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Originally published Sunday, September 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Bud Withers

Sooners were boomin' to say the least

If you'll excuse me for a minute, I need to whack myself over the temple with a ball-peen hammer. Anything to stamp out one more rendition...

Seattle Times colleges reporter

If you'll excuse me for a minute, I need to whack myself over the temple with a ball-peen hammer. Anything to stamp out one more rendition of "Boomer Sooner."

If most of the 67,716 fans at Husky Stadium felt the same way Saturday evening, imagine what it was like for the guys wearing purple on the field. Oklahoma's 55-14 smoking of the Huskies was a never-ending, fast-track, warp-speed loop of off-tackle mashing, receivers snatching medium-range passes and shrugging off tackles, and the red-and-white band striking up the fight song again.

Get used to it, America. This looks like a team built for the long haul, maybe a week deep into January. While most of the nation was focused on the Ohio State-USC game, airing almost simultaneously, it wouldn't be a shock if the outfit that played by the lake steals as many headlines this year.

"We can be as good as we want to be," said tight end Jermaine Gresham.

Forget for a minute where the two programs are, the entrenchment of one versus the growing pains of the other. At times, what took place bordered on criminal, the Sooners laying licks on receivers and running backs, and jamming the ball at will on the Huskies, throwing when they wished, never sacked, never turning it over.

And then you throw in the Sooners' 2008 dash of habanero salsa: Their no-huddle, high-tempo pace, telling you that they'll be the ones to dictate terms, not the defense.

The no-huddle is fast becoming the rage nationally, along with the spread-option style popularized a few years ago by Urban Meyer's Utah team. Oklahoma does more traditional stuff, they just do it at a clip that would make NASCAR proud.

In the offseason, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson discussed it with coach Bob Stoops, who was interested. Wilson had worked with the late Randy Walker at Northwestern, which turned Big Ten defenses upside-down with it.

"I said, 'OK, but there's things we need to practice,' " said Wilson, " 'and it may not be in the best interest of the defense to practice it.' "

They decided it was, simply because so many offenses are doing it now. One of them just up the road, Oklahoma State, showcased a similar version of it at Qwest Field two weeks ago against Washington State.

When the Sooners are pounding the ball, it's like 30-foot ocean swells coming at you every 20 seconds. The offensive line two-deep had 138 combined starts coming into the game, and it underwrote the gaudy Oklahoma numbers: 100-yard nights by DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown, and a ridiculously efficient, 18-for-21 night by quarterback Sam Bradford.

You can imagine how the line reacted when the Sooners went no-huddle in earnest in the spring, guys like Phil Loadholt and Duke Robinson, 300-plus-going-on-four, being told they have a little less rest than they used to have.

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"It caught us off-guard at first," said center Jon Cooper. "We really didn't understand the tempo that Coach [Stoops] wanted to use. But our strength staff did such a great job with some of the bigger guys losing weight. Guys like Phil and Duke lost 15 to 20 pounds."

"You can imagine in conditioning," said Gresham. "We run anything and everything."

These Sooners brought all sorts of baggage with them to Seattle. They had lost regularly when playing west of Norman. In fact, of their last nine losses, four were at true road venues and five were at neutral sites.

"It's true," said receiver Juaquin Iglesias, unable to muster umbrage at the can't-win-on-the-road refrain. "Sometimes the truth hurts."

The coaching staff has taken to splitting hairs with the Sooners.

"These guys haven't lost on the road," said Wilson. "Now, last year's team did. But last year had a freshman quarterback and a young line. A lot of teams with a freshman quarterback and a young line can't win the league, and we're [outsiders] complaining because we haven't won on the road.

"I told them Thursday: This is this team, this week, this year, let's go play. Our kids are buying in. There's a lot of energy on that field right now with that team."

Oklahoma has other skeletons to get out of its closet. The last four times it has been in a BCS bowl game — against LSU (2003 season), USC (2004), Boise State (2006) and West Virginia (2007), it has gone splat.

"Our shirts this summer said, "Built Road Tough," said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. "Our whole mindset was, be dominant wherever we go."

Saturday night, the Sooners were as good as the slogan.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

Two 100-yard rushers
In the past two seasons, the Huskies have had four games where they've allowed two players to rush for at least 100 yards each.
Players Team Year
Chris Brown (107) and Demarco Murray (100) Oklahoma 2008
Jonathan Stewart (251) and Andre Crenshaw (113) Oregon 2007
Chris Markley (193) and Kahlil Bell (109) UCLA 2007
Stafon Johnson (122) and Chauncey Washington (106) USC 2007

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
bwithers@seattletimes.com | 206-464-8281

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