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Discussion in 'The Mainboard' started by ColeTrickle, Oct 10, 2019.
I prefer red river rivalry to shootout
OU by 50
Kinda sad you're only creating a thread now, your rivalry needs some work.
this is yet another RRS where I feel like OU should steamroll Texas but for whatever reason they won't and it'll cost them a CFP chance.
not many posters from either side on the board imo
worst weekend to live in DFW
FIFY - it doesn’t really spill over into Fort Worth (thank God)
i think you mean blest weekend
except i just lost power, fuck
The best part about this game is it is so early so the pregaming is limited. Then after the game it all spills into the fair. And the postgaming gets out of hand.
the post game blackout is usually a good time.
We don’t have the most active posters and OU has like 3 nowadays
Im going to be pretty disappoint if there's not at least2 horns down penalties, after all the hoopla about it
The pregaming is a blast thought because it’s an excuse to drink beer and eat a corn dog at 8:30
When Texas loses and all of the fans disappear after the game is the fun part
We just disappear into the fair to drink away our sorrows. Luckily for us Mack Brown left so no more 60 something to teens anymore
Lol you need an excuse?
One score game either way.
I dunno man, there were a lot of drunk fuckers pregaming the 2 times I’ve gone, and they were both 11 AM kickoffs
yeah pregamming is still not an issue
we’re used to 11am games
if ou goes up big, you know it’s happening
Does OU actually have both starting offensive tackles out?
Yes, I do. I walk a thin enough line on being an alcoholic on the weekends and I think drinking every game day at 8:30 would put me over the edge
swenson will be out at lt, no one knows about ealy
lincoln would be great running fort knox. no one ever knows anything about anything anymore. it’s amazing in this day and age. they asked bedenbaugh if ealy would play, and we’re at the point where he literally responded “ask lincoln”
swenson is meh but proctor (backup) is terrible. we can’t believe stacy wilkins isn’t getting more run than he has
if ealy is back, interior ol is awesome. but if he’s out, robinson the rg kicks out to rt where he’s not great and walker the backup rg looks like tarzan, plays like jane. hayes at lg is a god damn monster and a future high draft pick. creed will be a first rounder at center this year
riley used a lot of tight ends and h-backs against kansas. bet you’ll see that a lot. all the rb’s are really good pass blockers too
I'm pretty hype for this game. Hate that it's the same time as our game, but that's why I have more than one TV
hopefully the uga game is over by halftime
after this game is over
Noon games usually mean we start slow. I'm hopeful that it will be though.
true, but gotta like the matchup. they are not good. blalock coming out party, mark it
I could see that on Blaylock. As long as Tyler Simmons role is being diminished, I'm happy.
Man as a horns and gamecocks fan this could be a real shit start to my Saturday out here on the west coast
Or it could be a great start. I’m getting pumped up, almost 24 hours from kickoff. Can’t wait to walk into the Fair and the stadium again tomorrow. First game since 2015
Eat shit, texas!
first year not going in 10, but i did just light up the smoker
Not a fan of either team, but I must say that's one rivalry game everyone should experience live at least once. The whole atmosphere is just great.
I’ve placed significant wagers on Texas ML and the points so expect the Sooners to roll.
thank you for your service
42-31 texas lfg
‘Bobby, would you take the Ferrari out of the garage already?’ Celebrating Adrian Peterson’s epic freshman season
DALLAS — Adrian Peterson leaned into position 8 or 9 yards behind the line of scrimmage, standing on the first “A” in the “OKLAHOMA” painted on the Cotton Bowl’s southeast end zone.
Because of Peterson’s speed and powerful strides, Oklahoma coaches lined him up a yard or two further back than most I-backs. Otherwise, he might get there before the offensive line had a hole opened up or — as was the case a few months earlier in preseason camp — might just blow past quarterback Jason White without the ball.
Offensive coordinator Chuck Long’s call was “28 Back.” Peterson took the handoff, immediately cut to his right and galloped past almost the entire Texas defense, right down the Longhorns’ sideline. Peterson made it to the OU 38-yard line before Texas safety Michael Huff grabbed him from behind, but Peterson pulled Huff another 10 yards before the play ended.
