Was there a crazier season in college football history than 2007? I don’t think so, and neither do the folks at The Mothership. When the 2007 season comes to mind, most think of opportunities missed by tradition-poor programs such as Missouri, Kansas, West Virginia (sorry) and USF. However, plenty of blue-bloods also kick themselves for missing out on another national championship that season.
As was also the case in the 1990 season (go ahead and google "Colorado fifth down" for me if you aren’t up to speed), nobody really deserved to take the crown that year. The champion ended up being LSU, who lost games to the likes of Kentucky and Arkansas. However, the Oklahoma Sooners easily could have claimed championship No. 8 had it not been for some terrible luck. Nonetheless, there were plenty of bright spots for OU that season, including a very good win over Texas and a Big 12 Championship victory over No. 1 Missouri. Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?
1. The 2007 college football season was the craziest in recent memory for a number of reasons, and Oklahoma played a fairly large role in it. In your opinion, what's the biggest what-if of Oklahoma's 2007 campaign?
Jack: If Sammy B doesn’t suffer a concussion early in the game against Texas Tech in Lubbock, OU likely cruises to a berth in the BCS Championship Game and possibly wins it all. As weak as the rest of the field was that season, OU really missed an opportunity for No. 8.
Austin: Same for me. If Bradford doesn’t go down, Oklahoma almost definitely wins that game. If OU wins that game, they go on to play Ohio State for the National Championship. The Sooners had a few near-misses under Stoops, but the 2007 team feels like the most glaring. If Bradford doesn’t go down, maybe Bob Stoops has two rings. But we’ll never know for sure.
Kartik: We’re 3-3 on this one. Heading into that November 17 matchup in Lubbock, the 9-1 Sooners were ranked third in the country and deeply entrenched in the hunt for a spot in the BCS National Championship. Bradford’s injury happened on OU’s second possession of the game and after he went out, the Sooners’ offense went dry, and a defense on its’ heels surrendered 24 straight points to Mike Leach’s squad.
Although backup Joey Halzle filled in admirably for Sammy B, the offense couldn’t get anything going until it was too late and Halzle’s costly interception ultimately proved to be the difference in the 34-27 defeat. Bradford returned the following week to help crush Oklahoma State in Bedlam, but that loss at Tech, of course, knocked the Sooners out of the national title chase.
2. What do you consider to be the most memorable moment of the 2007 season from an OU perspective?
Jack: For me, it’s the Big 12 Championship win over No. 1 Missouri. It’s incredibly rare for OU to play the role of spoiler, and it kind of felt good to be on the side that had less to lose. I was down there in San Antonio, and Mizzou fans were about as obnoxious in the lead-up to the game as I’d ever seen them. It just felt great to watch their team get stomped and to see the expressions on their faces as it was happening. They really thought they were ready for the big-time. NOPE!
Austin: Curtis Lofton stripping Jamaal Charles at the goal line line in Dallas. That is up there with the Roy Williams Superman play for my favorite OU-Texas moment of all time. Charles thought he was going to walk into the end zone and never saw Lofton coming. The best part is you can go back and watch the replay of the announcers calling it a touchdown. He faked out the entire production staff, and ultimately made the biggest play of the day.
Kartik: DeMarco Murray’s hurdle against Texas. That play exemplified the Sooners’ dominance in the series through the 2000s, and Murray showed the nation why he was indeed the man worthy of following Adrian Peterson as Oklahoma’s next great running back.
3. 2007 was Malcolm Kelly's final season at Oklahoma before declaring for the NFL Draft. In your opinion, was Kelly the most physically-gifted receiver in OU history?
Jack: I’d give him the slight edge over Kenny Stills and Mark Clayton. Stills and Clayton were faster and a bit more agile (which should be expected from shorter guys), but Kelly was a unicorn. The fact that he didn’t amount to anything at the next level is such a shame.
Austin: No, but he’s up there. In terms of all-around physical attributes, I’d rank him right behind Kenny Stills. Kelly could move pretty well for his size, but his speed wasn’t in the same category as guys like Stills, Mark Clayton or Dede Westbrook. He sure could freestyle, though.
