Oklahoma football: The Sooners found out Cody Thomas can play
LUBBOCK, Texas — Cody Thomas entered the halftime locker room Saturday and had to wonder what his teammates were thinking. He had thrown three interceptions in his starting debut, Texas Tech had a 14-7 lead and a Sooner season was on the verge of going from bad to worse.
By the time Thomas took the field in the third quarter, the OU deficit had grown to 14 points. Right then, you could get some good odds that the Cody Thomas Era would end out here where the tumbleweeds roam.
But offensive coordinator Josh Heupel changed Thomas’ duties in the second half. No more decisions on when and where to throw. Instead, Thomas would decide when and if to run.
Thomas was up to the task. While Samaje Perine ran wild in the second half, Thomas bewildered Tech with a variety of quarterback keepers. The Sooners scored more touchdowns (five) than Thomas threw passes (three) and OU won 42-30 at Jones Stadium.
The Sooners didn’t necessarily find their quarterback. But they found a quarterback they can count on.
“Cody, first opportunity to start, it goes the exact opposite way you want it to in the first half,” Heupel said. “For him to come in the locker room, face everybody, go out there with 50,000 people, when the walls can cave in on you, he pushes right back, competes in a great way. I think that speaks about him as a person.”
We didn’t know Thomas was this salty of a runner. He carried eight times for 103 yards. Thomas’ optioneering was pristine. Seemed to be much more instinctual at it than Trevor Knight, who missed the game with a neck injury.
“He’s really natural with it,” Bob Stoops said of Thomas’ ballhandling. “And you would expect that, being the athlete that he is, the baseball player, the hands they have, the way they deal with the ball.”
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- Video: Perine Leads Sooners In 42-30 Win At Tech (2014-11-15)
Now, let’s be clear. Thomas’ passing wasn’t Big 12 caliber: 10 of 20 for 133 yards and those three interceptions, including one on a first-and-goal play from the Tech 8-yard line when Thomas basically panicked under pressure. Sure, the Sooners should have tried to just shove it in the end zone from there, but it’s not a bad thing to find out what your young quarterback is all about.
“Really felt he would have thrown the ball better in the first half, to be quite honest with you,” Stoops said.
In the second half, the Sooners quit experimenting and went about the business of winning. So 33 of their 36 plays were runs.
“I knew coming into the second half we were going to run the ball a little bit more,” Thomas said. “I told my O-line, ‘Guys, we need to step it up. We came out on fire in the second half. You could tell there was just a little bit more passion in it.
“Every ball doesn’t come out the way you want it to. I knew I had to make better decisions in the second half and trust the guys to do their job.”
Don’t read too much into this game, either way. The Sooners struggled more than they should have against a 3-6 team. And their eventual offensive dominance came against a team literally incapable of stopping the run.
But the value of Saturday came in the confidence that Thomas will inspire in teammates, should he be needed to quarterback next week against Kansas or should he be a candidate to win the job next year.
Offensive tackle Tyrus Thompson: “He had some rough spots at the beginning, as you would expect from anyone getting their first start, but he finished off really well.”
Tight end Blake Bell, the emergency backup QB for Saturday: “I thought he played well. First half, he kinda struggled a little bit, but that’s part of being a young quarterback. He made some great throws out there; just a couple that he probably wishes he had back.”
Fullback Aaron Ripkowski: “Took him awhile to settle in there, but I thought he did excellent, with all his reads and running.”
Thomas’ passing wasn’t a total bust. He hit some decent throws, and his 3-yard touchdown pass to Durron Neal on third-and-goal came under pressure and tied the score at 21.
Heupel learned a little about Thomas. “You learn that he’s extremely mentally tough, physically tough,” Heupel said. “He’s going to compete for 60 minutes, no matter what the situation is. I think you saw guys rally around him in the second half.”
This game wasn’t about solving all the ills of this disappointing season. This game was about winning and finding out if Cody Thomas can play. Mission accomplished.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.