“I’ll never forget him busting out down their sideline,” then-OU coach Bob Stoops says. “I thought, ‘Jeez. Oh, man, look at him go.’ ”
Oklahoma’s 12-0 Red River Rivalry win over Texas on Oct. 9, 2004, was Peterson’s last game as a backup in college. Stoops had finally — permanently — pulled the Ferrari out of the garage.
Peterson was the No. 1 overall prospect nationally in the 2004 recruiting class, which drastically understates his talent. Peterson was a freak of nature, a once-in-a-generation talent. He was the rarest of high school football players — the kind who legitimately could have gone straight from high school into the NFL. An 18-year-old whose summer workout feats both stunned and challenged Jerry Schmidt, OU’s strength coach from 1999 through 2017, a weight-room mad man whose regimen was legendary for its difficulty for even hardened upperclassmen. Many of the mightiest Sooners crumbled during their first summer with “Schmitty.”
“I was almost embarrassed because this guy wasn’t even affected by any of it,” says Schmidt, now the strength coach at Texas A&M. “You think you’ve got a program that’s going to challenge everybody, and it wasn’t enough for him.”
But Stoops resisted starting Peterson early in the 2004 season. Junior Kejuan Jones was a returning starter. Peterson still needed work in learning the pass protections. He still needed to earn it.
Stoops’ childhood best friend from Youngstown, Ohio, wasn’t buying it, though. Jim “Snake” Braydich thought Stoops was playing political games and told him so, repeatedly badgering Stoops with the same question throughout the first several 2004 games.
“Bobby, would you take the Ferrari out of the garage already?”
A photo that still hangs to this day in the Oklahoma football offices encapsulates that sentiment. It’s from OU’s Sept. 18, 2004, home win over Oregon. Peterson has just burst through the Ducks’ defense and cut down OU’s sideline for what would become a 40-yard touchdown in the third quarter. As Peterson barrels toward the end zone, Stoops appears truly shocked by what he’s watching. Braydich is a few yards from Stoops, standing with a seemingly smug “I-told-you-so” posture.
“A great photo,” Stoops says. “He’d been riding me about it, and you can just see that look on his face.”
Peterson’s TD run against Oregon, memorialized in a picture in OU’s football offices. Notice Stoops’ expression. Braydich is in khaki shorts and a white cap on the right. (Photo courtesy of Bob Stoops)
It’s been 15 years since Peterson set the college football world on fire, completing one of the greatest-ever seasons by a true freshman. He rushed 339 times for 1,925 yards and 15 touchdowns. The 339 carries remain an FBS freshman record, and the yardage was, too, until Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor ran for 1,977 in 2017.
Peterson was a unanimous first-team All-American that season, and finished second in balloting for the Heisman Trophy and the Doak Walker Award. It was a different time, a time when freshmen weren’t supposed to win awards like those. Peterson’s Heisman chances also were hurt by White, the previous year’s Heisman winner who finished third in 2004. And let’s be clear: USC quarterback Matt Leinart was an extremely deserving Heisman winner.
The Doak Walker went to Texas senior Cedric Benson, who rushed for fewer yards, averaged fewer yards per carry and was not a Heisman finalist. Peterson says such things don’t bother him much anymore. But he still has questions.
“How the heck did Cedric Benson win the Doak Walker Award if it’s a year-by-year award and he wasn’t a Heisman Trophy finalist?” Peterson says. “After that happened, I was like, ‘You know what? This is bullcrap. It’s all politics.’
“I know I was the best player in the country that year as a freshman. I know I was the best running back. It was unheard of then for a freshman to win the Heisman. I should have been the first freshman to ever win the Heisman. But I’m past all of that. It is what it is.”
Today, Peterson is in his 13th pro season and his second with the Washington Redskins. He will go down as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. A seven-time Pro Bowler, Peterson was the 2007 NFL Rookie of the Year and the 2012 Most Valuable Player. He owns the NFL single-game rushing record (296) and ranks eighth in NFL history in career rushing yardage.
A common thought among award voters in 2004 was that Peterson would have another shot. Alas, he didn’t. Injuries hampered his sophomore and junior seasons; he put up solid stats in those seasons, but not Heisman stats.
This is the story of Peterson’s legendary freshman season at Oklahoma.
Stoops still remembers the first time he saw film of Peterson playing at Palestine (Texas) High, which is in east Texas, about two hours from both Dallas and Houston.
