Commentary

10 seasons ago, 'Superman' took flight

OU safety Roy Williams recalls one of the most famous plays in Sooners history

Updated: October 6, 2011, 12:11 PM ET
By Jake Trotter | SoonerNation

NORMAN, Okla. -- In Oklahoma, it's simply called "The Superman Play." But as it happened 10 seasons ago, Sooners coach Bob Stoops was focused on another part of the field and missed it.

"Then I hear everyone going bananas and I'm like, 'What happened? What happened?' I have no idea," Stoops recalled this week. "Then everyone is yelling, 'Touchdown!' And I'm like, 'Wait, what?' "

Stoops eventually saw the replay of Roy Williams sailing over Texas running back Brett Robin and into the chest of quarterback Chris Simms, which led to a collision that popped the ball into the arms of linebacker Teddy Lehman, who waltzed in for a touchdown to clinch the Sooners' 14-3 win in 2001.

Roy Williams
AP Photo/Tim SharpRoy Williams' "Superman" dive forced a Chris Simms interception.
"I didn't witness it like everyone else," Stoops said. "But it's one of my favorites, of course."

The play remains one of Williams' favorites, too.

"It felt like I was in the air forever," Williams said, describing his hit on Simms. "I timed it perfectly. If he had went back further, there wouldn't have been a Superman play."

But he didn't, and there was. And 10 years later, it remains the signature OU-Texas moment of the Stoops era. And maybe the single most revered play in Sooners history.

"A very special play," said Oklahoma co-defensive coordinator Brent Venables. "I still remember it well."

Despite losing the Red River Rivalry by seven touchdowns the season before, the Longhorns entered the Cotton Bowl in 2001 with expectations the size of a Big Texan sirloin. The Longhorns were undefeated and ranked fifth in the nation.

With three consecutive top-five recruiting classes, the Texas offense featured blue-chip prospects Simms, wide receivers Roy Williams and B.J. Johnson and freshman running back Cedric Benson. Together, they scored 41, 44, 53 and 42 points in their first four games.

Against OU, they scored 3.

"We always have to hear about how they have the No. 1 recruiting class, but that really doesn't mean anything. You still have to put it out there on the football field," Oklahoma's Roy Williams said. "We heard them talking about how they were chomping at the bit to play us. They were gung-ho about Chris Simms, who was supposed to lead the charge to them winning.

"They kind of downplayed us, as if we were nothing. But we weren't much for talking. We were going to let our talk be displayed out on the field."

Texas brought glitz. The Sooners brought grit.

The 2001 Oklahoma defense might have been the best of the Stoops era. Rocky Calmus won the Butkus Award. He was flanked at linebacker by Lehman, who would win it in 2003. Tackle Tommie Harris, free safety Brandon Everage and cornerback Derrick Strait were eventual All-Americans. And then there was Williams, who roamed the field like a collegiate Ronnie Lott.

"We played with a chip on our shoulder, too," said Strait, the biggest reason Texas' Roy Williams finished his career without a Red River touchdown. "We always felt like we had to prove something to somebody."

The Longhorns offense stood little chance. Texas rushed for 27 yards, and Simms was sacked five times and threw four interceptions. Two of those picks came in the final 2:06 of the fourth quarter.

Clinging to a 7-3 lead, Stoops opted for a pooch punt instead of a 24-yard field goal try, at the urging of his brother, co-defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. Tim Duncan's pooch punt seemed headed to the end zone for a touchback. But Nathan Vasher inexplicably dove and caught the ball, giving the Longhorns the ball instead at their own 2-yard line and setting up Williams' heroics.

Using the media timeout, the Sooners discussed the next move.

[+] EnlargeTeddy Lehman
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesCornerback Derrick Strait remembers Roy Williams' play fondly.
"Coach Mike said to Bob, 'I'm going to come after them -- Slamdogs!' " Venables recalled, referring to a blitz that called for Williams to shoot the gap between the left guard and tackle.

Mike Stoops had called the blitz earlier, but it backfired. Williams had attempted to leap over a blocker but took a helmet to the groin, and Simms scrambled around him for 11 yards.

While Bob Stoops was busy telling end Cory Heinecke to watch the flat, Mike Stoops pulled Williams aside.

"He said, 'We're calling Slamdogs, but you better not jump again,' " Williams said. "I was like, 'OK, whatever.'

"But I knew the B-gap was going to be wide open, and I knew it was going to be the running back, and I knew he wasn't going to hit me high, because I'd run him over. I knew he was going to try and cut me, so I was like, 'I'm going for it.' "

Just as Williams suspected, Robin tried a cut block. But he was too late -- Superman was already in flight.

"All I was thinking was, 'Secure the tackle, then go for the ball,' " Willams said. "I secured the tackle and hit the ball out, and it fluttered in the air and landed right in Teddy's hands."

The instant Superman landed, he was a Sooners legend. As was the play Bob Stoops never saw coming.

Jake Trotter covers University of Oklahoma football for SoonerNation. He can be reached at trotterjake@gmail.com. and look for answers every Friday.

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