OU football: Javon Harris plans to avenge last year's poor performance
Evin Morrison, The Oklahoma Daily
It took just two plays to give Baylor its first win against Oklahoma in school history; two plays to all but guarantee Robert Griffin III the Heisman Trophy; two plays to officially dash any remaining hopes the Sooners had of a national championship.
Two plays to deliver Sooner fans the scapegoat they so desperately wanted for the collapse of an entire defense.
During OU’s 45-38 loss to Baylor last season, two plays — touchdown passes of 69 and 87 yards — transformed the perception of senior safety Javon Harris from a talented defensive back who picked off a pair of passes in a stifling defensive performance on the road against Florida State to the weak link on a secondary that couldn’t defend the deep ball.
In two plays, a shark became a minnow.
“(It’s been) a year’s worth of waiting,” senior safety Javon Harris said. “I know what happened last year… For a player like me, you can’t help but to look back.”
After Harris’ lapse against Baylor, he became the face of Oklahoma’s poor defensive play at the end of last season. He took the brunt of the sharp criticism that followed and became Exhibit A in the Sooner Nation v. Venables case against the complexity of OU’s defensive scheme.
“I don’t think it was any one person,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “I mean, everyone gets beat, but to put the blame on him, that’s not right. Last year’s in the past.”
No matter how harsh the criticism, no matter how scathing the comments, the close-knit clique of defensive backs circled the wagons to protect one of their own.
“First and foremost, it wasn’t all on Javon,” junior cornerback Aaron Colvin said. “It was all of us, because all of us had our days, our games. But Javon handled the criticism very well.”
Instead of cashing it in and quitting, Harris bounced back and used the Baylor game as motivation — watching it countless times to keep it fresh in his mind.
“Today, I was watching it in class,” Harris said Monday after practice. “I shouldn’t have been, but [I watched it anyway]. I watched yesterday when I came in the ice tubs, and I watched it today.
“Back in two-a-days, I used to watch the Baylor game every day and just use it as a confidence-builder and emotional boost. I know what happened.”
In fact, Harris said Mike Stoops told the whole defense to go back and watch the game to recognize what went wrong and reopen old wounds.
“I can tell you front, back, left, right of every call that happened that game,” Harris said. “For me, it’s going to be watching the game and really studying guys and really focus on what’s going on, focus on our game plan and play as well as we have been and work on getting better.”
Harris admits that last year’s game changed him, and Colvin agrees.
“It humbled him a lot, and I see the difference and the change in him,” Colvin said. “I see him out there going a lot harder in everything we do. He’s focusing on the little things, and I’m proud of what he did.”
Now a senior with a king–sized chip on his shoulder, Harris has proven last year’s game was just a fluke.
“I lost my (starting) spot after this one,” Harris said. “For me to come back where I’m at now and go into this game and just prove people wrong is what I’m going to do.”
This season, Harris leads the team with four interceptions and is second in tackles (40).
“He’s just improved,” Stoops said. “He’s a hard worker; he’s very conscientious. That’s what I really like and admire about the guy: He comes back and has really played well all year.
“That shows a lot of character, and I’m really happy he’s been able to get out there and play winning football for us.”
During the offseason, Stoops shuffled the defensive backfield — moving Harris to strong safety, Colvin back to corner and junior Tony Jefferson to free safety — to better harness the Sooners’ talent.
“[Javon] has a better feel over there (on the strong side),” Stoops said. “He’s played very well; I’ve been pleased with Javon. He’s got a lot of talent, and he can do all of the things we are asking him to do well.”
The man who once carried the blame for the defense’s late-season breakdown now personifies the collective chip on the Sooners’ shoulders. He’s become the poster boy for a defense with something to prove.
And so far this season, he’s played his part.
But when Baylor’s top-ranked offense comes to town, it’ll be the Sooners’ toughest test to date.
“Saturday, again, we can’t give up big plays like we did a year ago,” Stoops said. “That was the frustrating part, I think, of what we did a year ago. We’re going to have to try to keep the ball in front of us.”
And Harris is up for the challenge.
“When it comes to the Baylor game last year, we all know what happened,” Harris said. “It’s about going out here, proving people wrong with (what) their perceptions of me are and continue building on this year.”