NORMAN — Cursed with an unrelenting wind and chilly temperatures, the day began with a few speeches at the unveiling of Bob Stoops’ new statue at the Coaches Courtyard south of the football stadium, took a downturn when Oklahoma president David Boren suffered a minor stroke, ramped up when Joe Castiglione introduced country music star Trace Adkins for a concert in the north stands, dipped again when sophomore running back Trey Sermon injured his knee, surged when the Red/White Game, scheduled for just one half of competitive football, went to overtime, and reached crescendo when OU got its fifth verbal commitment of the weekend.
Definitely a Sooner Saturday at OU.
After his speech before the unveiling of Stoops’ statue — placing him alongside fellow 100-game winners Bennie Owen, Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer — Boren took his seat and was soon attended to by medical personnel. He was wheeled out on a medical gurney around 10:45 a.m. and taken to OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City.
“After President Boren underwent several tests, it was determined that he had had a minor stroke,” OU said in a statement. “Thanks to the timely treatment of the OU team with contemporary therapies, he is now in good spirits and enjoying dinner. He is alert and communicating with family and his excellent team of medical professionals at OU Medical Center. President and Mrs. Boren deeply appreciate the outpouring of love and support they have received.”
Boren delivered a powerful speech, thanking Stoops for his contributions to the university. That included success that led to more than $250 million in facility upgrades.
“It’s been a cold morning, but you all are gonna remember for years to come that you were glad you came,” Boren said. “Yes, he won, but he won in the right way. He ran a football program that was clean. … His character was pure gold.”
While athletic director Joe Castiglione was preparing the chilled assembly of 2,000 or so fans for the big moment, Boren fell ill. A few minutes later, Castiglione sped to the finish, the veil came down and Stoops had taken his place among the immortals.
With former Heisman winners Steve Owens, Billy Sims and Jason White, as well as Barry Switzer (wearing a fur coat!) and dozens of former Stoops players among the celebrities in attendance, Stoops and his family posed beneath the statue to Owen’s left and looking across from Switzer and Wilkinson.
Jay Wilkinson, son of the coach, also was there. Although his dad’s statue was erected in 2010 outside the former Bud Wilkinson House, it and the other two were removed when OU’s latest construction project began. It’s been in storage since, and it only recently was added to the Coaches Courtyard on the south side of the Switzer Center.
Jay Wilkinson now lives in Oklahoma City, but Saturday was the first time he’d seen his dad’s bronze visage in its new and hopefully permanent location.
“And it’s quite a setting,” Wilkinson said. “It really is. … Great memories. Very proud of coach Stoops and everything he’s done in his years here. Of course, it’s very special for me to see coach Switzer’s statue and my dad’s statue as well.
“It is very emotional. I went over there, and I don’t usually do this, but I choked up a little bit just looking at it. It’s a very special and emotional setting, I think.”
Castiglione enjoyed getting to introduce Adkins, who couldn’t stay for the game because he had a gig Saturday night at the Southern Jam festival in Boca Raton, Fla.
Despite the weather, the roster were evenly divided up and the scrimmage itself was a hit for the crowd, which was announced officially as 52,102, the largest ever for an OU spring game.
That is, until Sermon went down awkwardly at the end of a run. He rolled over grabbing his right knee, then remained on the field as OU’s medical team tended to him and helped him off.
“I don’t think it’s serious,” coach Lincoln Riley said. “We’ll evaluate him further. Early indications look positive.”
Sermon was a key piece to last season’s record-setting offense, rushing for 744 yards and scoring seven touchdowns. His presence will be huge in 2018 as the Sooners try to replace Heisman-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield.
That competition certainly wasn’t resolved on Saturday. Too windy.
“It was challenging,” Riley said. “… When you were into the wind, there was a part of the field that’s a little bit off-limits because it’s hard to throw it that far into that strong of a wind. Down-wind, actually, though, at times can be a little more challenging. You see the one ball down the middle that Kendall threw that it just grabbed it and whipped it.
“So it’s a little tougher to throw the ball, anything up in the air. Because once it gets it, it just takes it and you lose control. So yeah, it challenged us a little bit. But we’re used to practicing in that. It was a little extreme today. We did some decent things throwing and catching in it, and I thought the quarterbacks handled it fine.”
“Yeah, I was out there just crying, basically, tears running down my eyes because of the wind,” Kendall said. “Yeah, it’s hard throwing it. But we’re in Oklahoma so we’ve got to get used to it.”
Said Murray, “Kinda difficult. But we all talked about it. And it was something we got to work on. You never know when it’s gonna be that windy out. Can’t control the weather. So as an offense, got to out there and just compete and grind through it.”
Officially, Murray was 11-of-21 for 85 yards, and Kendall went 11-of-18 for 134 yards with one touchdown and one interception. His pick was a bad throw in traffic that he delivered too late, and his TD to tight end Grant Calcaterra, in overtime, was perfect. Murray also threw a pass that should have been intercepted, but was dropped. Murray added 35 rushing yards on nine carries, while Kendall had 32 on five.
The game was scheduled for just one half, but it was 3-3 at the break. Riley said the script called for overtime if the game was tied —winners got a fancy meal, losers ate less extravagantly — and the coach loved it.
The White team, “coached” by Adrian Peterson, beat Trent Williams’ Red team by the score of 10-9. Marcelias Sutton scored the game’s first TD on a 17-yard touchdown, which was followed by a PAT kick. Kendall’s TD throw to Calcaterra on the second possession, however, was followed by a 2-point conversion, which Kendall threw incomplete in the end zone.
Quite the drama, even if it was followed by an anticlimactic second “half” performed by backups, freshmen, redshirts and walk-ons.
All of which, of course, was trumped by the evening’s developments in the 2019 recruiting class.
OU landed four verbal commitments on Friday: Florida running back Jaylan Knighten and a Texas trio of wide receiver Arjei Henderson, wide receiver Theo Wease and safety Jamal Morris. Morris is a Rivals 250 prospect, Henderson is a four-star prospect, and Wease is a five-star and, per Rivals, the top wide receiver and No. 3 overall prospect in the country.
But then Saturday afternoon, a fifth verbal commitment was secured when Derek Green, a Rivals 3-star defensive tackle from North Carolina, gave his pledge to OU.
That pushed the Sooners national ranking from No. 11 going into the weekend to No. 1, according to Rivals, and may have ended Sooner Nation’s most eventful spring weekend in a long, long time.
“It’s a fun weekend,” Riley said. “We still have more to go with our recruits. Appreciate the fans and the atmosphere today. This is an event where we got a lot done. I think we’ll continue to build on. I think it has a chance to get bigger and bigger not only for this football program, but also this university and our little part of the state here.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard every weekday on The Franchise in Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. with co-host Lauren Rew. In Oklahoma City, catch him Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 10:25 and every Friday afternoon at 4:05. 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. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.