Oklahoma linebacker Caleb Gastelum had played in a big game at least one time before. He saw significant action in OU's Bedlam win against Oklahoma State -- the win that vaulted OU into the Sugar Bowl last year.
He'd gleaned as much as he could from that experience, but his resume still didn't show a battletested man. It showed 33 games played with just five tackles.
With linebacker Frank Shannon sitting out the game -- at the university's request according to his attorney -- the depth chart had taken a significant hit.
video by Eddie Radosevich
Linebacker Jordan Evans was ready and slated to start the game against La. Tech in Shannon's stead, though Shannon was suited up and ready to play if his number was called on Saturday night in OU's 48-16 win against the Bulldogs.
Still, if the worst should happen to Evans, the fourth-ranked Sooners would be relying on the walk-on Gastelum to play big snaps at inside linebacker. Well, the worst didn't happen. But bad news found Evans out.
Early in the first half Evans was hit with a targeting penalty for his helmet-to-helmet contact with the ULT quarterback. As the targeting rule states, players flagged for targeting are automatically ejected from the game.
"The official that made the call felt that the quarterback was sliding, was giving himself up as a participant in the play which made him defenseless," said Big 12 referee Dan Romeo. "The defender lowered his head, he initiated forceful contact by leading with the helmet and contacting the quarterback's helmet."
Evans was sent to the locker room and had to watch the rest of the game from there. In came Gastelum who had to pick up the slack quick, fast and in a hurry.
Beside sophomore linebacker Dominique Alexander, though, he acquitted himself well -- even narrowly missing an interception -- and playing for the rest of the game. He came up with three tackles, including one for a loss.
"He did a good job, taking control of the defense, making the calls he had to call, and just doing his job," Alexander said. "We won't know until we watch film, but when we were out there it seemed like he was doing a good job."
Gastelum wasn't nervous when linebacker coach Tim Kish told him he was going in. He'd planned for this.
"It was something I had been preparing for all week," Gastelum said. "You never want to see a teammate come out like that, but that's why it's so important to be prepared."
The Sooners will get Evans back for the Tulsa game, and OU coach Bob Stoops said he'll use Evans' ejection as a teaching moment for his players. But OU fans can take solace in knowing they're a little deeper at inside linebacker than most thought.