“Blown away,” Stoops says. “It looked like you were watching a senior in college play against high school kids. He was strikingly physical, fast and powerful compared to everybody else on the field.
“I’ve never seen anyone that dominant. Guys like Gerald McCoy and Tommie Harris were obviously better than everybody, but not to that degree. It’s probably more obvious when he’s getting the ball every time and is virtually unstoppable.”
By the time Peterson was a Palestine High junior, the locals were comparing him to the likes of Earl Campbell and Eric Dickerson. Campbell was from Tyler, about 45 miles northeast of Palestine; Dickerson was from Sealy, about 160 miles south.
“You often hear stuff like that in recruiting, that this kid is the best ever,” says Jeremy Crabtree, who was Rivals.com’s national recruiting editor at the time. “Everybody in Texas wanted to compare every great running back to Eric Dickerson. But once you saw Adrian in person, you realized that the mythical, legendary tales were true.”
Peterson’s father, Nelson, nicknamed him “AD.” That stands for “All Day” because he could go all day. To this day, that’s a source of frustration for Oklahoma fans when they hear or read NFL folks refer to him as “AP.”
Wolfe was a national top-10 running back in the 2004 recruiting class — the same OU class as Peterson. He soon moved to cornerback and was a three-year starter. (Jeff Gross / Getty Images)
Crabtree first saw Peterson play as a junior against Huntsville High; he still remembers Peterson’s stats — 359 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
“Everybody in the stadium knew he was going to get the football,” Crabtree says. “Even the lady handing out the pregame programs knew that Adrian Peterson was going to get the football 20 or 30 times that night, and no one could stop him.”
D.J. Wolfe was a consensus national top-10 running back and a national top-100 recruit overall in the 2004 recruiting class. From Eisenhower High in Lawton, Wolfe committed to the home-state Sooners during his junior season.
OU had signed three running backs in its 2003 class, so Sooners coaches told Wolfe that he would be their only 2004 running back. But one day in the summer of 2003, running backs coach Cale Gundy called Wolfe.
“I got a call one day and he said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this guy named Adrian Peterson who is showing interest,’ ” Wolfe says. “They wanted to let me know, and that was great of them. I said, ‘Coach, how can I help?’
“USC had LenDale White and Reggie Bush at the time, and I thought that could be us.”
OU’s interest in signing two backs was understandable, especially as the Sooners’ 2003 season unfolded. Oklahoma went unbeaten in the regular season — and was being discussed as one of the greatest teams in college football history — then lost in both the Big 12 championship and national championship games. White won the Heisman. But the Sooners had a clear weakness in the running game.
“We had a great season offensively, but we didn’t have a great running attack,” Long says. “We were shotgun with Jason White. We were all shotgun, all spread.”
Part of that was because White had torn the ACLs in each of his knees and had limited mobility. But the Sooners also didn’t have an imposing rushing attack, and they wanted to change that.
At one point during Peterson’s recruitment, he made plans to visit one of the Sooners’ practices. Gundy asked Long if they could put in a couple of I-formation plays just for that practice.
“Cale came up to me and told me, ‘Hey, Adrian Peterson is coming to practice. We’ve got to put in some I-formation plays,’ ” Long says. “We didn’t have any, but we put some in that day just because Adrian was there.
“I don’t know if that actually sold him or not.”
One thing that definitely helped was a visit that Stoops, Gundy and then-assistant coach Darrell Wyatt made to the federal prison in Texarkana, Texas, to see Nelson Peterson; he was in prison for laundering drug money. Because Adrian was close to his dad, OU coaches felt obligated to speak in person with Nelson. Stoops, Gundy and Wyatt began the process of visiting months earlier. It took background checks, copies of their passports, everything. They finally got clearance in early December 2003.
“We were in prep for the Big 12 Championship Game, but I was like, ‘We’ve got to go see him,’ ” Stoops says. “It was the first day of recruiting. I thought we’d sacrifice a day of prep, at least for us, because we’ve got to go see him. It was a beautiful day. We sat outside at a picnic table. His mom was there with a few of her other children. Nelson and Adrian were there.”
The process of clearing coaches for a visit was so tedious that prison officials decided they wouldn’t do it again, so OU coaches were the only ones who got in.
