John Hoover

Ask Hoover: It’s Bedlam week, so of course we talk officiating, hot seats, defensive coordinators, the CFP and … Horns down?

Ask Hoover: It’s Bedlam week, so of course we talk officiating, hot seats, defensive coordinators, the CFP and … Horns down?

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy, left, talks with Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, right, before their NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Time again for Ask Hoover, the weekly blog where I answer your college football questions and whatever else you might have.

I solicited questions late last Saturday night, and I got so many replies, I haven’t had to ask for any more.

Busy week with Bedlam on the horizon, so let’s get straight to the question:


You’re absolutely right, Dana Holgorsen’s decision to go for a game-winning 2-point conversion — made before the crucial touchdown drive even began — was as gutsy as it gets in big-time college football. It was, dare we say, Osbornesque. There’s so much at stake (more than anything for these guys, millions of dollars in salary and bonuses), they tend to wimp out and kick it and try to win in overtime. But Holgorsen showed no fear.

Now, will he ever return to Stillwater? The guess here is, if Mike Gundy ever does leave, Holgorsen would be among the first 2-3 guys Mike Holder (or Chad Weiberg, when the time comes) calls.

So would Holgorsen leave Morgantown for Stillwater. The guess here is no way. He’s got a great thing going at WVU, is already fourth on the school’s all-time wins list (at 57, he needs one more win to get to third and three wins to get to second behind Don Nehlan’s record of 149 wins).

By all accounts, Dana likes everything about West Virginia. If this team continues on its current path and can win its first Big 12 title this year, WVU will like everything about Holgorsen. At $3.6 million a year, Holgorsen’s salary currently ranks 32nd nationally, but he’s just over a million dollars out of the top 15, and winning the Big 12 this season (or, really, even finishing second) will net him a big boost.

That’s not quite Mike Gundy. Gundy makes right at $5 million, but winning the Big 12 this year would give Holgorsen the same number of conference championships as his former boss.


Not a question, but I’ll certainly allow it … because I agree with it. Last week’s 51-46 win at Texas Tech wasn’t nearly as bad as the scoreboard showed. Remember, Tech got two easy TDs off early Kyler Murray INTs. Now, there’s the little problem of Tech losing its starting QB, but you’re 100 percent right: Sooner DBs have been turning and looking for the football with far greater frequency than they did when Mike Stoops was the defensive coordinator. The only guess here is that maybe Ruffin McNeill actually has implemented that into the practice structure, or maybe holds his DBs coach accountable for actually teaching it. Who can say?


I’m not sure OU has anyone that could do better than Parnell Motley. He’s got two fourth-quarter INT this season, and would have a third pick if the Big 12 refs didn’t assume pass interference on what was an obvious slip. Stick with Motley. He’ll continue to get better.


Rather than throw a bunch of names at you out of a hat, I’m gonna pick one.

Tim DeRuyter.

DeRuyter, 55, is now the defensive coordinator at Cal, where his Bears defense ranks 19th in the country. DeRuyter had early success as head coach at Fresno State, but was fired midway through the 2016 season. (His former Fresno State defense currently ranks 14th nationally; last year they finished 15th.)

Cal’s defense ranked 125th the year before he got there, finished 95th in his first season, and this year have jumped 76 places so far. He’s reportedly set to make $507,000 next year. OU could easily entice him away from that.

DeRuyter’s Texas A&M defenses in 2010 and 2011 ranked in the 50s, but remember the Big 12 was in its offensive heyday then. Sooner fans probably wouldn’t mind a defense that finishes 50th as long as Lincoln Riley continues to direct the nation’s most dangerous offense, would they? That would have produced a trip to the national championship game last season, and maybe more.


As it looks right now, that scenario would put Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff. OU has a “better loss” than Ohio State (3 points to 6-3 Texas versus 29 points to 5-4 Purdue).

The Buckeyes’ win over then-No. 15 TCU (now 4-5) looks hollow. A one-point win over then No. 9 Penn State (now 6-3) doesn’t exactly shine. Winning at No. 18 Michigan State would be a nice feather in the cap, but then Spartans would be 6-4, so is it really? The only game on the Buckeyes’ schedule that would really stand out is that season-ending win over Michigan.

