Those of us that follow sports know that when coaches review game film the play of their team was neither as good or as bad as first thought on gameday.
That is the case after the Sooner coaching staff reviewed film of their 41-27 win over North Carolina. For three-quarters, the prevailing thought is that the Sooners played very well, but the fourth quarter is one that the Sooners would love to forget.
"We played really well for three quarters. Just about as well as we can," said Co-Defensive Coordinator Mike Stoops.
"However, in the fourth quarter we broke down and our play dropped considerably. I think we got a little bit tired and without question, we had a letdown. That could be because of fatigue or lack of concentration, and you have to give North Carolina some credit. They were playing very hard in the fourth quarter."
The Sooners were playing fastbreak football in the first half jumping out to a 24-0 lead before Julius Peppers' interception put the Tar Heels on the, board. The Sooners converted every Tar Heel turnover and Antwone Savage proved that he would be the next great kick returner for the Sooners with his 88-yard return.
However, the Sooners were so busy on kick coverage and special teams early in the game and their adrenaline was running so high that they couldn't catch their breath.
"We were covering kickoffs and catching punts a lot early, but that is always part of the game," said Mike Stoops.
"Our guys are in great shape, so I just think they got caught up in the game a little bit. As coaches we need to do a better job of keeping up with how much some of our key guys are playing on special teams and what they have been doing on special teams."
"Our wide receiver corp couldn't get their legs underneath them in the first half," said Offensive Coordinator Mark Mangino.
"All of those guys play on special teams and it seems like they were racing downfield on kickoff coverage and returning punts so much that when they got into the huddle they didn't have their legs under them. It's a good problem to have, in that they are good football players and have earned a spot on our special teams. Here at Oklahoma that is quite an honor for a player, because we play many of our best players on special teams. However, we need to be careful of who is in the game at wide receiver after a couple of quick sprints on special teams, so that we can get new receivers into the game that can run our deep routes and get separation."
What is unusual about the fourth quarter lapse is that it wasn't the reserves that were causing the problem.
"For three-and-a-half quarters we played outstanding football on defense, but there were four or five plays that we played like they were mentally and physically tired," said Co-Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables.
"I don't know why they played tired, but the good thing is that it was our star guys and we can get them corrected. We can remind them that they can't take plays off and they need to play hard all the time. They understand that anyway and have demonstrated that many times before, but sometimes great athletes need to be reminded of the small things that keep them sharp and on edge. The way we played defense in the fourth quarter just wasn't right and they know it and will work to correct it."
Rocky Calmus, Derrick Strait, Tommie Harris, Roy Williams and Brandon Everage were credited with playing well on defense. Safety's Matt McCoy and Brandon Shelby came off the bench and played well in dime coverage. McCoy made a couple of mental errors, but those are easily corrected. Shelby is outstanding at disguising when he is going to blitz and then getting to the quarterback. Antonio Perkins gave a good performance in his first action at cornerback.
On offense, despite not moving the ball consistently, there were some individuals that stood out.
"Frank Romero had an outstanding game and if not for one mistake, their All-American Julius Peppers wasn't heard from," said Mangino.
"Howard Duncan and Josh Smith had solid games. We were a little shaky at offensive guard, but we came out of the game OK and will be better for it. 'Q' (Quentin Griffin) played well in all phases of the game. Our wide receivers played better than we thought and were open down field, but we have to do a better job of getting the ball to them. At quarterback, overall they play well and went through a good learning experience. I believe you will see a significant improvement in our quarterbacks in game two."
Now the Sooner coaches and players have something to work on. Real game film and a winning game film to boot. However, it wasn't a perfect win and that will be a good thing as the Sooners get ready to play Air Force.
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