Stoops answers tough questions after loss

Head Coach Bob Stoops talked with the media in-depth earlier this week about the key moments and coaching decisions in Oklahoma's 21-14 loss to LSU. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

During a a mini-press conference Monday afternoon with a selected few following the Sooners Sugar Bowl loss, Bob Stoops had more time to talk about Oklahoma's 21-14 loss to LSU in the Sugar Bowl.

MEDIA: Your defense played pretty well against LSU, but is it safe to say that the loss of Mike (Stoops) during the two most important games of the year could be classified as no worse than at least no harm done? And can anything be done to restructure the schedule where teams don't have to face the loss of a key coach on the staff?

BS: "I don't believe that it was a factor in how we played. We have a lot of experience in our coaching staff and on our defense, and those guys have played a ton. Plus, in going into the game in the Big 12 Championship Mike was still coaching. I don't believe that had any effect on us. Now, I could see it if we were out there busting assignments and giving up plays because guys were out of position. Then I might agree with you, but that didn't happen. Antonio Perkins has the go-route played about as well as you can play it (against Kansas State) and the ball is under thrown and their guy comes back and makes a great play on it. That is not Mike's fault and it is not the kids' fault. Their guy made a great play and that happens in games. Sunday night I thought our positioning, outside of tackling early, we were where we were supposed to be. So, I don't believe that was a factor. And in the end, in our last two games our offensive point production went down and he has nothing to do with that. I don't believe that is a factor, but is there anything that can be done about it. So, I would say no if they don't move the recruiting calendar."

MEDIA: Would you like to see them move the recruiting calendar?

BS: "No, that is one of those things that you have to be careful what you wish for. Those basketball guys have a split signing period and those guys recruit the entire year. Maybe a possibility of starting in January after the bowl games and award shows could work. Then people wouldn't be in such a rush to hire guys and they could wait until the coaches convention, which is right now. I really don't know how it would work. And to be honest, I don't know what the right answer is. It sounds good to start in January, but I am sure the next guy wouldn't want it that way. It is something that you just have to deal with."

MEDIA: How can your team improve for next season?

BS: "Hopefully we will just keep getting stronger with more players available to play and with the players that are back. We will have another year of experience and will be bigger and stronger. We should be a little more powerful, or at least that is what you hope for."

MEDIA: How do you feel the last two games will impact the team for next season?

BS: "Hopefully, it will make them more determined, or at least you would think it would."

MEDIA: What was the main thing you learned from this year's Sugar Bowl experience?

BS: "It is a lot more fun to win."

MEDIA: You said that as coaches you could have made some other decision that might have made a difference in the outcome of the game, but you didn't get specific with you comments, why is that?

BS: "I am not going to sit here and criticize my coaches, but I wanted to bring it up because I wanted our players to know that it wasn't just them that lost the game."

MEDIA: Will you go through the game thoroughly to see what went wrong, or will you push it aside and just look forward to a new season?

BS: "We always go back and critique what we have done, good or bad."

MEDIA: A lot of us labeled this team the greatest of all time. Then your team got so many awards, so at some time does that start weighing negatively on the team, because doesn't the team at some point start believing some of this stuff?

BS: "I am not going to agree with that, because again it sounds like you are making excuses. In the end, it sure doesn't help you, but a better way of saying it is that it certainly doesn't help things go in your favor. It is amazing anymore, they are out of hand, the number of awards, but well I guess that isn't true and I guess they are OK."

MEDIA: The award schedule or your schedule during that time is unbelievable during that time isn't it?

BS: "Oh, it is unbelievable at that time of year. We are out recruiting, going to awards shows and also getting ready for a National Championship game, and it seems that things become more and more a production."

MEDIA: Is it really tough on you?

BS: "That doesn't matter and our players weren't practicing anyway. We were off that week and it is just a matter of handling things. I am fine, but that is not a factor in what happened in the game. As far as those awards go, I know our kids and each one of them would have given each one of them back in exchange of winning the National Championship. I guarantee they would, but again you are asking if the awards take away your edge, and I don't know. However, it probably doesn't help it and it sure make you feel like a lousy coach when you got all that and you can't win."

MEDIA: Do you have a timetable when you might hire your secondary coach?

BS: "No, I never do. I will probably make that announcement within a week."

MEDIA: Is Bo Pelini your leading candidate, and are you waiting to see what happens to him at Nebraska?

BS: "I don't know, but I can tell you that I am not waiting on anybody. I have a couple of other guys that are awfully good that I have known for sometime. So, that isn't necessarily true. There is a lot of dynamics to it that you have to fit."

MEDIA: What did you think of your fans at the game?