Kartik: I think so. Brandon Jones probably comes close, but it’s tough to recall any other Oklahoma wide receiver who arrived in Norman blessed with the build and natural talents of Malcolm Kelly.
4. DeMarco Murray burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman for Oklahoma in 2007. Where were you when DeMarco hurdled and broke loose against Texas?
Jack: I had a view of it from the upper deck, which was quite similar to the view shown on TV. It’s still the most aesthetically-pleasing play I’ve ever seen in person.
Austin: I was there. That was the first Red River Shootout I ever attended. I remember watching Murray in the spring game that year and thinking he could be the next great OU running back. I also thought Keith Nichol should’ve started over Sam Bradford heading into the season… so 1/2 on hot takes that year.
Kartik: This one hits a sore spot. I had tickets to the game. However, I was unable to attend due to a string of particularly unfortunate events that led to yours truly spending Friday night/Saturday morning stuck in a Dallas drunk tank. I’ll chronicle this entire experience in detail later this season — perhaps during Red River Rivalry week — if you guys want to hear about it. It’s pretty ridiculous.
But long story short for now, I was released from the joint way too close to kickoff Saturday morning and therefore had to donate my ticket to a friend who’d enjoyed much better luck than me the night before. So, consequentially, I caught this incredible play by DeMarco Murray at a pizza place on the Dallas West End.
5. Speaking of Murray, 2007 was the year in which the 2006 recruiting class really burst onto the scene. At the conclusion of that season, which member of that class (which included Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray, Gerald McCoy, Trent Williams and Jermaine Gresham) did you think had the brightest future ahead?
Jack: It was probably DeMarco Murray for me. We had just recently finished watching Reggie Bush dominate at USC, and I kind of thought he was the next Reggie Bush (but with more of a power element to him).
Austin: It’s a toss-up between Murray and Jermaine Gresham, but I’m going to give the nod to Gresham. He was one of the only guys in that ’06 class that came in and had an impact his true freshman year and by the end of 2007 he was one of the best tight ends in OU history. 37 catches, 518 yards, 11 touchdowns seemed like unbelievable numbers for a tight end, but he would go on to demolish all of those numbers in 2008.
Kartik: Sam Bradford. I honestly felt at that time he had a great shot at winning a Heisman during his OU career after that breakout freshman season in ’07.
6. Linebacker Curtis Lofton tallied 157 total tackles, forced four fumbles, intercepted three passes and reached the end zone twice. However, he was never a candidate for the Butkus Award because he wasn't on the preseason watch list. Where does his season rank amongst the greatest individual seasons for a defensive player at Oklahoma (in your lifetime, at least)?
Jack: Lofton would have very strongly challenged James Laurinaitis for the Butkus Award if he was given proper consideration. In fact, he probably should have won it. Rocky Calmus was the best OU linebacker of my lifetime, but Lofton’s 2007 season was probably a hair better than any of Rocky’s.
Austin: I’d rank it second behind Rocky Calmus’ 2000 campaign. Lofton was everywhere that season. He was a rare breed of linebacker who could get to the quarterback, drop in coverage and run guys down from behind. I feel like Lofton is often overlooked when people talk about Sooner greats, but he definitely deserves to be in this conversation.
Kartik: I rank Curtis Lofton’s ’07 season as one of the most impressive in school history, just below the best of The Boz, Jackie Shipp and Rocky Calmus through the last three decades of the modern era. His career is sometimes overlooked and had he stayed for his senior season, OU might have won title No. 8 in 2008. Lofton was an absolute tackle machine and one of the Sooners’ most underrated players of all time.
7. If Oklahoma falls to Missouri in the Big 12 Championship, does Mizzou end up winning it all against Ohio State?
Jack: I don’t think so, but it damn sure would have made for a much more entertaining BCS Championship Game.
Austin: No. I refuse to believe in an alternate reality in which the words "National Champion" and "Chase Daniel" exist in the same sentence.
Kartik: Nope. And this hypothetical was totally uncalled for.
