No. 10 Oklahoma Looking for Better Start

Friday, September 1st 2006, 10:03 pm
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ On his first snap as Oklahoma's starting quarterback, Paul Thompson dropped back, faked a handoff and launched a deep ball that a wide-open receiver couldn't quite reach, even with a dive.

A year later, Oklahoma followers still wonder what might have been.

If that throw had led to a touchdown catch by Travis Wilson instead of an incompletion, Oklahoma might never have lost its opener to TCU, Thompson might never have been replaced at quarterback by Rhett Bomar and Bomar's dismissal from the team this year might not have been such a shock.

Coach Bob Stoops admitted this week on his radio show that the Thompson-to-Wilson connection could've made a big difference last season but said he tries not to focus on what would have happened if the play had been a success.

The closest the Sooners will ever come to finding out will begin Saturday, when Thompson gets a second chance as Oklahoma's starting quarterback in the season opener against UAB.

``I'm definitely excited to get back out there, looking forward to being able to make plays. I think I'll be able to do that,'' said Thompson, who moved back from receiver to quarterback after Bomar's dismissal right before fall camp. ``I'm just ready to go. I'm not really looking forward to seeing how I'm going to play. I feel that I'm going to play well and I feel the team will play well.''

Thompson, now firmly entrenched as the starter for the 10th-ranked Sooners, said he didn't let that first deep ball have any lingering effects during the 17-10 loss to TCU. His final line was 11-for-26 for 109 yards with one interception. He also lost two fumbles, and Bomar's lost fumble led to the winning score.

``After that play, I really was relaxed,'' Thompson said. ``People have missed big plays in the past and moved on. I really didn't let that bother me. I know it may have looked as if it did, but it didn't. I felt real comfortable where I was at.''

Still, a more impressive start could make all the difference for Thompson and the Sooners this time around.

``That's big. That's real big,'' Thompson said. ``I think that any team wants to come out, wants to start the season off real strong. It definitely brings confidence and it helps the team get motivated and get rolling on throughout the next couple of games. It's definitely big.

``It's not just the first win. You want to start the first drive, the first quarter, you want to start those off strong as well. That momentum and that energy can build and carry throughout a game and a season.''

Oklahoma is trying to get back to the Bowl Championship Series for the third time in four years. After back-to-back losses in the BCS title game, the Sooners won the Holiday Bowl and finished 8-4 last season.

UAB, coming off a 5-6 season, also has a quarterback returning to a starting role after time away. Chris Williams started three games in 2003 while Darrell Hackney was injured, and had Blazers leading at No. 4 Georgia late in the third quarter of a 16-13 loss.

``I like being the underdog. I believe it's a good thing,'' Williams said. ``A lot people overlook you and take you lightly, and that's when most people lose. Being an underdog is no problem for me.

One luxury that Williams won't have that Thompson will is 2004 Heisman runner-up Adrian Peterson at tailback. After setting an NCAA freshman record with 1,925 rushing yards in 2004, Peterson had 1,108 last season while fighting injuries.

``We expect them to give him quite a few carries. We expect him to be the man getting the ball,'' UAB cornerback Kevin Sanders said. ``He's the best that I've seen so far. He's just amazing. He's hard to stop. It's going to take all 11 people flying around to the ball.''

Peterson, limited to 63 yards in last season's opener by a TCU defense that was stacked to stop him, blamed that loss on ``a lot of mental mistakes,'' including the rocky start.

``The first couple of series just kind of shook us up a little bit, but I don't know if I had seen it coming,'' Peterson said. `` ... Even though things happened the way they happened, I don't think we should have lost that game.''