor's Robert Griffin III passed for 479 yards and four touchdowns in the upset over Oklahoma.
That play, coach Art Briles admitted, was "not the way we drew it up."
"The dude has had the ability to take over a game by himself," said Baylor linebacker Elliot Coffey, "and you saw it."
We all saw it. We saw Griffin prove once again he's the best deep-ball passer in college football, throwing four touchdown passes, even if one of them unbelievably deflected off Tevin Reese's hands and helmet before floating into Kendall Wright's hands for a game-changing 87-yard score.
Griffin could only shake his head at that one, but he finished with a school-record 476 yards on 21-of-34 passing, breaking his own single-season school record for passing yards. He was also the Bears' leading rusher with 72 yards.
"Another day at the office for Robert," Briles said. "He’s been doing that for three or four years. When the ball’s in his hand, he’s going to make good things happen, because he’s very intelligent, very passionate and very gifted."
Said Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon: "You can't really defend him. You have to just take what he gives you."
No run was bigger than a 22-yard scramble on second down on the game's final drive, when Baylor had just 51 seconds left and no timeouts. Oklahoma had three, and when the Bears looked content to try to run it and settle for overtime, the Sooners used one. Baylor knew it needed a first down. The man they call RG3 provided those precious 22 yards.
"Then the whole thing flips," Briles said.
The aggressive move backfired, and the Sooners' fate was in the hands of the most dangerous player in the Big 12. Baylor should have known.
"Robert Griffin’s the best in the game," running back Terrance Ganaway said. "When the ball’s in his hands, expect big things."
The late toss to Williams was the biggest, and Griffin barely saw it. He took a big hit, but saw Williams haul it in. He wasn't sure, but the offensive linemen that mobbed him confirmed it.
"Robert, you just won us the game," they told him.
He got up, took a moment to kneel near midfield, then pointed to the sky and jogged to the sideline. He just wrote maybe the most memorable chapter in Baylor history. They'll never forget this night in Waco.
"When you work for something extremely hard for a lot of years, and you finally get it, it’s a great feeling," Griffin said. "We worked for this. We haven’t been waiting for it. We’ve been preparing for it. And it finally came to pass."
Baylor's already been through the whole bowl eligibility brouhaha. That's so 2010. Saturday was the third time Floyd Casey Stadium's field has been stormed in the past two seasons. Baylor's already equaled its win total from 2010 with two games remaining, and the Bears might be favored in both. Then there's a bowl game.
That's not lost on Griffin.
"It's great, but you've still got to show up every day and go to work. Go to practice. Watch film. That's something I've learned to appreciate, because the year I was hurt, I couldn't practice," said Griffin, who missed the final nine games of the 2009 season with a torn ACL. "I couldn't walk. I couldn't go to the bathroom by myself. My mom had to help me. My fiancee had to help me. So, when things like that happen to you, it makes you appreciate everything."
America learned to appreciate Griffin once again, too. He captured the nation's attention with a game-winning drive on the first weekend of the season against TCU, but the Bears suffered a pair of losses and dropped out of the Top 25. A slew of losses from top-ranked teams, though, combined with RG3's heroics?
The Heisman race has gotten a sudden face-lift.
"They say we needed a signature win," Griffin said with a laugh. "And we got it."
WACO, Texas--Chalk this one up among the greatest wins in Baylor history.
Art Briles has done a lot of big things at Baylor, but this is among the biggest. Baylor ended one of the most lopsided all-time series in college football with a 45-38 win, the first for the Bears in 21 tries throughout the history of college football.
Lots more to come tonight, but here's some instant analysis.
How the game was won: Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III rolled to his left and hit Terrance Williams for a 34-yard touchdown pass with eight seconds left and the Bears recovered a squib kick. One kneel by RG3 and the Baylor fans stormed the field for the second time this season.
Turning point: Baylor reversed momentum and answered two quick touchdowns by Oklahoma to open the second half with three touchdowns of their own, highlighted by a crazy 87-yard touchdown catch by Kendall Wright that bounced off Tevin Reese's hands and helmet before floating into Wright's hands in stride. Easily one of the plays of the year in the Big 12, if not all of college football. Oklahoma threatened to run away with the game, but Baylor wasn't shaken. The Bears did what they do best -- throw the ball deep -- and snatched back control of the ballgame.
