OU arrives, practices


Published: Friday, January 2, 2009 at 5:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 2, 2009 at 5:36 p.m.

MIAMI Oklahoma's team charter plane, a Northwest Airlines 747, touched down 30 minutes ahead of schedule Friday afternoon at Miami International Airport.

"We were a little more efficient leaving home than we thought we would be," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "Flight time wasn't as much as we thought it would be. Everybody's excited to be here."

Whether that efficiency is a sign of things to come remains to be seen. The Sooners come into their showdown with Florida in the FedEx BCS championship having lost their last four BCS bowl games.

Stoops said he plans to only make slight changes compared to preparing for BCS bowl failures of the recent past. In the four straight BCS bowl losses, Oklahoma has been outscored by an average margin of 16 points per game.

"None of it is significant enough to make a difference," Stoops said. "Things that worked for us in 2000 and worked for us in the Rose Bowl didn't work the next time. Who is to say what's right and wrong? In the end you have to go out and play well when the time comes."

Stoops wasted little time, bustling Oklahoma off to a closed practice Friday afternoon at Barry University. The motorcade from the tarmac began with 19 police motorcycles and included three Oklahoma team buses and two equipment trucks.

"We're going to change one major thing and that's to get a win," Oklahoma senior safety Nic Harris said. "The past couple of BCS bowls we've been in we've come out on the other end of the stick. This time, we plan to get a win."

Players understand that questions about the recent bowl meltdowns will arise. Oklahoma's last BCS bowl win came in the 2003 Rose Bowl against Washington State.

"Of course, we have something to prove," Oklahoma senior receiver Manuel Johnson said.

With a national title at stake, Johnson said the team plans to do more activities together in the week heading up to the game.

"We had a couple of team meetings about how we want to handle it this year, how we wanted to change a couple of things so I think we'll handle that," Johnson said. "We've got great team leadership this year so I don't think we'll have any problems."

Oklahoma's offensive and defensive linemen poured out of the plane first. Some players filmed with camcorders as a steel drum band played. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Sam Bradford was among the last wave of players to depart the plane. Bradford engaged in a playful exchange with the Orange Bowl's mascot, Obie, after the mascot struck a Heisman pose in front of him.

Stoops said he was satisfied with the five practices that Oklahoma got in before arriving here Friday. There were no significant injuries, though Stoops said reserve redshirt freshman defensive back Desmond Jackson was left home for disciplinary reasons.

Both Harris and Johnson said they looked forward to getting in some time on the beach, but otherwise plan to stay away from potential distractions.

"You make sure you stay focused," Harris said. "You understand the reason why you are here. There's no problems to have a little fun while you're here but at the end of the day you've got to know the ultimate reason why you are here as well."

Stoops wouldn't disclose any plans to change curfew for the game, saying that the team's policies regarding road games were confidential.

"Miami is no different than any other big city and a lot of our guys are from some bigger cities," Stoops said. "Hopefully, we'll conduct ourselves the right way, stay away from trouble, trouble spots that there may be."

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