“Stuff like that is what made Bob Stoops the best in the business back then,” Crabtree says. “They kicked over every rock. They turned over every leaf. They pushed every button correctly.”
Stoops says he was ‘blown away’ the first time he saw tape of Peterson in high school. ‘I’ve never seen anyone that dominant,’ he says now. (Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)
Peterson announced his commitment to Oklahoma — choosing the Sooners over USC and Miami — at the U.S. Army All-American Game. But the calls and visits from other recruiters didn’t stop.
Many people in Palestine didn’t want to see their favorite son leave the state of Texas, and Texas A&M coaches got in good with Peterson’s stepfather.
Carey Murdock now is the publisher of SoonerScoop.com, the Rivals network site that covers OU. At the time, he wrote for Sooners Illustrated, and remembers calling Peterson one night in January 2004.
“He was in his bedroom and said he wouldn’t come out because the A&M coaches were there and he didn’t want to talk to them,” Murdock says. “Adrian’s stepdad let them in the house, but he was sitting there in his room, talking to me and hiding from the A&M coaches.”
Someone took out a full-page ad in the Palestine Herald-Press shortly before National Signing Day 2004, imploring Peterson to stay in the state of Texas.
“When you recruit down there, you’ve got to understand that three-quarters of the town are going to be made up of Texas or Texas A&M people,” Gundy says. “You’ve got to battle against the people that work at Walmart, the people in the doctor’s office, the people at the grocery store, the people at the post office.”
One team that absolutely was not in the mix by that point, though? The Texas Longhorns.
Peterson grew up a Longhorns fan. His cousin, Chris Smith, was a defensive end there in the late 1990s, and Peterson dreamed of playing there, too.
“Everybody believed that he was going to go to Texas,” Crabtree says. “It was preordained back then that any top recruit in the state of Texas would go there.”
But Peterson says he crossed Texas off his list after he said then-Longhorns coach Mack Brown wouldn’t commit to letting Peterson compete for the starting running back job. The Longhorns had Benson, who was a three-year starter and was himself a Texas high school legend.
“Here I am, the No. 1 recruit in the country,” Peterson says. “I’ve got USC telling me I can compete and they’ve got Reggie Bush and LenDale White. Arkansas, all they do is run the ball. Every school told me I could come in and compete for it.
“I didn’t demand anything. I wasn’t asking for a promise that I could start. I wasn’t asking for money under the table. I just wanted to compete. But once (Brown) told me that, I crossed Texas off.”
Brown now is coach at North Carolina, and through a UNC spokesman, Brown said he never promised anything to anyone — including returning starters — and that he remembers his conversations with Peterson different.
Regardless, Peterson went into the 2004 Texas game as one highly motivated freshman. He rushed for 225 yards on 32 carries that day.
“I wanted the chance to show them what they missed out on,” Peterson says, “and it felt good putting that ‘Golden Hat’ on.”
The freak of nature
The Peterson workout stories are legendary, and none more so than what he could do on the plyometric boxes.
Stoops, Schmidt, linebacker Rufus Alexander, defensive end Dan Cody and fullback J.D. Runnels are among those who swear they saw it: Peterson gripping 70-pound dumbbells in each hand and jumping effortlessly onto a 42-inch plyo box. As an 18-year-old.
“Then he’d grab ’em and jump up there with one leg,” Runnels says. “We’re all looking around at each other like, ‘Where the hell did this guy come from?’ ”
On the first day of summer workouts, Stoops told Schmidt that Peterson didn’t need to do any of the testing. His high school track season had just ended, Stoops told Schmidt, and Peterson’s hamstring was tweaked a bit. But Peterson told Schmidt he was fine and that he wanted to do all the testing.
Then he ran a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash. “He put some old funky high-tops on, and we tested,” Schmidt says.
Once during 300-yard shuttles in the OU indoor facility, as veteran players were nearly tapped out, Peterson was sprinting like it was nothing.
“That’s it? That’s all you got?” Peterson yelled at Schmidt as he ran past him.
“I was motivated by it,” Schmidt says. “But we had to find ways to give him more resistance and make it harder.
“What Adrian did more than anything was bring a mindset to the team that we’ll never get tired. He had that mentality, and everybody else accepted that challenge as well. It’s like, ‘Hey, this guy’s the best running back in the country and look how he’s training.’ It was contagious.”
