Bob Stoops and Oklahoma were winners together again, just like in the old days.
Kennedy Brooks ran for 142 yards and three touchdowns, Caleb Williams passed for three more goals and on the 14th ranked Sooners rode a dominant first half to a 47-32 victory over No. 15 Oregon in the Alamo Bowl Wednesday night.
The victory marked a brief and happy reunion for the coach and the school, he led to a national championship and 10 Big 12 titles from 1999-2016. Stoops was called from a golf course to come out of retirement to coach the bowl game after Lincoln Riley’s abrupt departure to Southern California.
“I’ve been out of it, come back,” Stoops said. “It was fun. More than anything, I appreciate the young people, the guys in the program, embraced me, were all in and worked hard.”
Stoops achieved career victory No. 191 and increased his bowl record to 10-9. Getting the latest win was perhaps the easiest part of all this.
Equally important were the tasks of stabilizing the program overall after Riley’s bolt west turned the program upside down. And he had to build a stable bridge to the new era under incoming coach Brent Venables, his former Oklahoma assistant who has spent the past nine seasons at Clemson.
“They get a guy with passion, a guy who loves the game,” Stoops said. “A winner.”
And the coach, who was once nicknamed the Big Game Bob, also became Big Hug Bob when he came to embrace his son and Sooners receiver Drake Stoops after a touchdown catch in the second quarter. Drake moved on to Oklahoma in 2018 after Bob retired.
Oklahoma (11-2) ran out to a 30-3 lead as Brooks and Williams cut the Oregon defense. Brooks had 127 yards on just 10 carries in the first half with scoring runs of 16 and 29 yards, and another 40-yard run that put Williams’ first touchdown pass to Drake Stoops.
Williams’ 55-yard TD pass to Marvin Mims Jr. hit the receiver perfectly in steps behind two Ducks defenders who were two steps behind. Brooks then hit the end result of the half.
The Sooners were so dominant at the time that they looked like some of the Stoops’ old team of bulldozing running backs, defense and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks.
But Oregon (10-4) did not give up and made a game out of it in the second half. The Ducks scored three touchdowns in the third quarter, two came after long throws by quarterback Anthony Brown, to get within 44-25 at the start of the fourth. Brown finished with 306 yards passing, and Travis Dye rushed 153 yards and a touchdown for Oregon.
Oregon was led by assistant coach Bryan McClendon, elevated to interim head coach for the bowl game after Mario Cristobal traveled to Miami. Oregon has hired Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning, who will take over the Ducks after the College Football Playoffs.
“It hurts,” McClendon said. “As good as we played in the second half, it’s not a consolation prize.”
Oklahoma: Riley’s sudden departure and several players who frolic early in the NFL or switched got the program’s fans in a bit of a panic. Venables was for the game and was around the team during bowl drills. He should have a good grasp of where the Sooners are headed next season.
Venables’ biggest job is to build a potential future with Williams, who has not said definitively whether he plans to stay with Sooners next year.
Williams did not resolve the issue after the match. He called the last few weeks a “slide” and said he would go on vacation with his family.
“Oklahoma chose the right guy to come in here,” Williams said of Venables.
Oregon: The Ducks struggled in the second half, but it was too late. Lanning, who will be the first-time head coach when he takes over after CFP, will at least know he is inheriting a team that will not stop. Lanning is leaving a candidate for the national title and has said that Oregon should be one too. The Ducks have played in the Pac-12 title fight the last three seasons.
NO HELMET, NO SCORE
Oklahoma’s Mario Williams smiled alone as he rolled into the goal zone alone with his helmet off and his hair flying in the second quarter. The only problem was that it is against the rules. Williams was convicted down on Oregon 33 as soon as Ducks safety Avan Dickerson had grabbed his face mask and pulled off his helmet. The Oklahoma drive ended instead with a 40-yard field goal from Patrick Brkic to a 9-3 Sooners lead.
Oklahoma opens the 2022 season during Venables against Texas-El Paso on September 3rd.
Oregon will play its first game with Lanning as head coach on September 3 against Georgia.