SAN ANTONIO – Oklahoma heads into the Alamo Bowl against Oregon with all eyes on quarterback Caleb Williams, searching for answers about his future and whether it will be with the Sooners.
For now, the fact that he will play Wednesday night against the No. 15 Ducks (10-3) is certainly as good a sign as any for No. 14 Oklahoma (10-2).
Williams has been mum on his plans since the sudden departure of coach Lincoln Riley for Southern California. But he has made no known moves, either, even with quarterbacks elsewhere hitting the transfer portal and some of his teammates already on the way out.
Incoming Sooners coach Brent Venables — who is not coaching the game — has said he'd be “surprised” if Williams leaves Oklahoma wide receiver Marvin Mims, who has also been asked about his future, noted the players who stayed for the bowl game are showing they are engaged..
“I definitely want to be here,” Mims said this week. “I’m pretty sure everybody playing in this bowl game wants to be here, too.”
That would presumably include Williams?
The freshman took over the starting job from Spencer Rattler when the Sooners were trailing rival Texas. Williams led the comeback victory and never let go of the position while passing for 18 touchdowns and running for several more over seven games. Rattler has since transferred to South Carolina.
The Texas game embodied all the potential in the former No. 1 recruit in the nation. Williams ran for a 66-yard touchdown and threw a 50-yard TD as Oklahoma rallied from 21 points down, the largest comeback in the history of the Red River rivalry.
Oregon interim head coach Bryan McClendon called Williams “probably the best playmaker in the country at quarterback ... he is a phenomenal player."
Watching all of this play out is Sooners interim coach Bob Stoops, who came out of retirement for one game before Venables takes over. Stoops, who won a national championship and coached four quarterbacks who were Heisman Trophy winners or finalists at Oklahoma, knows a little bit about how to read a quarterback and his teammates.
“The players love him," Stoops said. “He's practiced every day with energy, always ready to go, always got a bright, happy demeanor about him."
Both teams come in with key players from the 2021 season missing as some transferred or chose not to play in the bowl game while preparing for the NFL draft. The Sooners will be without four starters on defense, most notably linebacker Nic Bonitto. The Ducks are without three defensive starters, including All-American edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and cornerback Mykael Wright.
RUN GAME PLAYMAKERS
Both teams bring 1,000-yard rushers. Oklahoma's Kennedy Brooks is averaging 111 yards per game and is just the fourth Sooners running back to top 1,000 in three separate seasons. Oregon's Travis Dye has rushed for 1,118 yards and also leads the Ducks in receptions with 41. He needs 42 yards against the Sooners to become just the fifth Ducks players to reach 3,000 in a career.
While Oklahoma's Williams makes his bowl debut, Oregon quarterback Anthony Brown's bowl experience dates to 2018 when he played in the storm-shortened First Responder Bowl with Boston College. That game was canceled in the first half because of bad weather. After transferring to Oregon, he played in last season's Fiesta Bowl loss to Iowa State. His 3,320 total yards this season led the Pac-12.
Oklahoma has forced 21 fumbles, which is tied for best in the nation, after forcing just three in all of the 2020 season. The Sooners have been just as good protecting the ball, losing just three fumbles all season.
Stoops has a long history of success as a head coach with the 2000 national championship, 10 Big 12 titles and a 9-9 record in bowl games. McClendon’s only other experience as a college head coach was as the interim for Georgia in the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl. Stoops was asked if he’d like to be doused with tequila after the game if he wins (he has a business partnership with a tequila company).
“That’d be OK,” Stoops said. “What’s the administration gonna do? Fire me?”
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