The five-star freshman earned the respect of his new teammates in a way many top-flight recruits don’t. He came in, put his head down and worked his ass off.
“A lot of times you see those five-star guys who are prima donnas and don’t want to put in the hard work — the box jumps, sprints, weight lifting,” Alexander says. “He came in and made coaches adjust and challenge him because what they were doing wasn’t hard enough for him.”
On one of his first days of summer workouts, Peterson showed up late. Not late by conventional time — he actually showed up a couple of minutes before the scheduled time — but late by “Schmitty time.” And he heard about it.
“If a workout was at 9, that meant be ready to go by 8:50,” Cody says. “ ‘Schmitty’ made a point. There are a lot of people who didn’t respond well to that, especially being a freshman and being highly touted. And it wasn’t just that AD fell in line; he immediately got it.”
Schmidt says, “He was never late again.”
But workouts are one thing. Would that freakishness translate onto the field?
Peterson was a man among boys in high school. Truth is, it was the same way in college, even during his freshman season. (Wesley Hitt / WireImage via Getty Images)
Murdock remembers the first day of preseason camp in 2004. These were the days when reporters could watch most of practice. As a group of media members stood on the sideline, the running backs ran past.
“So Kejuan Jones ran by, another running back ran by,” Murdock says. “Then Adrian Peterson ran by, and maybe this is an over-exaggeration but it was almost like the wind following him was so much stronger than every other person. I almost, in my mind, remember it as if everyone’s pages started flying out of their notebooks because there was so much wind.
“It was like a tornado of athleticism that just followed him everywhere he went, even when he’s running in just shorts and a helmet.”
Despite his freaky athleticism and generational talent, Peterson had to learn how to play college football. He needed to learn the playbook. He needed to learn pass protections. He needed to learn the proper footwork. And he needed to learn how to be a more patient runner.
Oklahoma hadn’t run much of anything out of the I-formation the previous season, but coaches installed that as part of the offense for Peterson.
“Adrian was not really conducive to the shotgun,” Long says. “He needed to be in that home position, going downhill.”
The problem: Peterson only had one speed. He came out of that home position — typically 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage — so abruptly that it caused all kinds of problems during preseason camp. White couldn’t get to him fast enough, especially on stretch plays. And the offensive line didn’t have time to open holes.
“The o-linemen knew he was coming on a handoff, and it was like, ‘You’d better move your guy and get the hell out of the way,’ ” Schmidt says. “Because he was going to run through the back of your ass if you don’t. He was going to find a way through.”
That’s why Long and Gundy moved Peterson back. He lined up somewhere between 7½ and 9 yards behind the line of scrimmage. It looked strange, having the tailback lined up so far back, almost like he was there to pooch punt the ball.
“One of the most challenging things with him was getting him to learn how to have some patience,” Gundy says. “He just wanted to go. I don’t think anybody’s ever gotten as deep as he did from the line of scrimmage. We made accommodations for him.”
Stoops and his staff always insisted that to start, a player had to earn it. And between a preseason shoulder injury and the things he still had to learn, Peterson hadn’t earned it by the time the season opener against Bowling Green arrived.
In fact, that first week, Peterson was listed third on the depth chart, behind Jones and Wolfe.
Still, Peterson rushed 16 times for 100 yards and a touchdown in the opener. He rushed 25 times for 117 yards and two scores the next week against Houston.
Wolfe admits that his freshman season was tough. But he also fully acknowledges Peterson’s generational talent, which is why he moved to cornerback the next season and became a three-year starter there.
As Peterson stacked 100-yard games on top of 100-yard games, everyone wondered when OU coaches were going to make it official and name Peterson the starter. It wasn’t just “Snake,” although as Stoops’ childhood best friend, he was probably the only person who could incessantly bring it up.
“Bobby, would you take the Ferrari out of the garage already?”
Snake died in 2010, and Stoops paid to dedicate a bench near Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in his friend’s memory.
“Snake was Bob’s buddy from the neighborhood,” Schmidt says. “That’s the kind of guy who can say things other people can’t. He can say it the way it is, and it kind of slaps you in the face. Only your boy from the neighborhood can talk to you like that.”
