Closing Time's Not Been Sooners' Time

NORMAN, Okla. – It's no secret that the fourth quarter is the No. 9 Sooners' biggest weakness. In seven games, they have been outscored 67-30 in the fourth quarter and lost against Missouri in large part because they gave up 16 unanswered points to start the final frame.

OU has been shut out twice in the fourth quarter and has outscored its opponent only once, in the shutout victory against Iowa State.

Obviously, the Sooners have to do something to change their fourth-quarter ways, and that is starting with a change in how they practice, said head coach Bob Stoops.

"We'll try to change up some of our practice in some of the good-on-good stuff that we do," Stoops said. "Try to emphasize it more at the end of practice just for that kind of emphasis at the end of the game. Playing better, playing at our best."

The changes Stoops mentioned included ending practice by playing the first-team offense against the first-team defense. The two squads lined up and played out various fourth-quarter and third-down situations set up by the coaches, trying to simulate different scenarios the Sooners could find themselves in at the end of games.

"We're doing work competing," said redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Gabe Ikard. "We're focusing on finishing practice hard, like we need to finish games. And the way we finish some games has been unacceptable.

"That's why we've been in some close games, and that's why we didn't finish a close game especially in a hostile environment on the road."

And like in a game, there was a punishment for losing. The squad that lost had to stay a little after practice and do extra running. The running is not killer, as Ikard said, but it drives home the point of finishing off games.

"It's nothing big," Ikard said. "It's just a reminder that you need to finish games, finish practice and play hard."

Although the running is not difficult, the drills and punishment help show the players that every play matters, said redshirt sophomore quarterback Landry Jones.

The Sooners' next opponent, the Colorado Buffaloes, have not been impressive in the fourth quarter this year either. The Buffaloes have been outscored 57-24 and have been shut out five times in the fourth quarter, so OU has a chance to put together that well-played fourth quarter that it has been focusing on in practice.

Still, no matter how poor the other team may be in the fourth quarter, the Sooners have to prove they can play well in the quarter before anyone will know if the new drills have been beneficial.

"In the end you still have to be able and go out in the fourth quarter and do it," Stoops said. "We'll try to make some adjustments in practice just to emphasize it more."

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