23 Oklahoma There is change in the air: In Norman these days they'd sooner pass than run

August 13, 2000

For a school that produced Billy Sims, Barry Switzer and the
most famous wishbone this side of Thanksgiving dinner, the
latest incarnation of Oklahoma football is going to take some
getting used to. Still, you don't have to be Rodgers and
Hammerstein to admire the production of Oklahoma last season.
The Sooners' aerial circus broke nine school and five Big 12
passing records and left the rest of the country pondering the
following query: What in the name of J.C. Watts is going on in
Norman these days? "I think it's communism, myself," says Watts,
who now does his scrambling on Capitol Hill as a Republican
congressman representing Oklahoma's Fourth District. "Oklahoma
throwing the ball 35 to 40 times a game; that's as close to
communism as we'll ever see. But I'll take it because we're
winning again."

So will his constituents, especially after a decade in which
storied OU was more like PU. Last year, with a new offense
(spread), coach (Bob Stoops) and star quarterback (Josh Heupel),
the Sooners reached their first bowl game since 1994. Life in
Norman should be just as much fun this season with Heupel (3,460
passing yards) throwing to a fleet of young wideouts. If
sophomore running back Quentin Griffin can give the Sooners a
ball-control alternative late in games, Oklahoma will be tough to
beat. An improving defense will be buoyed by the return of the
starting front seven.

Texas, K-State and Nebraska will determine the Sooners' fate.
Asked if he's got a wager on the Texas game with Governor George
W. Bush, a Longhorns supporter, Congressman Watts emits some
Texas-sized confidence of his own. "He's a smart man," Watts
says. "He knows better."

Was that the sound of a Sooner trash-talking again? Some things
in Norman just never change.

--R.D.

COLOR PHOTO: BRUCE COLOR PHOTO: L. SCHWARTZMAN Antwone Savage and all the other wideouts will be calling for action in the pass-happy offense.

Fast Facts

1999 record: 7-5 (5-3, T2 in Big 12 South)
Final ranking: not ranked

Telling Number

2:21
Average time of possession of Sooners' 1999 scoring drives, half
of which were six plays or fewer.

The Book

An opposing team's coach sizes up The Sooners

"Oklahoma has always had talent, but in '97 and '98 they didn't
play nearly as hard as they did last year. If you want to know
the reason for the return of OU football, it's effort....Their
down linemen get off the ball and put pressure on you,
especially Ryan Fisher, who's strong inside. Those guys tie up
your linemen so you can't get to the linebackers....They're
young in the secondary, but they've got a lot of good players
there."

SCHEDULE
Strength: 51st of 115

Sept. 2 TEXAS-EL PASO
9 ARKANSAS STATE
23 RICE
30 KANSAS

Oct. 7 TEXAS*
14 at Kansas State
28 NEBRASKA

Nov. 4 at Baylor
11 at Texas A&M
18 TEXAS TECH
25 at Oklahoma State

*At Dallas

["TELLING NUMBER" COMPILED BY DAVID SABINO]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)