Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Sooners find a spark in the running game
By David Ubben
Damien Williams took the handoff from Landry Jones as his two teammates in the backfield rushed to find white jerseys to block. Williams cut once through the line as a diving Kenny Vaccaro missed Williams' ankles. Williams slowed to let his blockers create a lane before cutting outside and finding himself in the middle of three Longhorns defenders.
His cut put them off balance and as he hit the left sideline, he had one player to outrun -- for a while, anyway. Receiver Kenny Stills erased Quandre Diggs and set Williams free as the Cotton Bowl -- well, half of it -- exploded.
"That's something that any football player wants to be a part of. The fans were so crazy," Williams told ESPN.com this week. "Going into that game I was confident and excited."
Junior Damien Williams has emerged as the Sooners' best option in the backfield halfway through the season.
No player had ever broken a longer run in the history of the Red River Rivalry than that 95-yarder, and any debate over who should be Oklahoma's starting running back ended.
The 6-foot, 208-pound junior-college transfer grabbed 22 carries, 14 more than any Sooner. A week earlier, his 14 carries in a blowout win over Texas Tech were 12 more than any other Oklahoma back. For now, this job is Williams'. He was expecting to help out the unit and "do his part," whatever that meant.
For now, it means being the Sooners' No. 1 back.
"He’s played consistently all year. He’s made big plays. He’s an incredibly physical, tough runner. He’s got great speed and he’s taking care of the ball," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "He’s been reliable. He’s got great hands. He’s got everything you look for. Power and again, has incredible hands to go with his ability to run."
With Dominique Whaley returning from a fractured ankle and Roy Finch breaking highlight-reel runs, Williams ascending to win the job seemed unlikely in the preseason. Even Brennan Clay had more experience.
Through just five games, though, there's no doubt. Even in the season opener, Williams' potential was there. He broke a 65-yard touchdown run to ice a 24-7 road win over UTEP. A week later, he scored four times in a 69-13 victory over Florida A&M, turning 10 carries into 156 yards.
"I can't make any plays without my team around me," Williams said. "What the line is doing, what the coaches are calling and everything. All I can do is go out there and try to make plays."
He's got 66 carries for 508 yards and six touchdowns in just five games, one of just three Big 12 backs averaging at least 100 yards a game.
Against Texas Tech, he caught six passes for 82 yards, too.
"He’s been a huge spark, just with his physical running and ability to catch the ball," Stoops said.
Williams already has three runs longer than 60 yards this season. No other Big 12 back has one, and the rest of the Big 12 has just five combined. Only three players in all of college football have three runs longer than 60 yards, and all three players have suited up in seven games, compared to just five for Williams and the Sooners.