NORMAN, Okla. -- There are a million reasons Oklahoma is back in the national championship hunt. Two more emerged on Saturday thanks to Kentucky and Oregon State.
|Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin dives for one of his two TDs against Oklahoma. (US Presswire)|
If you don't know Maclin by now, shame on you. And shame on the Big 12. No. 6 Oklahoma's 41-31 showdown victory over Missouri was not seen on cable in its entirety in large swatches of major Eastern markets. That's the nature of the conference's TV deal with Fox Sports Net. Too bad. The nation's all-purpose yards leader was the best player on the field Saturday. For Oklahoma, the difference between winning the Big 12 and winning it all.
But a lot of people still don't know.
They will if they a) get a satellite dish and b) realize that the last piece of OU's championship puzzle is playing in Columbia, Mo. Oklahoma did a lot right in exposing Missouri as a not-ready-for-prime-time player. It did a lot wrong in letting Maclin slip away. The redshirt freshman from St. Louis originally committed to OU two years ago, then switched to Missouri because, well, he couldn't take any more crap in his life.
Maclin's biological mother tried to raise three boys for a while after her husband left. The brothers told the New York Times there was excessive drinking by their mother, who made them emotional "punching bags." Jeff Parres, Maclin's youth-football coach, once saw Jeremy climb through a window to get into his locked house and decided to do something about it. The product of that broken home now lives with Jeff and Cindy Parres in a tony St. Louis suburb.
"He committed early because of the pressure," Jeff Parres said outside a somber Missouri locker room. "He had friends and they would go on a trip to watch Mizzou. Oklahoma would get wind of that … rip him about it (saying), 'What are you doing in Columbia? You're embarrassing our school.' It really came down to a personality conflict with the coaches more than anything else."
Bob Stoops was asked about Maclin Monday on the Big 12 conference call and diplomatically said he only talks about players he has. And, gosh, he has a lot. The Sooners already have Sam Bradford, the nation's pass-efficiency leader as a redshirt freshman. It has All-American candidate Malcolm Kelly at receiver. It has three tailbacks (Chris Brown, Allen Patrick and DeMarco Murray), any one of whom could lead a team in rushing.
But Maclin has legitimate 4.2 speed in the 40, slightly more than a year after shredding a knee in a seven-on-seven drill. Through six games of his first season, he leads the Tigers with eight touchdowns, including two on Saturday. The speedster had 189 all-purpose yards, reaching the end zone twice on double reverses from the 7- and 10-yard line.
Some perspective: The number of coaches who would run a double reverse in the red zone wouldn't fill a phone booth. Too risky. Too small a space. Takes too long to develop. Not with Maclin.
"He's determined to show people he can do well," Parres said. "We really worried about him. Not just about his family thing, … what was tough was the injury last year. He really agonized when that happened. He just got through it without batting an eye."
A coach can almost outthink himself with such a talent. That's what Missouri's Gary Pinkel did in the third quarter with his team trailing 17-10. The Tigers' multi-layered mosaic of an offense was on a roll, having reached the Oklahoma 43. In other words there was no reason to line up Maclin in the shotgun on third and 2. Trick play? Dumb play. Maclin threw an interception. Oklahoma converted the turnover into a touchdown to go ahead by two touchdowns.