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Lincoln Riley's pregame ritual keeps him moving minutes before kickoff
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Lincoln Riley's pregame ritual keeps him moving minutes before kickoff

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Riley in pregame warmups

Lincoln Riley makes an effort to shake hands with every Oklahoma player during pregame stretch. The ritual will take place in Saturday’s game at Kansas.

Oct. 19, 2021 video. Sooners head coach talks about true freshman's play so far this season. Video courtesy/Sooner Sports TV

Warming up

Lincoln Riley is a busy man in the minutes leading up to an Oklahoma football game.

During stretch time about 30 minutes from kickoff, the coach will walk around to shake the hand of each player on the field. He will do it again prior to Saturday’s 11 a.m. game against Kansas.

“I just kind of had to find out a little pattern, always start in the same place,” Riley said during a Thursday Zoom call. “And you have to kind of get to know the timing. You actually spend a little bit more time with each player on the road because we only have 70 there, whereas at home, we can have quite a bit more so I have to hustle a little quicker.

“But it’s fun. It’s just a ritual, you just have a chance to connect individually with each guy and if they’re out there on that field and dressed, we’re counting on them and they’re counting on me. It’s just one more kind of a bit of reassurance that we’re in it together and ready to go.”

Woods making impact

Michael Woods has 25 receptions this season, which ranks second on the roster.

The graduate transfer from Arkansas is on pace to clear his current career high of 33 catches in a season.

His 59-yard catch from Caleb Williams in the TCU win is OU’s longest pass play this season.

After Theo Wease suffered an injury in fall camp, Woods’ importance grew.

“He’s emerged. He’s really come on. He’s kind of been like Eric Gray, man, had a great attitude the whole way,” Riley said. “As far as bringing in a transfer and somebody from another program into ours, man, couldn’t ask for more. He’s been a team-first guy.

“He’s been great for our young guys. So I think that’s worked out well for everybody. I think that was a great get for us. He’s definitely made a big impact on this team, even more than just the balls he’s caught and plays he’s made.”

Staying consistent

Oklahoma and Texas will depart to the Big 12 in a few years.

Riley was asked if he has noticed anything different from Big 12 officials, the conference office or fans or if everything is business as usual.

“The people we deal with the most, the conference officiating crews and head of officials, have both been great. It’s just like normal. We’ve had great communication with them,” Riley said. “The officials have done a really good job and it’s been great. As far as being on the road with fans, they hated us before and they still hate us. Which is good. And it’s fun. That pretty much feels the same.”

Close to normal

Oklahoma will play its second true road game this season when it plays in Lawrence.

While COVID really limited things during trips last season, rules are loosening up.

The team still wears masks in meetings. When eating meals, it’s bench seating compared to circle tables. If players meet with families, they are encouraged to do it outside or spread out in a lobby. There’s no mingling in public places.

“On the planes — we don’t have to wear the shield anymore, thank God, that was awful,” Riley said. “We had to wear masks and shields last year, now it’s just the mask which is way, way better. Other than that, I can’t think of anything else that’s different than what we’ve always done.”

On the call

Saturday’s 11 a.m. game at Kansas will be broadcast on ESPN.

Calling the Big 12 game will be Mark Jones (play-by-play), Robert Griffin III (analyst) and Quint Kessenich (sideline).

Oklahoma will be looking for its 17th consecutive victory over the Jayhawks.

— Eric Bailey, Tulsa World

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