Player of the game: Griffin III, QB, Baylor. Who else? RG3 was the man for the Bears. He threw for 479 yards and four touchdowns without a turnover, torching Oklahoma's secondary in the second half and breaking a few records in the process. Speaking of which ...
Record performance: Griffin broke his own single-game record for passing yards in a game (479) and broke his own record for passing yards in a season, all on the same night. He also helped his team get one of the biggest wins in school history. Not a bad day's work.
Second guessing: Baylor faced a 4th-and-1 in its own territory early in the third quarter, but decided to go for it. That's OK, I guess, but running Griffin into the pile from the shotgun? Not good. Oklahoma stuffed it, celebrated and scored right away to take the lead. What would this game have looked like if the Bears simply punted there?
What Baylor learned: It really can go head-to-head with the Big 12 titans and get a win. The Bears have ascended to the second tier of the Big 12, but failed to prove themselves against an elite opponent. Safe to say this game qualifies. The Sooners had a lot to play for and couldn't get it done.
What Oklahoma learned: Life without Ryan Broyles is going to be hard. The Sooners host Iowa State next Saturday, but they'll face a similarly dangerous offense in Oklahoma State on Dec. 3. The offense put 38 on the board Saturday night and it wasn't enough. Don't be surprised if 38 isn't enough against the Cowboys, either, with a Big 12 title hanging in the balance.
What it means: Oklahoma's national title hopes are kaput. Oklahoma State's loss on Friday night didn't help, but there's an SEC West logjam at the top of the BCS and Oregon lost earlier on Saturday. The Sooners were still alive ... until they weren't. A Big 12 title is still on the table for the Sooners, but a season that began with a beeline to the national title game will come up short. Big 12 titles are great and always difficult to win, but Oklahoma fans have come to expect more. They won't get their eighth national title in 2011.
No. 5 Oklahoma's officially on upset alert.
Baylor's gone step-for-step with the Sooners on both sides of the ball, and the scoreboard shows it. The Bears lead 17-10.
Both teams have caught a few breaks and bad calls, but this one looks like it's going down to the wire.
Time for a bit of halftime analysis after the Bears jogged into the tunnel to raucous cheers and a "B-U! B-U!" chant.
Turning point: Kendall Wright took a short pass and weaved his way for a 55-yard gain, outrunning Oklahoma's defense. On the play, OU defensive end Ronnell Lewis went down, too. The Bears scored two plays later on a 15-yard run by Terrance Ganaway, and you got the sense that Baylor and its fans started to believe they could win.
Stat of the half: It's been an ugly half. We've already seen 12 penalties for 114 yards.
Best player in the half: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor. Griffin connected on a 69-yard touchdown pass to Tevin Reese that counted and was thrown perfectly. Another 80-yard bomb on the opening drive was thrown perfectly and didn't count because of a hold. Still, he's 8-of-13 for 197 yards and a touchdown and has played mistake-free football. He has to stay that way. He's got OU safety Javon Harris on his heels.
What Baylor needs to do: Keep poking at the Sooners and keep testing them deep. Baylor did a better job of handling the Sooners' blitzes in the second quarter and giving Griffin III some time to make plays. The Bears kept working the screen game to receivers on the outside, and the Sooners backed off a bit. The running game's only worked when Baylor's offensive tempo has been at its highest, so the solution there seems pretty obvious, too. Counter-intuitive to moving the clock, yes, but it's much too early to think about anything like that just yet. The Bears need to keep moving the ball.
What Oklahoma needs to do: A big win seems like it's almost out of the question now. Baylor's not a team that's going to be pushed around tonight on either side of the ball. This game may stay low scoring, and as the road team, when the Sooners get opportunities to score, they have to take advantage. They've done that so far, outside of a Trey Franks fumble on a long run and a third-down sack to take them out of field goal range. It's telling that they've taken advantage of opportunities and still only have 10 points.