By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
NORMAN, Okla. —
Amidst the celebration after Oklahoma’s 38-30 win over previously unbeaten Texas Tech was the harsh reality of having to make a November run without fullback Trey Millard.
Millard, who did some of everything as a blocker, runner and receiver for the Sooners, went down for the season after tearing his ACL after being rolled up during a kickoff.
“We don’t have two of our captains (Corey Nelson and Millard). Are we in great shape? No’’ said OU head coach Bob Stoops. “I’m excited about the opportunity (being 7-1 and 4-1, Big 12 against unbeaten Baylor Nov. 7)? Yes.’’
Millard might be the hardest Sooner to replace. Fullbacks that are built like granite (6-foot-2, 253 pounds), but are quick, are rare indeed.
“We don’t have a guy to replace him,’’ said OU center Gabe Ikard, another one of the Sooners’ captains. “We don’t have a guy who does all the things he does for us. He’s the best player we’ve got. We have some guys who, if you combine them, might get us close to what No. 33 has done for us on offense and special teams. We need guys to step up.’’
OU has missed the two defensive starters — Nelson and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips —it has lost for the season. That was evident when Texas was able to dominate the Sooners physically in a 36-20 win two weeks ago.
Even Kansas was able to pound OU inside for a while before the Sooners took control the week before.
Millard’s leadership was another intangible that can’t be replaced.
“He’s one of the best people that I’ve ever played with,’’ said safety Gabe Lynn. “He’s a great teammate and a great player, and it’s going to hurt us a lot.’’
Millard decided to return to OU instead of entering the pro draft where he had been projected as a possible second or third round draft pick.
“I’m heartbroken for the guy,’’ Ikard said. “He’s one of my closest friends. To have him come back and then see his year end like that ... it’s just a freak thing to get rolled up like that on a kickoff.
“He’s so tough ... I know when he was laying there he was saying ‘get me off the field/ ... get me off the field ... to see a friend’s career end like that is really tough.’’
Millard’s surgery will be delayed until the swelling goes down.
“You hate to see a young man who’s been such a strong part of our team go down like that,’’ Stoops said. “He’s an amazing young man. He’s going to have a great NFL career and move on.’’
“Hopefully, he’ll come back strong,’’ Ikard said. “He’s got some good surgeons working on him. We’ll see where that will lead.’’
The win over the Red Raiders could be a breakthrough for the Sooners. Then again, Notre Dame was supposed to be, too.
OU will find out more on Nov. 7 at Baylor.
“It’s a huge game,’’ Lynn said. “It’s another big-time offense with a lot of speed. As long as we make the plays we need to make, and the offense keeps doing what they’re doing, we’ll be fine.’’
“Every week we have to play this way,’’ said OU safety Aaron Colvin. “We’re going to be playing harder teams. If we don’t get better, we’re going to lose the game.’’
OU had the balance it wanted (277 yards rushing and 249 passing). There were no quarterback sacks and only one turnover. That fumble was offset when Colvin had an interception to stop a Red Raider threat.
“We had a great sense of urgency when we needed to move the ball downfield,’’ Bell said. “We need to keep pushing through.’’
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.