8. Defensive tackle Demarcus Granger was suspended for the Fiesta Bowl after he was arrested for stealing a jacket from the Burlington Coat Factory in Tempe. Where does this compare to the other all-time idiotic bowl-trip decisions in college football history (that the public knows about)?
Jack: It’s up there, but the Jeremy Sprinkle one is my favorite. The dude shoplifted from Belk ON THE BELK BOWL TRIP! Incredible.
Austin: Off the top of my head, it’s top 3 for sure along with Trevone Boykin sneaking out of his hotel and punching a cop in 2015 and Jeremy Sprinkle shoplifting from Belk at the Belk Bowl last year. Dumbest bowl-game suspension was Brian Kelly suspending Max Redfield for checking his phone during dinner one night. I talked to a Notre Dame player who said the entire room was on their phones, and Kelly never told them they couldn’t be.
Kartik: Right up there near the top. Outstanding timing, Demarcus. West Virginia says "thanks again".
9. In your opinion, does a full-strength Oklahoma team top West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl? Why or why not?
Jack: Having the likes of DeMarco Murray, Malcolm Kelly and DeMarcus Granger obviously would have helped, and that team’s mind was clearly elsewhere because of the injuries and suspensions. OU also clearly had a more talented team across the board. However, West Virginia’s offense back then was tough to prepare for, and those guys played their asses off for Bill Stewart that night. I’d take WVU in a close one.
Austin: I think a full-strength Oklahoma team beats anyone in 2007. Unfortunately, we never got to see that happen. I think Murray would have given the Sooners a huge boost on offense as Allen Patrick and Chris Brown both had very mediocre games.
Kartik: I’d say yes. The Sooners should’ve had more focus entering that game, but the missing starters did make an impact on both sides of the ball. DeMarco Murray would’ve answered the explosive plays from West Virginia’s Pat White, Steve Slaton and Noel Devine, and without the distractions from Granger, etc., the defense likely would’ve given up less big plays and hung tough the whole game. It would’ve been a fun matchup, which I feel OU wins by at least a touchdown.
10. Was Oklahoma the best team in college football in 2007? How would they have matched up against LSU, Ohio State or other contenders?
Jack: At full strength, I absolutely believe OU had the best team in the nation. I think LSU maybe had a bit more talent across the board, but OU’s talent at the skill positions (which was arguably as good as it’s ever been at OU) should have put them over the top in my mind. Also, if OU had beaten Tech and won out, they wouldn’t have played LSU in New Orleans — it would’ve been Ohio State. I’ll take 2007 OU over 2007 Ohio State any day.
Austin: Yes, and as I said earlier, I believe they would have won the National Championship had Bradford not gone down against Tech. There was no truly dominant team in 2007, but I believe OU at full-strength all year was a head above everyone else. Missouri ended the regular season ranked No. 1, and OU beat them handily twice.
Kartik: OU would’ve beaten every team in the country except maybe LSU. But this Tigers team featured a makeshift offense after Jamarcus Russell was gone the season prior, and the Sooners faced a better Tigers’ defense in the 2003 BCS title game. A healthy, undistracted Oklahoma squad with DeMarco Murray in the backfield was legitimately one of the two best teams in the nation in 2007.
11. Finally, do you consider the 2007 season to be a successful one?
Jack: This is tough, but I say it was. OU won the Big 12 Championship against the No. 1 team in the country and beat Texas and Oklahoma State. As disappointing as the outcome in the desert was, I can live with a loss in a somewhat-meaningless bowl game. But man... the hypotheticals just eat away at my soul.
Austin: I do not. Maybe it’s because Stoops set the bar so high during his tenure, but I can’t in good conscience consider a 11-3 and getting blown out in a bowl game a successful season.
Kartik: I’d have to say a ‘push’ on this one. A Fiesta Bowl win and yes, the season would’ve undoubtedly been a success after the ups and downs of 2005 and ’06. OU had found its next wave of stars on both sides of the ball, and the offense became the envy of the nation. But the big game troubles that once again surfaced with the country watching in January ultimately sent the ’07 Sooners off in bittersweet fashion.