Venables goes deep on Sooner-Husker history and it's hilarious
Was he really driving on sidewalks after field rushed and goalposts torn down?
He’s entirely entertaining.
That was the case when Brent Venables, along with Mike Stoops and Mark Mangino, left Kansas State to rejoin Bob Stoops on his original Sooner staff and it was the case Tuesday, at Venables’ weekly press conference, four days before Oklahoma takes on Nebraska, at Nebraska, for the first time in 13 years.
Because he was asked about what has to be the most celebrated Sooner victory in the series’ history and his answer was solid gold.
Or a piece of it was because soon he was off to other Big Red rivalry meet-ups, way more than he should have at his fingertips, like I know too many baseball players from the ’70s and ’80s.
For Nebraska, that game’s “The Game of the Century,” 1971, Johnny Rodgers’ punt return and a 35-31 Husker victory.
For OU, it was 2000, The Game of the New Century or something like it. The Sooners, at home, knocking off the No. 1 Huskers 31-14, OU’s first game since knocking off No. 2 Kansas State 41-31 in Manhattan and its second since knocking off No. 11 Texas 63-14 in Dallas.
Red October it’s been dubbed.
Prelude to a national championship.
“I remember getting down 14-0 and coach Stoops bringing us over, and I think [Eric] Crouch was maybe the quarterback then,” Venables said, “and they were running the option and we had over-pursued a few times and they went right down — pow, pow — man, just a body blow, uppercut and we were just laying on the ropes.”
Then, a turning point.
On the sidelines.
“Coach Stoops [said] ‘Let’s go, we’re all right, just slow it down,’ like, surely it can’t be that easy, but he was right,” Venables said. “And then we went 31 unanswered. Really, what a great [day]. And all I remember is they tore down them goalposts out there.”
I remember that, too.
I remember the fans rushing the field right past me, which could totally happen again with similar emotion in play, because there was just no stopping them. Those assigned to keep it from happening were probably celebrating, too.
Under John Blake, the program had sunk to impossible depths and in the second year of a new regime, OU goes and beats No. 11, No. 2 and No. 1 back-to-back-to-back to be No. 1? The emotion of the moment, years in the making, demanded the gridiron be rushed.
Venables, though, soon remembered more and there lay the gold.
Kind of, sort of, he broke some very old news, just about being himself at the time and self assured enough now to tell us about it 22 years later.
“I’m ashamed now because I wasn’t celebrating,” he began. “Now, I’m like thinking, ‘Whatever, it’s one vs. two’ and I’m literally thinking ‘I gotta get home, I gotta get sleep because we gotta [get back to work].’ I can’t remember if it was … Kansas or somebody [else] the next week,” he said.
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It was Baylor.
OU won 56-7.
“‘We’re gonna get beat next week if I don’t get home.’ So I’m literally driving through campus on the sidewalks. I gotta get home. All these crazy people celebrating and I gotta get some sleep because I always felt [like] my role was the most important role. That’s how I always felt,” Venables said. “So that was a good moment, really, but I’m ashamed because I didn’t take any opportunity to soak it in.”
Memory reminds it was a big a day for The Norman Transcript, too.
We’d created a special section.
If it looked like the Sooners might win, the presses would run at halftime, the sections would be brought to the stadium in the third quarter and, one way or another, smuggled into the stadium and handed out as the game went final.
I think I wrote the story — a day or two before — as if OU had won, filling it with a factual account of all the history entwined were such a victory to occur. I’m pretty sure ESPN’s Lee Corso, there to host “College GameDay” that morning, held it up for the cameras during on-site postgame reports from the stadium.
I remember “No. 1,” maybe in crimson, spanning six columns across the cover, so 500-point type? Below, a picture from the first half, and a subhead, the syntax of which I can’t recall.
Don’t have a copy.
Among the things I never new about that momentous day was how the fate of the rest of the Sooner season entirely depended upon Brent Venables getting home and getting some sleep.
He’s relaxed since.
Has a better idea of what’s important.
That and the last thing he’s afraid of is a good story.