Oh, I can exaggerate a little bit. This wasn't the best game ever. But it was an amazing night in Soonerland.
OU Homecoming against Baylor. Honestly, it's a bit of a cliche. But, this year, nothing's been easy. Our 37-30 double OT victory was probably more remarkable for the "holy crap, that went into overtime?!?" factor than any remarkable Sooner triumph.
Nevertheless, this was an amazing night at Owen Field. I probably had the best time tonight that I've ever had at a Sooner game in my illustrious history as a Sooner Born, Sooner Bred, Sooner Dead OU fan. This for two main reasons.....
1) It's really coming together. Tonight, we shot ourselves in the foot in every way you can imagine, and this on a night when our three most proven offensive performers (Adrian Peterson, Kejuan Jones, and Travis Wilson) were out with injuries and suspensions. Geez. A kickoff return for a TD, an interception return to the OU seven, four or five fumbles, and truly terrible officiating, even with the help of instant replay, and the Sooners survive. That's good enough.
But what was really encouraging is how thoroughly the Sooners dominated an underrated Baylor team. Total yardage favored the Sooners by 200. Only OU's inexperience made this game a game. But Bomar's growing in confidence every day, the young receivers and backs are starting to step up, and the defense is growing as well. Look out, 2006!
2) That's important, but that's not why the game was a special experience. This was the first night in Norman in, well, six years that the game didn't have MAJOR conference or national title implications. With a conference loss to Texas, the Big Twelve South race is over. The national title hunt was over a long time ago. Tonight was about football in Norman, Oklahoma on a Saturday night. Nothing else. And there's something really liberating about that.
In the past, wins were not only expected, but potentially insufficient. Even victories over reasonably highly ranked foes in Norman were just a matter of course. Every week was about whether this would be the week that the dream ended. Man, that's stressful.
Don't get me wrong. I'd give up my membership in the Church to turn those three losses into wins. I'd probably even give it up for just the Texas game. There's just nothing in the world like the title chase. This state was so proud of the 2000 Sooners, who vindicated a decade of struggle with perhaps the only national title ever won by a sole unbeaten squad that was nevertheless a two touchdown underdog in the deciding bowl game. A 13-2 victory later, the impenetrable Sooner defense, a gritty, yet explosive offense, and innumerable chants of "Boomer Sooner" echoed across the fruited plain, serving notice that the Snake Pit in Norman, Sooner Magic, and Oklahoma pride had returned in full force.
But tonight wasn't about any of that. It was just a bunch of freshmen and sophomores playing for pride and 83,000 close friends. Most amazingly, the crowd didn't react like a crowd that was ticked off about having to be nervous about the Baylor game. As the game went on and the Sooner mistakes piled up, the crowd just got louder and louder and louder. When Baylor's fourth down pass in overtime fell incomplete, the stadium erupted into more joy than I've ever seen in Norman. People hugging each other, falling on the stands, and just generally absorbing an emotional victory that meant less than any game in Norman in this millenium. But, here in Sooner Nation, that's still a heck of a lot.
I have little doubt in my mind that Rhett Bomar, our freshman quarterback, will win multiple conference titles and, perhaps, a national title before he's done here. Those games will bring more joy than this one did. Our next victory over Texas will be indescribably delicious unto me, as will our next trip to the Orange Bowl, our next Heisman Trophy Winner, and a lot of other things that come with winning.
For right now, hearing "BOOMER!" at one in the morning and yelling "SOONER!" across an empty parking lot is good enough for me.