Great article about Stoops & FranchionePosted: November 5, 2006
San Antonio Express-News
COLLEGE STATION — Bob Stoops smiled as he approached his adversary at midfield, then put his arm around Dennis Franchione and whispered a few words of encouragement into his ear.
This is what all good gamblers do.
They always make sure the suckers keep coming back for more.
If Saturday night’s showdown at Kyle Field was a poker game, Stoops was the seasoned card shark who knew exactly when to take the risk that would make his opponent flinch. And Fran was the sweaty-palmed mark who came so close to going all-in before losing his nerve.
Oh, Fran had Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners in trouble, all right. Twice in the final eight minutes of OU’s 17-16 victory over Texas A&M, the Aggies had a chance to go for a touchdown that would have either tied the score or given them a lead.
But faced with fourth-and-goal from the OU 2, Fran sent out his field-goal kicker.
And then, given a fourth-and-6 from the OU 22 with only 3:30 remaining, only one timeout left and the daunting new timekeeping rules in effect? Fran chose to kick again.
If he was trying to beat the spread, he did a bang-up job. But as far as beating Stoops?
He had the chips, and he had the cards.
But not the guts.
Fran would say later that “hindsight’s 20-20,” but this had nothing to do with hindsight.
This was about foresight, which 80,000 maroon-clad fans had when they were urging the Aggies to go for it, and which Stoops had when he sent his offense onto the field for a cold-blooded, game-clinching fourth-and-inches conversion with 1:29 left.
Had Stoops’ gamble not worked, it would have meant almost certain disaster for the Sooners.
A&M would have taken over at the OU 30, already within field-goal range.
Stoops said his first impulse was to punt, which would have been the safe, Fran-like move. Then he reconsidered.
“I looked at all the offensive guys in their eyes,” Stoops said, “then I thought, ‘I can’t punt it.'”
It was the kind of decision that can make a coach’s reputation, if not provide job security. Only one coach is hearing catcalls from his fan base today, and it isn’t the one who gambled.
How fundamentally different are Fran and Stoops? Even after OU had decided to go for it on fourth down, even after Sooners quarterback Paul Thompson had tipped his hand on a play that didn’t count because of a timeout, Fran still didn’t believe Stoops would go through with it. That’s why Chad Schroeder was still on the field to catch a punt that would never come and why the Aggies were flagged for having 12 men on the field when OU converted the game-clinching fourth down.
It would be different if this was the first time. But Fran also had a chance to show some gumption last season in Norman, and his decisions then looked a lot like the ones he made Saturday.
A year ago, the Aggies twice faced fourth-quarter fourth downs inside the OU 20, and both times they settled for field goals. A&M lost 36-30.
Taken one by one, none of those decisions were absolutely horrible.
But when you add them all together and start to notice that all the courage is on one side of the poker table?
Good gamblers notice.
That’s why Fran is welcome at Stoops’ game any time.