BS: "Our fans were fantastic, and I need to say that. They really helped us in the game and I really appreciated their efforts. I heard our people the entire game and our people made every bit as much noise as their fans did. We never felt that we were overwhelmed by the crowd. I don't feel that it was a factor as much as their defense was."

MEDIA: On defense, when you struggling, was it due to poor tackling?

BS: "In that first run we have a guy right there to make a tackle and he misses it. Then the other touchdown we are right in position and those two plays put us behind the eight ball and forced us to play catch-up. It just takes some pressure off of them and that is why I say that sometimes there is really a small margin in winning and losing. Outside of those two plays or that one drive, we played a heck of a defensive game. Plus, you had two turnovers taken away because of foolish penalties. I don't know about the interference, but I know Dan (Cody) was off-sides, because it was right in front of me. What did you do, and they scored after it."

MEDIA: Nick Saban said to his fans that they didn't want to know what he was thinking, because he was already thinking about how they were going to get back to this same spot next year. Is that just him or is that how coaches think in general?

BS: "That is probably coaches in general and how we think. We are always on to the next game or the next challenge. We are always thinking about what is in front of us."

MEDIA: Are you already on the next thing or are you taking a couple of days off?

BS: "I am on my way to the coach's convention later today, so you start thinking about it. You start thinking about what your spring is going to be like and what talent you have back and where you are headed."

MEDIA: Does it hurt to lose a title game like this, because you never think you are going to lose?

BS: "Yeah, it does. I remember talking to Coach (Barry) Switzer I think last year, and we were talking about his three National Championships and our one. I marveled at the fact that he has played for a total of six, because I didn't realize he had played in that many National Championship games. I said to him that ‘you are kidding me, that you really played for six?' You could tell the surprise on my face when I said ‘You only have three." He started laughing at me and said to me that, 'you're young...' and I won't tell you what he called me, and he said ‘you think everytime you get in one you are going to win it, just because you are one-for-one?' It crossed my mind leaving the field that they are not easy to come by, and when you get to them you need to play with your ‘A' game, and you need to be sharp. We didn't do that with the penalties and the few missed tackles early. Our offense was just off a little bit here and there, and even with that we were still fighting for it until the end. You are not going to win usually when that happens."

MEDIA: Do the penalties and mistakes hurt even more than the loss itself?

BS: "Yeah, because you don't feel like we played as well as we did all season. When is the last time that we had 11 penalties? I could see that if we were leading the league in penalties, but we're one of the three all year in fewest penalties. Why that happens, who knows?"

MEDIA: In the second half, especially after Brodney Pool's interception, you really ran the ball well. What was the difference in the running game at that point?

BS: "I am not sure what turned things around for us in the running game, but once we got it going and got down to toward the goal line we probably should have run the ball another time or two. I know we threw four straight passes, but in that series the way that we were running at the time we probably should have kept running it. But that doesn't mean that you are going to score. You are still going to have to throw it at some point."

MEDIA: You mentioned that your defense played real well except for the two touchdown runs, but wouldn't you say that the defense didn't play well on their scoring drive after you scored?

BS: "Yes, and that hurt. That was a bad series for us. We started off with the initial deep pass as we didn't get lined up correctly. Nobody would notice it and it looked like it was a great play on their part, but if we had executed the play like we were supposed it then it would have helped us stop the play. So, they start off with a deep pass for about 15 yards and that gets them out of a hole, and then they picked up a couple of key third downs. We just got caught squeezing the receiver and letting him get outside of us. Then at the end, we missed a tackle for a touchdown. Sure, that was a factor too as we had the momentum back and we come out let them go on a drive and get the momentum back."

MEDIA: Whether right or wrong, OU's reputation took a hit the final month of the season. Does it bother you that some people now feel that your program is not as good as it was early in the season?

BS: "No, not at all. If you play enough you are not going to win them all. I disagree with you guys that our reputation is not pretty good. The bottom line is that as soon as you lose it always falls, and the only way to not lose is to not play anymore. You keep playing and you are going to have your ups and downs, but we will have more wins than losses. You can't worry about that, and the only thing you can do is keep fighting and trying to do it again."

MEDIA: Are you better at losing than most of your coaching brethren?

BS: "I don't know. I am not much of a pouter ,and I look at it as what is done is done. If you don't like it then you try to learn from it and move on. Plus, I am not going to show you guys how much it hurts. That doesn't do a guy any good either."

MEDIA: Will you experiment in the spring with ways to get Mark Clayton more involved in the offense?

BS: "We are already doing that. We did that in Kansas City as well. What you have to be careful of is that your offense doesn't become totally dependent on one guy. When we have always been the most effective is when the ball has been spread all over the place and everybody is involved. Then defenses have to defend all over the field and everybody out there. It sounds good, but that is not always the answer."

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