But “earning it” was one of Stoops’ most impactful recruiting pitches to Peterson and his father. As the oft-told story goes, Gundy told Peterson during the recruiting process that OU would love to have him but that they’d win championships with or without him. It was simply up to Peterson to decide whether he’d be with them or against them.
“We’ve always been about earning it,” Stoops says. “People rolled their eyes through the years when we said it, even about our quarterbacks. But the guys on the field and in the locker room got to know you’ve earned it, and if you haven’t, they’re aware of it. It’s why we never had dissension or culture issues because no one ever got anything without earning it.”
By the time OU-Texas 2004 rolled around, Peterson had rushed for 546 yards and six touchdowns in four games. He started the Oct. 2 Texas Tech game, rushing for 146 yards on 22 carries, but that was because Jones had an ankle injury; a week later in the Cotton Bowl, Jones again was the starter and Peterson the second-teamer.
No. 2 Oklahoma’s first offensive series against fifth-ranked Texas ended with a Jason White interception. Peterson’s first carry of the day was the missile-like 44-yard run down the Texas sideline.
“I came off the bench a few weeks,” Peterson says. “Of course I wanted to start, but I was OK with it. Kejuan Jones had paid his dues there. I respected the fact that it was an open competition and they didn’t want to just give it to me. They made me earn it.”
After his 225-yard performance against the Longhorns — with his cousin, the former UT defensive lineman, in the Cotton Bowl stands wearing burnt orange — Peterson had officially earned it. He started all but one game the rest of the season; he didn’t start against Nebraska because of a minor injury.
The Texas performance also started the “Peterson-for-Heisman” talk. At that point, he had rushed for 771 yards and six touchdowns in five games. A freshman never had won the Heisman, and in 2004, there were lots of voters who didn’t believe a freshman should win it. Heck, this was a few years before Tim Tebow became the first sophomore to win the Heisman. The first freshman to win it was Johnny Manziel in 2012.
Even the Doak Walker Award — given to the best college football running back — excluded freshmen when the 2004 season began. But on Monday, Nov. 15, the SMU Athletic Forum — who oversaw the award — voted to make freshmen eligible, a move obviously meant to give Peterson a chance at winning. “We think we have to change with the times,” Chris Rentzel, the Forum board’s chairman, told reporters.
The performance against Texas is what forced a lot of people to consider the real possibility of a freshman Heisman winner. Peterson started the next week at Kansas State and rushed for 130 yards. Meanwhile, White’s Heisman stock began to dip as he threw for just 113 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions against the Longhorns.
In Norman, Peterson had become a full-fledged superstar.
In those days, every Sooner had a main locker and a smaller locker for laundry. Things that were sent to players to be signed were usually tossed in the laundry locker. But the amount of items being sent to Peterson to sign became so overwhelming that it needed to go in his bigger locker.
“One day, the equipment office got pissed off because people were sending so much shit that they just dumped everything in the locker room,” Runnels says with a laugh. “All of us dudes are going crazy. There were pictures, footballs, big frames. Somebody sent a freaking gladiator sword that they wanted ‘AD’ to sign.”
Alexander says, “I remember that. Who would want somebody to sign a sword?”
On Oct. 23, Oklahoma hosted Kansas, then coached by former Sooners offensive coordinator Mark Mangino. Mangino was in the early stages of his rebuilding job at KU and knew the Jayhawks would be overmatched, but made it his mission that week that Peterson would not embarrass his defense.
“Bob and I would talk back and forth on the phone, and he always told me about this freshman kid and all the crazy things he was doing in the weight room,” Mangino says. “We watched him on tape and could tell he was pretty special. He was one of those guys who could take control of a game and really embarrass you. We knew we couldn’t stop him, but we didn’t want him rushing for 250 against us.”
Peterson finished the Sooners’ 41-10 victory with 122 yards and a touchdown, but he had only 23 yards on 11 carries through three quarters. Still, even as he struggled to gain yardage against the Jayhawks — who were singularly focused on stopping him — he still showed glimpses of how special he was.
On a third-and-3 in Kansas territory midway through the second quarter, Peterson took a handoff from White up the middle. When a Jayhawks defender approached short of the first-down marker, Peterson turned to his right and slipped through one tackler. Then another. Then another, right up against the sideline. Peterson then lowered his helmet and powered through another KU defender, but was ruled out of bounds at the original line of scrimmage. It is one of the more impressive runs for no gain you’ll ever see.
