Stoops, Sooners not looking past Mean Green

Oklahoma focused on the task at hand with this weekends tilt against North Texas in Norman

One big key to the Bob Stoops era has been teams ability to focus on the game that is in front of them. You would think there would be a tendency to look past North Texas and even Tulsa to start taking a peak at Kansas State. However, the Sooners don't work that way and they never will.

"I am not kidding when I say we take every game, no matter who are opponent is and we concentrate on that game only," said Stoops. "We respect all of our opponents and we respect North Texas. They play good defense and their middle linebacker is one of the very best we have seen. It doesn't matter if we are a heavy favorite or an underdog, we will not look past any opponent."

"At the very least we are always working on ourselves," Stoops continued. "I realize we are 2-0, but we can improve in every area of the football field. For example, we ran the ball pretty well against Air Force and the O-line had a pretty good day, but Coach (Mark) Mangino will tell you that he found a number of things that the O-line can do better. We are never going to be a perfect football team, but we are going to strive to be, so we can always work on ourselves to get better each and every practice."

When OU meets North Texas this Saturday in Norman the Sooners should be able to name the score. At press time, OU is a 40-point favorite and to this reporter that seems conservative. No matter how hard I try to give the Mean Green respect, I still don't see them scoring against the vaunted Sooner defense.

In North Texas' season opening 19-5 loss to TCU running, back Kevin Galbreath provided the only spark rushing for 112 yards on 20 carries. Galbreath became the first back in North Texas history to rush for over 100-yards in the first game. However, North Texas never came close to crossing into the end zone settling for a Jason Ball 26-yard field goal and a defensive safety.

Defensively, the Mean Green can be pretty mean. Last year Texas Tech beat North Texas only 13-7 and the Mean Green held the Red Raiders to only 318 yards of offense, 238 through the air. Middle linebacker Brad Kassell is an All-American and Lombardi award candidate who has made over 100 tackles the last two years. In the secondary free safety Jonus Buckles heads a secondary that can run and cover very well.

"We are a very young team, but we feel are talent is a little bit better than it has been in the past year or two," says North Texas Head Coach Darrell Dickey. "We feel like we have some pretty good players, but they are all very young and we lack experience. In the past we have lacked depth and overall talent across the board, but we feel we are getting better there."

"Brad leads our defense and he has played very good defense for us for a long time," continued Dickey. "Our defensive front four is very good at times. We are able to run eight or nine guys in there to keep players fresh. At linebacker, we're young, with the exception of Brad. Cody Spencer and Taylor Casey are sophomores that played some for us last year," continued Dickey.
"In the secondary, Don McGee was an all-conference corner for us last year and has come back and played pretty steadily. Jonus and Craig Jones are young guys at safety, but they played well for us. So, defensively we feel we played well this past Saturday and we feel we can play pretty well every Saturday."

It's apparent that the Mean Green feel they can be competitive on defense, but can they on offense? North Texas only averaged 14 points per game last year and they didn't offer much hope for this year by scoring five points in their season opener.

"Once again we are very young and we struggled at times against TCU," said Dickey. "At times we did block people and we blocked some things correctly. We made some yards running the ball, but throwing the ball we were horrendous. It's a combination of things. We are not a good pass protection team right now, all of our receivers are inexperienced and our quarterback started his tenth game Saturday. Because it was a defensive battle, we were a little conservative and didn't try to beat ourselves. We were in the game late, but they put two field goals on the board late and we weren't able to do anything offensively."

TCU's defense is very good, but the Horned Frogs aren't as good as the Sooners. Oklahoma's defense is getting recognition coast-to-coast as one of the very best in the nation, if not the best. Thus, you figure that North Texas can't score leaving it up to the Sooner offense to get the blowout. Or, considering how the Sooner defense scores every week, maybe it's not totally up to the Sooner offense.

All week the Sooners have continued to work on getting the ball down field. Quarterback Nate Hybl continues to expand his looks as he is working to include all of the Sooners options on offense.

With Will Peoples back in good stead at wide receiver, the competition has picked up between he and Brandon Jones for the final spot in the rotation. Both are good, young receivers with loads of talent.

Andre Woolfolk will play more offense than defense this week as Sooner secondary coach Mike Stoops gains more confidence in redshirt sophomore Antonio Perkins.

Antwone Savage caught the ball very well in practice this week after dropping two passes against Air Force. Curtis Fagan is ready to break out along with Josh Norman and Damien Mackey. There isn't a lot of room for Peoples or Jones, thus the competition is tight for the final spot.

All the receivers have spent extra time this week catching extra balls. The jug guns have been going great full-speed and for the most part the receivers did well. Coach Stoops hasn't been totally happy with the receivers and he has let them know about it. That group doesn't like it when the headman begins to chirp at them, so expect a big game out of the Sooner wide receivers corp.

Defensive end Dan Cody and defensive tackle Juan Prishker are the only two players among the two-deep to miss the North Texas game due to injury. Both players are expected back for Tulsa.

This game is a total mismatch in every way, no matter how you try to sugarcoat it. The fact that OU won't look past North Texas doesn't do the Mean Green any favors. The Sooners have a solid game plan ready for the Mean Green and this one is a route already. OU can name the score and 64-0 sounds about right.

All-time series
The Sooners lead the all-time series against the Mean Green 4-0 and have won the last three meetings by an average of 40.5 points per game. Oklahoma won the last meeting between the two teams 38-9 on Sept. 5, 1998 in Norman.


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