NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has won a national championship and built a powerhouse program. While he's never worked for Tom Osborne, he credits the former Nebraska coach for setting the standard he wanted the Sooners to match.
Stoops worked and learned under Bill Snyder at Kansas State, Hayden Fry at Iowa and Steve Steve Spurrie at Florida.
But competing against Osborne, who won three national titles during the Cornhuskers' glory days, challenged Stoops to be great - even at a downtrodden K-State program that had gone winless the two seasons before he and Snyder got there.
``Our biggest hurdle was to catch up, to be able to slow them down offensively,'' Stoops reminisced Tuesday as his No. 4 Sooners prepared to face Nebraska on Saturday. ``I told coach Osborne this at a meeting this past year: that I thought competing against them was a major influence in my career - finding ways to defend them, to do it successfully and to slow them down and to give ourselves a chance to win.
everything you did defensively. To me, that was my biggest jump, I felt, as a coach and as a defensive coordinator, is competing against them.''
Stoops was never able to defeat Osborne in his seven years as Snyder's assistant at Kansas State - although the Wildcats closed the gap after getting outscored 103-15 the first two years, when Stoops was the defensive backs coach. After Stoops became the defensive coordinator in 1991, K-State lost 38-31 in Lincoln, but that was the Huskers' closest call until the Wildcats finally broke a 30-year losing streak with a win in 1998 - after Stoops and Osborne had already moved on.
He still cherishes a note from Osborne that praised Stoops and the K-State staff for the way they challenged the Huskers.
``Just the fight of doing it every year, man those guys, they were so good,'' Stoops said. ``They made you defend them from inside to outside everywhere, and it was such a challenge, but it made us better and more detailed and fundamental in everything we did defensively that carried on to when we were defending other teams. It really made us better.''
title.
``Probably my fondest memory is just that game and the way our atmosphere was,'' Stoops said. ``I don't think to this day I've seen as many people outside of the stadium, the big screen set up in front of the dorm, people watching it there. The streets were flooded and people couldn't get in.''
Even hours after the game, Stoops remembers having trouble going home because there were so many people still celebrating and honking their horns.
``That's one of my favorite ones, for sure,'' Stoops said.
For today's players, though, that 2000 game is about as far back as the storied rivalry goes. Linebacker Austin Box, who made his first career start last week against Kansas State, was 12 years old when he came to watch that game with his family.
``Nobody really knew if Oklahoma was for real, and winning that game kind of sent them over the top. The atmosphere that was here and being able to witness something like that was really amazing,'' Box said.
``I think that's when Oklahoma had arrived,'' he said. ``That's when everybody knew we were back, and back on top.''
Since then, Stoops has been able to turn the tables on Nebraska. The Huskers (5-3, 2-2) have lost three in a row in the series and have seen the Sooners win five Big 12 titles since their last league championship in 1999.
In other words, he's now the Tom Osborne everyone else is chasing.
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