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Hybl Does Some of His Best Work Outside Spotlight

Times Staff Writer

Squinting in the glare of a Southern California afternoon, his team just finished with practice, Oklahoma quarterback Nate Hybl said he doesn’t mind playing in the shadows.

The senior from Hazlehurst, Ga., ranks as one of the top passers in school history and owns a 19-3 record as a starter over the last two seasons.

But in the Big 12 Conference, these accomplishments pale in the glare of hype that surrounds Texas quarterback Chris Simms, not to mention a glitzy season from Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury.

Now that the Sooners have reached the Rose Bowl, Hybl finds himself playing second fiddle to his Washington State counterpart, Jason Gesser.

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“I’m used to it,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me at all.”

But he wonders aloud if his statistics are so much different from Gesser’s. This season, Hybl completed 57% of his passes with 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Gesser finished at 60% with 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

The yardage isn’t as close -- Gesser with 3,169 to Hybl’s 2,298. Gesser also has a better pass efficiency rating.

Some of Hybl’s numbers have been limited because Oklahoma runs the ball more often, averaging almost 60 additional yards on the ground. Washington State has made no secret about focusing on Oklahoma running back Quentin Griffin come New Year’s Day.

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Not that Hybl should take it personally.

“It’s always our goal to make the quarterback beat us because we feel we have great cornerbacks and safeties,” Cougar defensive end Isaac Brown said.

No offense taken.

“I know I’ve won a lot of games,” Hybl said. “I would think they’re preparing for me.”

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Coach Bob Stoops and his brother Mike, the defensive coordinator, have enjoyed quite a run at Oklahoma, taking the Sooners to four consecutive bowl games and winning a national championship since their arrival in 1999.

But, statistically, they can’t hold a candle to their younger brother.

Mark Stoops has been the defensive backs coach at Miami the last two seasons, during which the top-ranked Hurricanes are undefeated.

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“He hasn’t lost a game and he lives on the water,” Bob Stoops said. “It’s all downhill from there.”

The Sooners had a busy Sunday, visiting City of Hope Medical Center in the morning, gathering for a team photo on the Rose Bowl field around midday, then holding a closed practice in the afternoon.

Stoops wants his players to enjoy themselves but reminded them, “The best part is the game. Playing well, that’s what you remember the most.”

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The Sooners spent Friday afternoon at Disneyland, and after a few hours in the Magic Kingdom during peak holiday season, offensive line coach Kevin Wilson was ready for some football.

“I’ve got five kids and I kept looking around, ‘Where’s this one? Where’s that one?’ ” Wilson said. “Coaching the game will be easier than trying to keep track of five kids on a crowded day at Disneyland.”


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