NORMAN — Oklahoma enters Saturday night’s Big 12 Conference opener against Missouri with a relatively clean bill of health. Assuming linebacker Travis Lewis plays — and he’s expected to — the Sooners will be at full strength.
OU’s good health is a miracle considering the brutal nature of last Saturday’s 23-13 victory over Florida State. I’ve covered every Sooner game since the 2004 season and nothing over the previous seven seasons compares in terms of the physical exertion of last Saturday night.
“My body was sore after that game. I sat in the ice tub for a good five minutes, trying to get my body right,” safety/linebacker Tony Jefferson said.
He wasn’t alone. The ice baths in the Switzer Center were so busy Sunday it nearly required an appointment to get in. Running back Dominique Whaley was one of many that spent some tub in the ice tub trying to get his body healed after a night of high-speed collisions.
“Everybody is in there on Sunday,” he said. “You have to get healed up. No one takes any chances.”
Submerging yourself in ice cold water is not a pleasant experience. Some would call it torture. But it does have healing powers.
The Sooners’ ability to heal will be on display this week. That Florida State game is going to be one of OU’s defining moments of the season, good or bad.
It was a great victory. OU hadn’t won a non-conference road game over a team ranked in the top five since the 1970s.
The price it paid for doing so leaves some wondering if it was worth it. That will be answered Saturday night when the top-ranked Sooners host Missouri at Owen Field.
It shouldn’t take too long to find out. There are some pretty easy ways to find out if a team is still feeling the effects of the previous week’s game.
The Sooners beat Florida State on the strength of its defense and its ability to run the ball.
If the Tigers, who are averaging more than 40 points and 500 yards a game, start marching up and down the field Saturday, that would be a strong indication the Sooners have problems.
If they can’t run the ball, that would be another sign.
Handle both and there’s concrete evidence the Sooners are a tough team that bring much more than athletic talent and precision to the table.
“It never changes,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “Great teams are physical all the time.”
Last Saturday against Florida State, the Sooners showed they were willing to absorb every hit and deliver far more to topple the Seminoles.
Against Missouri, the Sooners have to show they are willing to do it on a game-in, game-out basis.
“Florida State is a good team, but it wasn’t a conference game and usually teams in your conference play you harder,” offensive tackle Donald Stephenson said. “So, we’re not satisfied at all. We still have a lot of work to do.”
That means getting in those ice tubs and doing everything it can to keep those aches from turning into major pains.
With the exception of Lewis, the rest of OU’s players practiced this week. That’s a sign OU’s willing to pay the physical price it takes to be a dominant team.