Oklahoma’s non-conference schedule is hardly imposing, but Army has won five in a row and figures to finish 10-2. Florida Atlantic and UCLA are both bad, and the Sooners handled them appropriately. Where OU would get a boost is by beating a 1-loss and then a 2-loss West Virginia team in back-to-back weeks. The Sooners also could use more wins down the stretch out of Texas and Oklahoma State, though that probably won’t matter too much.


Yeah, briefly touched on this above.

If Alan Bowman doesn’t suffer relapse symptoms of a collapsed lung on the goal-line hit from Curtis Bolton, then Texas Tech has a really good chance to knock the Sooners off in Lubbock last week. Bowman was 21-of-26 for 227 yards in the first half but didn’t return after halftime. He was remarkably efficient running Kliff Kingsbury’s system, and Tech’s big receivers weren’t having much problem against the OU secondary.

The Sooners got some things done early against backup Jett Duffey (Tech went 3-and-out on its first three drives of the second half), but Duffey eventually settled in and nearly led his team to a win. If not for Robert Barnes’ uh, Pick-2 (his interception and runback of a 2-point conversion, which produced a 4-point swing on the scoreboard) and Trey Sermon’s career night (206 yards, three touchdowns), OU might already be out of the College Football Playoff picture.


Great question. Technically, I have no answer, since practices are closed. But the guess here is that yes, OU does interception drills in practice during the week

At least, they do them before games.

Hey, practice makes perfect.


Great question. There are actually two factors at work here, and I thought the refs got one of them right and the other one wrong.

First, the Tech player successfully prevented the football from touching the goal line. His foot, or any other part of his body, can be in the end zone as long as the football never touches the plane of the goal line — kind of like a touchdown, where the ballcarrier just has to graze the imaginary boundary with possession of the football. In this case, had the ball crossed the goal line, it would have been a touchback.

Where I think the Big 12 refs got it wrong is the Tech player never gained control of the football. He just grasped it and desperately whipped it behind him. The ball spun skyward and then landed in the end zone. That’s the first time in history I’ve ever seen a ball touched in the field of play that went straight into the end zone and was not ruled a touchback.

OU should have gotten the ball on the 20. I don’t know if Lincoln Riley had the ability to challenge or call timeout, or if the replay crew actually deemed it down inside the 1-yard line, but the officials could have slowed things down and exercised a little common sense discretion there.


You mean Reggie Smith, and I agree, he and his crew often seem to enjoy the time they get on camera. It’s a running joke among Big 12 media that Reggie Smith-reffed games take longer because he gets way more camera time than the network talent.

Anyway, no, the Big 12 won’t take any disciplinary action. That crew was graded per usual, and both good calls and bad calls were duly noted in their weekly report.

We think.

That’s what former coordinator of officials Walt Anderson used to do, anyway. We can only presume the new guy, Greg Burks, does the same thing.


This tweet was sent before the CFP rankings came out this week, so you sort of nailed it. While OU moved up to 6, LSU stayed in the top 7 because, well, golly, they lost to The Beast That Ate Tuscaloosa. At home. By four touchdowns. But hey, that’s a top 7 ballclub, no?

Fox Sports’ Joel Klatt posted a graphic this week that showed several SEC schools (Kentucky, Florida, LSU) are ranked significantly higher by the CFP than by statistical metrics like ESPN’s FPI and Jeff Sagarin. Same with several ACC teams. That gives the impression that the CFP committee is creating its own narrative by ranking certain teams where no one else has them.

And perception-wise, that’s a bad look for the CFP.


Another great question, and one I considered during the game. Wish I’d asked Riley about it on Monday. That play deserved at least a quick review. I thought Brown caught it. He took two steps and made a motion to tuck the football away when it slipped out of his hands, and then had the presence of mind to jump on it like it was a fumble. It was a reviewable play, and technically speaking, all plays are reviewed since the replay ref has a constant stream going in the replay booth and also commands what he/she see and when they see it and can stop the game to look at additional angles, if necessary.

We’ll have to ask about it next Monday.


This whole thing has become silly. Mack Brown said at some point toward the end of his career that downward horns denigrated his team and his program and showed up his players, and so it’s been trending this way for a few years now. If I remember right, OU players have been flagged for it in the Red River Rivalry.

To answer your question, no, the horns up isn’t taunting and shouldn’t be, unless it’s done right in a player’s face. Similarly, downward horns shouldn’t be considered taunting unless it’s standing over a player or in a player’s face, or maybe if an offending player runs up to the front-row fans and throws them down. Then I could see it.

