NEW YORK (AP) — As Winston Churchill said, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones agrees. He didn’t use those exact words when referring to the last two times the Sooners rolled into the desert favored in the Fiesta Bowl only to lose 48-28 to West Virginia in 2008 and, as every college football fan should know, 43-42 in overtime to Boise State in 2007.
“If you don’t prepare differently, history’s going to repeat itself,” is the way he put it.
Oklahoma is back and again is supposed to win big. As of Tuesday, the Sooners (11-2) were 17-point favorites against No. 25 Connecticut (8-4) in the New Year’s night matchup.
Yet if any college program should know not to take an opponent lightly, it should be Oklahoma, particularly at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
West Virginia officials were so impressed with their team’s one-sided victory over Sooners three years ago that they called a news conference the next morning at a Scottsdale resort to take the “interim” off of the title of coach Bill Stewart.
A year earlier, the Sooners were on the wrong side of a college football classic. Boise State broke BCS barrier to get a Fiesta Bowl bid and, although the Broncos were ranked 12th and unbeaten, few if anyone gave them a shot against Adrian Peterson and mighty Oklahoma. Boise State used the venerable “Statue of Liberty” play for a 2-point conversion and the victory.
“Past mistakes tell us that we need to come in here and only worry about the game,” Oklahoma safety Jonathan Nelson said, “only worry about the game plan and what we need to do to beat our opponent, not ‘Hey, I’m worried about going to the mall or this bar or whatever.’ I want to beat Connecticut and that’s the end of the story.”
Oklahoma safety Quinton Carter said the Sooners don’t base their opinion of Connecticut on what is written or said about them.
“We watch film and you form a respect for a team, you see how good they really are,” Carter said. “They won five games straight, conference champions, you can’t underestimate them.”
Connecticut finished tied with Pittsburgh and West Virginia atop the Big East. With victories over their fellow co-champions, the Huskies headed to Arizona.
The Sooners are looking to end a five-game BCS bowl losing streak, with the most recent a loss to Florida for the BCS championship two years ago. Connecticut is motivated to simply prove that, although it’s not in the top 25 in the BCS standings, it is worthy of this game. More than a few fans and members of the media have suggested that the Huskies don’t.
“I kind of smile a little bit,” said tailback Jordan Todman, the Big East offensive player of the year. “Let them have their opinion. My goal, what I really want to do, is to go out and prove them wrong. It’s somewhat of a slap in the face, that we don’t belong here or the Big East wasn’t that tough, UConn’s really not that tough. I really don’t like that. At the same time, it’s their opinion.”
Connecticut fullback Anthony Sherman discounts the West Virginia and Boise State victories over Oklahoma.
“Those aren’t the same teams that we’re playing right now,” he said. “We aren’t going to lean on that and say ‘Oh, they’re going to choke again,’ because they’re not.”
Nelson said he understands the Huskies might feel slighted with the questions about their legitimacy as a BCS team and the weakness of the Big East.
“They’re going to come in and give us their best game. We know that,” he said. “But it’s not like we’re just going to waltz in here and throw our hat in, because our last two games here, we got beat, the national championship, we got beat. … We also have something to prove.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.