The Moore American

December 26, 2012

OU excited to meet Texas A&M in Cotton Bowl

By John Shinn
The Moore American

MOORE — There are multiple facets to every bowl game, but the hardest to gauge and predict is whether teams are excited to be playing. It’s a question that doesn’t usually get answered until the game gets going.

Oklahoma, however, answered the question several times since it received its official invite to the AT&T Cotton Bowl.

It had to because the last time this team played it thought the next destination would be the Sugar Bowl. That spot in a BCS bowl game was eliminated when Northern Illinois rose to No. 15 in the final BCS standings and locked up an at-large berth.

Few saw it coming when on Dec. 1, after OU had beaten TCU to finish the regular season at 10-2 and with a share of the Big 12 championship.

“It took us by surprise, but we can’t control what happens with the BCS,” OU defensive end David King said. “The only thing we can control is winning and losing. A lot of people were a little upset that we didn’t get the Sugar Bowl bid. It happens, but we’re over it now. We have a new challenge. We have a better game than if we were going to the Sugar Bowl and playing Florida.”

In terms of raw interest, it’s hard to debate King’s thinking. The matchup between the Sooners and No. 10 Texas A&M (10-2) on Jan. 4 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, is one of the most highly anticipated of the bowl season. There’s the element of pitting two former conference rivals against each other in game within an easy drive of both campuses.

It doesn’t hurt that OU will be going against the Aggies’ Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Fan interest hasn’t been a problem. Tickets flew out of the box office. Last week, Cotton Bowl president Rick Baker said this game would likely break the game’s attendance record.

Still, players and fans relish the chance to spend some time in a vacation destination that it typically doesn’t visit. OU hadn’t played in New Orleans since the 2003 national championship game.

The Cotton Bowl will be OU’s third game in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex this season.

Everyone, however, wasn’t caught off guard.

“I’m kind of one of those people that weighs on the negative side all the time, so I didn’t expect to go to the Sugar Bowl,” OU wide receiver Kenny Stills said. “I felt like this was gonna happen, so I wasn’t too down about it. I was excited about going to Dallas. I love playing in ‘Jerry’s World,’ so it’s not a negative thing for us. It’s a huge game for us to get to play against the Heisman Trophy winner and a great team.”

The Sooners have said all the right things since receiving the Cotton Bowl bid. They’ve embraced everything the game has to offer.

“Did we want to go to a BCS game? Absolutely. Who doesn’t want to go to a BCS game? But that’s not the way it turned out for us,” OU quarterback Landry Jones said. “If you look at all the other BCS games because of automatic qualifiers and all those sorts of things, this might be one of the top two or three games in the country. I know there’s a lot of hype behind it. I know our team, and I’m sure Texas A& M, is extremely excited about this game. It’ll be a great game. It’ll be good for college football.”

Williams out: Stoops confirmed on Friday that offensive tackle Daryl Williams is expected to miss the AT&T Cotton Bowl with a knee injury.

Williams, a sophomore from Lake Dallas, Texas, suffered the knee injury in OU’s victory over West Virginia on Nov. 17. When it occurred, Stoops hoped Williams would be healthy enough to play in the postseason. The Sooners face Texas A&M in the AT&T Cotton Bowl on Jan. 4. Earlier this week, Stoops said Williams’ health status would be re-evaluated after the team left Norman for the game on Dec. 29.

The absence of Williams means Tyrus Thompson will start at right tackle for the third straight game.

Thus far, Williams is the only starter expected to miss the bowl game due to injury.

Jones, Johnson land Senior Bowl invites: The Senior Bowl confirmed Friday that OU quarterback Landry Jones and offensive tackle Lane Johnson have received invitations to the event.

The game will be played at Ladd-Peoples Stadium in Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 26, 2013, and will be televised by NFL Network.

It will mark the 16th consecutive year OU has had at least one player in the all-star game.

The game will be played at Ladd-Peoples Stadium in Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 26, 2013, and will be televised by NFL Network.

Johnson started 10 games at left tackle for the Sooners this season after opening 11 games at right tackle in 2011. He was named to the All-America Third Team by CBSSports.com and was a second-team all-Big 12 selection by the league’s coaches.

Jones was named to the all-Big 12 second team by the Associated Press this season. Jones was the only FBS quarterback to post a pair of 500-yard passing games in 2012. He threw for a school-record 554 yards and tied his own single-game school mark with six touchdown passes in a 50-49 comeback win at West Virginia.

Ripkowski gets a scholarship: Last week, sophomore fullback Aaron Ripkowski received the Derrick Shepard Most Inspirational Walk-On Award at OU’s team banquet.

He won’t have a chance to repeat next season. Ripkowski will go on scholarship in January.

From talking with coaches late in the season, Ripkowski believed he would get a scholarship next semester, but he didn’t know for sure until the banquet.

“It was a lot of weight lifted off my shoulders,” he said.

He never asked, but we recognize and always have guys that are making a strong contribution and feel they should be rewarded for it when they do,” Stoops said. “Rip has a lot of great years in front of him with us. He’ll continue to get better.”

Auction coming: Wide receiver Kenny Stills plans to auction off the gloves and sleeves he wore in OU’s victory over West Virginia and donate the proceeds to the families of massacre in Newtown, Conn.

“It’s been really heavy on my heart and it’s a really tough situation to go through,” Stills said. “I couldn’t imagine any family having to go through that … I want to do something to help.”

Stills said he talked to OU’s compliance staff about it earlier this week and the tentative plan is to hold an online auction at soonersports.com.

Stills caught four touchdown passes in the Sooners’ 50-49 victory over the Mountaineers, including the game-winner with 24 seconds left.