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Stoops plays down Leach-Stoops story line


NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ The natural story line for the showdown between No. 1 Oklahoma and Texas Tech is the matchup between coaches Bob Stoops and Mike Leach, who worked together a year ago.

Bad idea, Stoops says.

``Oklahoma's going to face Texas Tech. There isn't anything personal about this,'' he said Tuesday. ``This is about Oklahoma football playing Texas Tech football. This isn't about me or any other individual.''

When Stoops became Oklahoma's coach in December 1998, he hired Leach away from Kentucky to become his offensive coordinator. Leach subsequently recruited Josh Heupel, who threw for 3,460 yards last year and now is a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy.

The spread offense that Leach brought with him from Kentucky allowed Oklahoma to average 37 points per game last season. The Sooners won seven games, ending a string of five straight non-winning seasons, and they went to a bowl game for the first time since 1994.

A short time later, Texas Tech hired Leach to replace Spike Dykes, who had retired after the season.

This year, Tech (7-4, 3-4 Big 12) has secured a bowl bid and Oklahoma (9-0, 6-0) is in the running for a national championship.

``I feel proud of the way the offense that I was part of putting in, I'm proud of the way it's flourished,'' Leach said. ``I'm proud of the way those players are playing. I think its a credit to their program and their coaches. It was great for me to be a part of it last year.''

Stoops said there are still many similarities between what the Sooners are doing on offense now as compared to last year. Oklahoma has made a clear effort to run more often this year with Mark Mangino as coordinator. With two games remaining, the Sooners are just 40 yards short of their 1999 rushing total, and they have 11 more rushing touchdowns than a year ago.

``We've developed and used a much bigger run package than a year ago and our pass protections have been manipulated and changed,'' Stoops said.

The ability to run the ball effectively in the second half helped Oklahoma rally to beat the Aggies, 35-31, on Saturday. After gaining just 6 yards on eight carries in the first half, Oklahoma had 110 yards and two touchdowns on 20 second-half carries.

Stoops again praised his team for making plays in the clutch against A&M. The Sooners overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

``I feel very fortunate to have been able to win the game, because I really didn't feel that we played our best by any means,'' Stoops said. ``A lot had to do with the way A&M played. They're a good team. But also, I still feel there's some areas we could have played better.''

He said the Sooners must play better Saturday if they want to clinch the Big 12 South Division title.

``Really good teams and championship teams get better as the season goes and from week to week, and I'm not so sure we did a week ago,'' he said.

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