Right after that play, Fox Sports color analyst Dave Lapham said on the broadcast, “I don’t think you’ll see a freshman win the Heisman. If Herschel Walker didn’t win it his freshman year, the year he had at Georgia, I’m not sure the voters will ever allow a true freshman to win it. He’ll be in the top five, though.”
Ahhh, Herschel Walker, the Georgia phenom who should have won the Heisman as a true freshman in 1980, then probably should have won it again in ’81. He finally won it as a junior in in 1982.
Lapham’s statement reflected a prevailing sentiment among a sizable portion of the Heisman electorate in 2004. And besides, the thinking went, Peterson will have plenty of chances, just like Walker did.
Peterson broke the 1,000-yard rushing mark that day against Mangino’s Jayhawks. At that point, he’d rushed for at least 100 yards in all seven of his college games. The next week, he would play in his first-ever Bedlam game in Stillwater.
Legendary play-by-play man Keith Jackson called the Bedlam game for ABC, and The Oklahoman reported that during the lead-up to the game, Jackson said he’d already decided that he wouldn’t vote for Peterson when it came time to cast his Heisman ballot.
“They say it goes to the best player, and how can you ignore a senior or junior and what he’s done to get where he is?” Jackson said.
With Jackson on the call, Peterson put on perhaps his greatest show of the season, rushing 33 times for a season-high 249 yards and a touchdown in Oklahoma’s 38-35 victory. Midway through the third quarter, with OU leading 28-21, White tossed the ball to Peterson, who seemed totally surrounded by Cowboys. He cut back toward the middle, at which point there were six Oklahoma State defenders within 5 yards of him.
Peterson pushed forward and spun out of the crowd, then used a couple of the guys in orange as leverage, thrusting forward and into the open field. The 80-yard touchdown was replayed over and over on ESPN that night and over the ensuing days.
“We kind of had a running joke on the sideline,” Alexander says. “We figured that about every fifth or sixth carry, Adrian was going to break off a big run. So us defensive guys would just sit there and kind of count them down.”
The Oklahoma State game probably represented the height of Peterson’s Heisman “candidacy.”
The next week, White’s five touchdown passes helped Oklahoma come from behind to win at Texas A&M. Peterson reinjured his shoulder, but still managed to rush for more than 100 yards.
Still nursing his shoulder injury, Peterson didn’t start the next week at home in 30-3 rout of Nebraska. Peterson finished with 15 carries and 58 yards, making it his first career game without 100 yards.
“I played against (Peterson) three or four times in the NFL,” says then-Nebraska linebacker Barrett Ruud, now a Huskers assistant. “He looked the exact same as a freshman as he did as a third- or fourth-year NFL veteran. Physically, he was way ahead of his time. He stepped in as a true freshman and was probably the best athlete in the country.”
The same day, both White and Leinart posted huge numbers. It was as if that day gave reluctant Heisman voters ammunition against voting for the freshman. Two weeks later, Leinart threw for 400 yards and five touchdowns in a nationally televised win against Notre Dame.
In Peterson’s final game before Heisman voting closed, he rushed 28 times for 172 yards and three touchdowns against Colorado in the Big 12 Championship Game.
There were five Heisman finalists that season: Leinart, Peterson, White, USC running back Reggie Bush and Utah quarterback Alex Smith.
Peterson (second from right) was one of five Heisman finalists in 2004. He and USC sophomore RB Reggie Bush (second from left) were the only underclassmen. (Julie Jacobson / Associated Press)
“I’ll never forget riding through the streets of New York with him,” says Kenny Mossman, who was Oklahoma’s sports information director then. “He just peered out the windows, looking up at the skyscrapers in absolute awe. It was child-like. He’d look at me, then look back at the buildings, and just kept saying, ‘Wow.’
“It was really cool, like the rural kid from Texas goes to New York City.”
Leinart won the Heisman with 267 first-place votes and 1,325 points. Peterson was second — the highest a freshman had ever finished in Heisman voting — with 154 and 997, respectively. White finished third, but was actually second, behind Leinart, in the number of first-place votes.
Almost all of the known 20 or so media members in the state who voted for the Heisman had White atop their ballots. Only one had Peterson first.
