Whaley runs wild over Tulsa
Walk-on running back Dominique Whaley scored four times in the Sooners' win
NORMAN, Okla. -- Dominique Whaley's photo is nowhere to be found in Oklahoma's media guide. Before enrolling at OU, Whaley was an NAIA benchwarmer.
Some replacement for DeMarco Murray. Some replacement indeed.
Rising out of complete obscurity, Whaley rushed right into OU history Saturday night as the top-ranked Sooners crushed Tulsa 47-14 to open the season. Consider what Whaley accomplished against the Golden Hurricane:
• The most rushing touchdowns by an OU walk-on in a single game.
• The first 100-yard game by an OU walk-on in 36 years.
• Became the second Sooner to run for four touchdowns in his debut, with Murray being the other.
Whaley ran for 131 yards and four touchdowns on a game-high 18 carries, the final score coming on a gorgeous 32-yard scamper through Tulsa's defense.
"I told you guys he was a really good football player," said coach Bob Stoops, who stunned all this week by listing Whaley as a co-starter on the depth chart along with Brennan Clay.
"I'm not surprised at all."
Truth be told, Whaley wasn't surprised by his unveiling, either.
"I felt like I should of had five touchdowns," he said, referring to his final run of the night, a 35-yarder he almost broke.
Don't confuse Whaley's words with cockiness. He has been humbled too many times for that.
At Lawton MacArthur High School, Whaley was beaten out by OU safety Javon Harris for the starting job at running back. Eventually, he was moved out of position to slot receiver.
Only two schools recruited him out of high school, including NAIA Langston College. Whaley didn't start there, either.
"Maybe he should have," said Stoops, who handed Whaley the first game ball Saturday.
But even after leaving Langston, Whaley never lost faith in his ability. Somehow, he never doubted he could start for a school like Oklahoma, where four- and five-star running backs are the norm.
Instead Whaley wrote down goals and stuck to achieving them, no matter how far-fetched they seemed.
"I didn't come here just to make the team," he said. "I didn't come here just to play special teams. I came here to start. That was my goal.
"My next goal is to be the best in the country. You have to continue to make goals."
Stoops first noticed Whaley a couple of years ago. As a scout-team back, he gashed OU's first-team defense during a scrimmage. Whaley got so winded from the long runs that trainers had to carry him off the practice field and administer IV fluids, Stoops said.
Whaley tore OU's defense up again this past spring game.
"Typically, not a lot of guys show up having the ability he has," running backs coach Cale Gundy said. "We've always had walk-ons that have been very good players and have earned scholarships.
"But for someone to come in with that ability is unusual."
It's even more unusual for a walk-on to steal the limelight from quarterback Landry Jones and wideout Ryan Broyles, who with 14 catches came one reception away from tying his own school record for catches in a game.
"It doesn't too much surprise me because, like my teammates will tell you, I've been doing this in practice," Whaley said as linebacker Tom Wort walked by and slapped him on the thigh pad.
"It was just a matter of time before I got out there and showed I can play. Showed I can play D-1 football."
Asked to grade his performance, Whaley gave himself a "C," maybe worse. A what?
"I had a busted blocking assignment that could've killed our quarterback," he said. "I'm still thinking about it."
Please forgive him. After all, he's only a walk-on. Who just might be OU's unlikely answer at running back.
Jake Trotter covers University of Oklahoma football for SoonerNation.
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