Oklahoma football: Sooners won’t retreat from the edge

NORMAN, Okla. — Over the course of a season, coaches and players tend to veer in different directions when describing what’s happening. However, all involved seem to use the same word over and over after games.

You heard “chippy” in every corner of Oklahoma’s interview room following its victory over West Virginia to close the regular season. The Sooners also used that word a lot following the victory over Kansas on Nov. 18. It came up a few times after the 38-20 victory over TCU on Nov. 11.

“Every week it’s chippy — some weeks more than others,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “Obviously with West Virginia, every year that we’ve played them it’s been kind of approached the same way. We understand it’s going to be a dogfight. Why that is, I couldn’t honestly tell you.

“I know there’s going to be a lot of extra pushing after the play and a whole lot of talking. That’s just normally how it is. As the game gets going, things get settled down. They settle down and we just play.”

That settling down period takes longer every week. Remember the Kansas game, when the players and some coaches  were still barking in the fourth quarter. The crotch grab that got Mayfield benched for two plays against West Virginia occurred in the third quarter of the Kansas game.

So what has everyone so stirred up?

“I can’t speak for everybody’s games. I can speak for ours. In between the lines, there’s a lot of trash talk being said, but football is also a violent game. There’s going to be harsh feelings, bitterness towards each other,” Sooners offensive tackle Orlando Brown said.

“But in the end, there’s got to be respect. Because you’re both out there trying to play well and trying to win. So yeah, sometimes you go too far. That’s where it needs to be drawn back a little bit.”

Oklahoma plays at the edge

As Brown said, the game is violent. It’s about dominating the person in front of you. The offensive and defensive linemen go through a hand-to-hand fight on every play. If they’re not getting testy, something is wrong.

Offensive lineman Dru Samia was the first to go over the edge this season. He took a swing at West Virginia defensive end Adam Shuler II in the second quarter last Saturday, forcing his ejection.

Samia is eligible to play in the when the No. 3 Sooners (11-1, 8-1 Big 12) face the 11th-ranked Horned Frogs (10-2, 6-2) at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in the Big 12 Championship Game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Oklahoma offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh talks to his players about the edge daily. But to him, the goal is to get as close to it as possible.

“We haven’t gone over the edge very much, but I’d rather pull them back than have to say ‘go get them,’ ” said Bedenbaugh, a nominee for the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach. “I’m glad, again, we can’t go over the edge, but really the whole group is like that and that’s how I want them playing.”

Over the last three seasons, the Sooners have gained a reputation as the Big 12’s bullies. Whether or not it’s by design, there seems to be more pregame and post-play incidents with them than any other team.

TCU coach Gary Patterson spent a large chunk of his news conference Tuesday calling out Mayfield for hitting one of his players in the head with a ball during pregame warmups.

When will officials step in?

Riley notices the increased aggression. A day before Oklahoma pushed and shoved its way through West Virginia, TCU rolled past Baylor in a game that featured a near brawl along the Bears sideline. That occurred in the second half and will force TCU weak safety Nick Orr to sit out the first half on Saturday.

“I think it’s something we gotta look at. I do,” Riley said this week. “[Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione] and I had a conversation about this, won’t reveal the details. But we gotta make sure that we’re sending a strong enough message as far as the penalties to help reduce it.”

The Oklahoma coach pointed to the impact the targeting penalty has had on helmet-to-helmet hits. The half-game suspension makes a point that the simple 15-yard personal foul did not.

“The penalty is so severe, you don’t see it happen very much as far as outright, blatant, intentional,” Riley said. “I’d bet 75 percent or more of the targeting calls this year are in some ways inadvertent [hits].”

But there’s this line that seems to get thinner every week. Oklahoma pushes its players to the edge. All championship teams get out there. They’re also the ones that don’t cross the line.

The post Oklahoma football: Sooners won’t retreat from the edge appeared first on Diehards.

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