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November 4, 2013

OU work week pushed ahead with Thursday game

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As early as November 2012, it had been floated Oklahoma could play a Thursday night game this season. The Big 12 Conference is contractually obligated to showcase its league teams on TV in four such games this season, but it was still uncertain just who those eight teams might be.

Then, in early March of this year, the league office made it official: Oklahoma would take on the Baylor Bears in their natural habitat at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco, Texas. But what no one could've predicted then -- or even six months later in September -- is OU-Baylor would become must-watch TV on a school night.

The Sooners, ranked No. 10 in the nation, and the Bears, ranked No. 6 in the nation, have just one loss between them and, believe it or not, each team still has a shot -- a good one, if you're Baylor, a narrow one if you're Oklahoma -- of playing in the national championship game.


video by Eddie Radosevich

Baylor and Oklahoma also have each had an extra week, a bye week, to prepare for the other. Still, that hasn't made playing on a Thursday night less strange.

"Yeah, Thursday night, that's gonna be weird," said senior center Gabe Ikard. "None of us have ever done it. That'll be different for them too. When it comes down to it, it'll be just like a Saturday but it will be a Thursday.

"Need the extra time to prepare for clearly a top five team in the country, a team that's really, really been rolling and has really only played in one game that was really close. We need all the extra prep we can get."

Ikard started watching film on Baylor's defense the day after OU defeated Texas Tech at home. He'll likely need the head start.

The Bears' defense has given up an average of just 316 total yards of offense per game and has stifled opposing teams' passing attacks. Undefeated Baylor has allowed just over 177 yards of passing per game and allowed more than 25 points scored in just one game all season.

In that game, where West Virginia managed to put up 42 points, Baylor dropped 73 on the Mountaineers.

"They are running around. They're playing with a lot of confidence," said co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. "They're tackling well in space, not giving up a bunch of big plays. So, we gotta be the flip-side of that. We've got to make people miss, and create some big plays."

Heupel said OU will benefit from the extra days of work, even if it means playing on an odd night. The Sooners' preparation for Baylor began Saturday, but as far as Heupel was concerned it might as well have been Monday.

"I walked in the house last night," Heupel said when he met with local media Sunday evening, "and thought it was Monday night."

Running back Damien Williams hasn't felt too much of a change in routine, except off the field.

"It's different because Sundays are usually my chill days, do homework kind of days," Williams said.

Senior guard Bronson Irwin likes playing on a Thursday night, and he's looking forward to being one of the only games on TV.

"I kind of like it," he said. "My body feels good. It's something different, mix it up a little bit. I think everyone is kind of enjoying it a little bit."

More than that though, he's looking forward to having a couple extra days of rest following what he's sure will be a hard-fought game on Thursday night.

"That's really great because coming off a game, especially that's a real physical game, it takes a few days to get back where you're feeling really good again," he said. "So very thankful we got that weekend off."

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