In college football, a couple of things have become pretty commonplace.
First of all, you’re allowed one mulligan. No team is perfect but now you’re not eliminated for not being at your best every single game of the season. There’s one egg in there somewhere.
Secondly, the adage is true. If you’re going to lose during the season, do it early. Like real early. The later the loss, the more it resonates. Whether that’s fair or not is another story, it’s become fact.
Nobody thought by 3 p.m. CST Sept. 3, Oklahoma would already have both of those boxes checked. Inconsistency on its end combined with Houston being ready from the jump sees the Sooners out of the national conversation, at least for now in a 33-23 loss.
The now part is what you have to watch. When the first college football playoff rankings came out last year, OU wasn’t a factor. Win and watch it all turn around.
“It needs to set the tone,” offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said. “I hope it does. We’ve gotta respond. We told them in the locker room – this can either be the best thing that ever happened or the worst thing.
“We’ve gotta play better. We’ve gotta coach better. We know the blueprint for how to respond to a tough loss like this. But we’ve gotta go do it.”
OU does know the blueprint. It followed the 2014 Ohio State one last year to earn a spot in the college football playoff. Now? It will have to lean on what it did itself last year to make a run happen.
The unexpected part of Saturday had nothing to do with Houston’s physicality or quarterback Greg Ward playing so well in the passing game. No, the curiosity stems from the offense unable to get on track.
After rolling with 10 points in the first two drives, the Sooners actually went 36:32 of game play without scoring a point. More than two quarters with an offense of Baker Mayfield, Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine putting up a goose egg.
It did not compute then, and it’s still a tough pill for OU fans to swallow now.
Head coach Bob Stoops wasn’t as down in the dumps as you might think in the postgame press conference. You might even say he was upbeat or encouraged by the way his defense responded after getting hit in the mouth.
After allowing 337 yards to Houston in the first half, the OU defense only gave up 73 in the second half. Maybe game management by Cougars was different, but the Sooners started to figure out their answers albeit too late for it to mean anything at NRG Stadium.
“I thought the second half, we saw a lot of good things,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “Our run defense was really good. I was really proud of our guys. We knew they would try some blocking schemes that we prepared hard for.”
The good thing is OU will have plenty of chances in the next month to erase Sept. 3. It starts in less than two weeks when Ohio State comes to Norman.
The Sooners win there, and the national focus comes back into play. They’re all square. You say OU took its lumps vs. Cougars and figured out what it needed to do after that.
Texas beating Notre Dame in an instant classic in overtime Sunday might mean recruiting gets tougher but adds some sizzle to the annual Red River Rivalry. That’s never a bad thing.
Sandwiched in there is the battle in Fort Worth against TCU. OU can become a national player quickly once again in the next month. Or the season can fall off the rails. It all starts this Saturday against ULM in the first game with the renovated stadium.