Game officials need to be more aware and just use common sense.


We addressed this quite a bit in a previous question.

But to answer yours, I’d say the Red Raiders would have scored 53 points. Their third possession of the second half began with a running play, and it only gained 2 yards. After a Jett Duffey run for 5 yards, it looked like Ruffin McNeill sent pressure on third-and-3. I say with Stoops calling the defense, Tech would have thrown on first down, Stoops probably wouldn’t have blitzed on third down, and the drive probably wouldn’t have stalled. That’s an extra TD for Tech.

Then the Sooners would have had 65 seconds to score on their final drive, and probably would have won 54-52.


Oh come on.

Aim higher.


Addressed in an answer above, and the answer is absolutely, unequivocally yes. A seven-point OT win over a 10-2 Army squad absolutely trumps a 49-point win over FAU and a 28-point win over UCLA. Those teams have not gotten any better since returning home from Norman. The Black Knights have won five in a row and should finish with eight straight wins. Army’s only two losses will be to Duke, who’s currently 6-3 and will end up with eight wins.


Please see the question above. It’s a hot-button topic, for sure.


I thought both the OU-Tech and the WVU-Texas game were poorly officiated. Too many missed calls, and yet too many “over-officious” calls. Both Dana Holgorsen and Lincoln Riley submitted their usual paperwork to the league office formally lodging complaints about certain calls (that’s routine after every game and is intended to help improve the officiating overall), and the guess here is that both coaches rank out of ink.

And I do think the Big 12 cares, but not to the extent that anyone will be reprimanded for it — even though the bad calls repeatedly happened to the conference’s top two playoff contenders. Keep screwing up with bad calls against those guys and you’ll find your league out of the playoff picture real quick.


Wow, you make some very salient points. That’s not always common for a passionate fan.

The short answer is no, Mike Gundy won’t be on the hot seat any time soon. He just signed an extension and got a big, fat raise. Again. So clearly, his bosses are pleased.

No doubt, they’re a little less pleased in the midst of a 5-4 season in which Gundy has shown apathy after losses and has been uninterested in seeing what he has at quarterback behind Taylor Cornelius.

Consider for a minute that both Dru Brown and Spencer Sanders redshirt this year (they will), and Dru Brown wins the QB job next year. Arguably Mike Gundy’s biggest quarterback recruit since Bobby Reid would redshirt one season, be a backup for one season, and then play one season before either trying out the NFL or joining the ranks of grad transfers — or maybe he just gets mad over not playing for two years and just plain transfers. That’s a real scenario in today’s world of college football quarterbacks.

Spencer Sanders was a fantastic prospect. If Gundy screws this up and he leaves while his teams are losing 4-6 games over the next two years, then yes, Gundy will be on the hot seat.


Let’s all remember, UCF is 2 ½ years removed from going 0-12. Knights fans have no intention of shutting up as long as they keep winning. Which, in your scenario, they most certainly would not.


That’s the price you pay when you’re a college football blueblood. You get everyone’s best shot. Really, consider the national narrative if you’re Kansas State and you beat Oklahoma State, or Texas Tech. Now, consider the national narrative if you beat Oklahoma, or Texas. Of course you’re going to be motivated to peak against the big, bad bullies on the block.


Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “The Franchise Drive” every weeknight from 6-8 on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and appears throughout the day on other shows on The Franchise. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his personal page at

John Hoover

Hoover wrote for the Tulsa World for 24 years before joining The Franchise, where he's now co-host of "Further Review" on The Franchise Tulsa (weekdays 12-3, fm107.9/am1270) . In his time at the World, Hoover won numerous writing and reporting awards, including in 2011 National Beat Writer of the Year from the Associated Press Sports Editors for his work covering the Oklahoma Sooners. Hoover also covered Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Oral Roberts and the NFL as a beat writer. From 2012 to 2016, Hoover was the World's lead sports columnist. As a columnist, Hoover won national awards in 2012 and 2014 from the National Athletic Trainers Association for reporting on sports medicine and in 2015 won first place in sports columns from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists. After receiving a journalism degree from East Central University, Hoover worked at newspapers in Ada, Okmulgee, Tahlequah and Waynesville, Mo. He played football at Ada High School and grew up in North Pole, Alaska. Hoover and his family live in Broken Arrow.

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