Then-Tulsa World writer John Hoover was among those who voted for White, saying his heroics in the Texas A&M game put him over the top. Hoover had Peterson third. Today, Hoover says he doesn’t regret voting for White, but does believe Peterson was deserving of the Heisman.
White’s presence on all of those ballots — especially the ballots in the Big 12 region — probably hurt Peterson’s chances as much as anything. White openly campaigned for Peterson to win it.
“It was hard because we had two guys,” Stoops says. “One ends up taking votes from the other. Leinart was great and deserving. I’d never say it that way.
“But, obviously, we’ve gotten past the stigma of a freshman winning it. It was unfortunate. Had there not been that stigma, he very well could have won it.”
If Heisman voters didn’t vote for Peterson because they assumed he’d have another shot at the trophy, they were wrong. Oklahoma went 8-4 in 2005, with Peterson rushing for 1,104 yards and 14 touchdowns. He missed a game and was limited in a few more because of a sprained ankle.
As a junior in ’06, Peterson, who was the nation’s fourth-leading rusher at the time, dove into the end zone at the end of a 53-yard touchdown run against Iowa State. He landed wrong and broke his collarbone, forcing him to miss the final six regular-season games and the Big 12 Championship Game. Making the injury worse is that it happened in the first game Nelson Peterson attended after his release from prison.
A month later, Oklahoma hosted Texas Tech, whose coaching staff featured a young offensive assistant named Lincoln Riley.
“We knew he wasn’t going to play and I remember being, like, relieved,” Riley says. “On a field where there are a lot of great athletes, especially most of the OU ones at the time … he was just so much better than everybody else. You go through years and years, you just don’t see many guys like that, that just look like a man playing a boy’s game, and they’re actually playing a man’s game.”
Peterson was a fan favorite right away, and he garnered a lot of attention after rushing for 240 yards at Baylor in the 2004 regular-season finale. (Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)
Peterson returned for the Sooners’ Fiesta Bowl appearance against Boise State, then turned pro a few days after that. He went seventh overall to the Minnesota Vikings in the 2007 NFL Draft and has become one of the best running backs in NFL history.
His freakish body and sheer talent have allowed him to enjoy a longer NFL career than most running backs. Last season, at age 33, he rushed for 1,042 yards with the Washington Redskins.
Many — Peterson included — wonder what his pro career might have looked like had he been able to go straight to the NFL out of high school.
“Without a doubt,” Peterson says when asked if he could have played in the NFL at 18. “Without a doubt. My argument would be, just look at my freshman year. Look at the numbers I put up.”
Leinart’s Heisman win was bolstered when USC rocked OU 55-19 for the national championship in the Orange Bowl. Peterson finished the game with 82 yards on 25 carries.
Still, it’s worth wondering how the Heisman vote might have changed had the freshman stigma not existed, or had White not been back as the incumbent Heisman winner.
“In 2004, a lot of Heisman voters wanted it to be a career achievement award,” says Hoover, who now works for The Franchise radio in Oklahoma. “Heisman voters are less sentimental and a little more pragmatic today.”
Maybe Peterson’s injuries in 2005 and ’06 changed some minds, and forced voters to consider the present season and the present season only when filling out their ballots. Peterson proved that a great freshman may never get another chance.
“He should’ve won the Heisman,” Cody says. “I don’t know what else he could have done. The Heisman didn’t really mean as much to me after that happened.”
The Doak Walker snub is, in hindsight, more egregious. Benson was a great running back and became a top-five NFL Draft pick, but between the head-to-head result and the season statistics, Peterson probably lost that one because of his status as a freshman.
“Matt Leinart was certainly a deserving winner,” Mossman says of the Heisman vote. “But I’ve always thought being a freshman hurt Adrian. I think there was a feeling among the electorate that Adrian is just a freshman and would have another opportunity, and then the injuries kept that from happening. I thought we’d have to have a bucket to catch all his awards.
“But he never won any of the major ones. He’s got to be one of the best but least-decorated players in the history of college football, and it’s all because of timing.”
Didn't know where else to put it.
Dude was bad af. Loved watching him play.
im sure their backups can hold just as well as the starters
still the only player i’ve ever seen that i think could’ve played in the league out of high school