Sooners eye strong finish

Oklahoma looks for Big 12 title after losing in blowout last year.
Tuesday, November 30, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:52 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

There is no room for mistakes this year for Oklahoma.

The No. 2 Sooners (11-0, 8-0 Big 12 Conference) lost in embarrassing fashion in the Big 12 championship game last year, falling 35-7 to Kansas State. The game meant little, though, with Oklahoma guaranteed to play in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship regardless of the outcome.

This season, the Sooners are in a different position heading into their game Saturday against Colorado at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

With two other undefeated teams, No. 1 Southern California and No. 3 Auburn, vying for a spot in the Orange Bowl, Oklahoma must win to ensure a meeting with the Trojans for the national championship.

Sooners coach Bob Stoops said his team will enter Saturday’s game with a different mind-set than the one that saw them lose both of their postseason games last year.

“I think there’s more of an alertness and a sense that we need to finish well,” he said. “We played 12 games almost as well as you can play them (last season) and then when it really mattered, I felt that we could’ve played better. (The players) are aware of that.”

Last season Oklahoma relied heavily on its passing game and the abilities of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jason White. Although White has had another solid season, it is the performance of freshman running back Adrian Peterson that makes the Sooners more dangerous.

Peterson, who is a Heisman candidate along with White, has run for 151.9 yards per game and has 12 rushing touchdowns.

Stoops said having a balanced offense has made his job easier.

“We do feel fortunate as coaches to have two great, great players,” he said.

Colorado coach Gary Barnett said Oklahoma is a much better team this year with the addition of Peterson. According to Barnett, though, the Sooners’ biggest strength is the way Stoops has gotten so many talented players to play well together.

“He’s always had great players there, but he’s found a way to make sure they play unselfishly,” Barnett said. “That’s what I see as a strength is this attitude of unselfishness.”

After an offseason filled with controversy surrounding possible NCAA violations and allegations of sexual violence by Colorado players, the Buffaloes were the surprise winner of the North Division. After beating Nebraska on Friday, Missouri’s win against Iowa State sent Colorado to the championship game.

The Buffaloes (7-4, 4-4) are heavy underdogs but would earn a trip to the Fiesta Bowl as the Big 12 champion if they win, putting an unranked team in a Bowl Championship Series game.

“I would imagine the Fiesta

Bowl and the BCS is looking at us with crossed eyes,” Barnett said.

Accomplishing that feat will require overcoming the top-ranked scoring offense and scoring defense in the Big 12. The Sooners are averaging 35.5 points and have allowed only 21 touchdowns.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Missouri claimed its first Player of the Week award this season with Brad Smith taking the offensive honors. Smith had his first 100-yard rushing game of the season, amassed 251 yards of total offense and had a 36-yard rushing touchdown.

Colorado took the defensive and special teams awards.

Linebacker Thaddeus Washington had two interceptions and six tackles in the Buffaloes’ 26-20 win against Nebraska.

Kicker Adam Crosby was the Special Teams Player of the Week and made 4-of-4 field goals, accounting for 14 of Colorado’s points. He tied the school’s single-season field goal mark with 18.

“He may be our most valuable player,” Barnett said.

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