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'It can be very stressful': OU's Cale Gundy relishes Alamo Bowl play-calling duties but ready to return to role

Ryan Aber
Oklahoman

After nearly 30 years coaching, longtime OU assistant coach Cale Gundy got a chance to call plays on offense for the first time in the Alamo Bowl.

Gundy’s play-calling debut was successful in a 47-32 win against Oregon on Dec. 29 in San Antonio, as the Sooners had 564 yards of total offense, their third-most of the season.

After the game, Gundy said he’d learned quite a bit from the experience.

“I definitely learned that it can be very stressful,” Gundy said. “Even though everybody has a part of it, you can feel like the weight of how many years Oklahoma has been playing football is on your shoulders.

"It definitely feels a lot better right now. It is a lot of work, no doubt. That’s part of it.”

Gundy said the Sooners came into the game preparing to spread the ball around among the running backs.

Kennedy Brooks finished with 14 carries, Marcus Major had 10 and Eric Gray eight.

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Oklahoma assistant football coach Cale Gundy quarterbacked the Sooners for four years and is the longest-serving assistant in school history. The 2021 season will be Gundy's 23rd on the staff.

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“We went into this deal wanting to play a bunch of players,” said Gundy, OU's co-offensive coordinator and inside receivers coach in 2021.

“I think if you’ll go back and look at it, we had more players play in this game and get more reps than they had done in any other game the rest of the year. We didn’t want to go in saying we were going to play 12, 13 guys. We wanted to play a bunch of receivers. We wanted to play a bunch of backs. They deserve it.”

The Sooners used 21 offensive players against Oregon and 15 skill-position players, their third-most of the season behind Western Carolina (24) and Texas Tech (18).

Brayden Willis, Mike Woods II, Mario Williams and Marcus Major each played their most snaps of the season in the bowl game.

Now that the Alamo Bowl is over, Gundy isn’t too broken up about turning over his play-calling duties..

“I’m just happy that it’s over with,” Gundy said.

More:Here are the OU football players in the transfer portal & those declared for the 2022 NFL Draft

Pat Fields continuing playing career at Stanford

Equipped with the $18,000 post-graduate scholarship he received as a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, Sooners safety Pat Fields recently announced he would be attending Stanford, where he began pursuing a master’s degree in management science and engineering Monday.

And Fields will take advantage of the extra season of eligibility afforded by the NCAA’s COVID-19 waiver, and finish his playing career with the Cardinals after being named the most outstanding defensive player in the Alamo Bowl.

Stanford recruited Fields out of high school and Fields told Cardinal Sports Report that he originally planned to flip to the Cardinals before signing with OU but not being able to enroll early at Stanford led him to instead join the Sooners as planned.

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OU wide receiver Jalil Farooq (14) finds running room against Oregon in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29 in San Antonio.

Jalil Farooq excels in bowl

Freshman Jalil Farooq was one of the Sooners who saw his playing time increase in the Alamo Bowl.

Farooq had just one 5-yard reception before the bowl but had three catches for 64 yards in San Antonio.

“You saw what he can do,” Gundy said. “I’m excited to be his coach, and I’m excited about what he can do. He’s a great player.”

Farooq and Caleb Williams, OU’s freshman quarterback who recently entered the transfer portal, have known each other since they were young, playing youth football together.

Though they wound up at different high schools in the Washington, D.C. area, the two vowed to play college football together.

“Dreams came true, and we’re here at Oklahoma together,” Williams said after the Alamo Bowl. “He believed in me. He wasn’t able to take any visits. He wasn’t able to come and see when Coach (Lincoln) Riley was here, he wasn’t able to come and see Coach (Dennis) Simmons. He did all Zoom and stuff like that. So he believed in me. He believed in this place, and he came here.

“I’m so happy that he was able to get a few balls his way, and he made a couple big plays for us that we needed down the stretch. … I wish I could have gotten him one (a touchdown), I really do.”

While a pair of OU receivers made their intentions to leave public on Monday — Mike Woods II declared for the NFL Draft and Mario Williams entered the transfer portal — Farooq hasn’t announced whether he would stay in Norman or transfer out.

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Kasey Kelleher has a chance at record

By playing in all 13 games this season, linebacker/special teams contributor Bryan Mead shattered the Sooners’ career record for games played, finishing his career with 65.

The previous record was 55 by holder Connor McGinnis.

Mead’s record might be short-lived, though. If he can stay healthy and appear in every game next season, and the Sooners make either the Big 12 Championship Game or advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship, long snapper Kasey Kelleher would break the record.

Kelleher has served as the Sooners’ long snapper since 2018, when he took over for Wesley Horkey.

Kelleher, a Peninsula, Ohio, native, recently announced he would return for his “super senior” season — an extra season of eligibility granted to players who played during the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.