Stoops: "We're in a strong position"

Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops talked about OU's win over Baylor, the Big 12 Championship game, the BCS and much, much more at his weekly press conference Tuesday in Norman. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Below are excerpts from Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops' weekly press conference Tuesday in Norman.

On Baylor
"It was pleasing to finish out with a strong game against an improved Baylor team. I believe they're doing an excellent job there. To come out and play as we did was pleasing to finish that way.

"Some guys that really played well that we recognized as coaches and got game balls — on offense Adrian Peterson, Bubba Moses, J.D. Runnels. Those guys just really played well. And Kejuan Jones was also recognized as a player of the game. Defensively, we recognized Brodney Pool and Larry Birdine as players of the game.

"Really a solid day. It put us in a position to finish out the regular season undefeated the second straight year and in position to pursue championships. Right now the Big 12 Championship is first, and that's what we're after.

"This week what we'll do is work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. We'll look at both Colorado and Iowa State and get a feel for what they like to do, but compete against each other in practice trying to stay sharp and keep our sense of timing and flow, and take Thursday, Friday and Saturday off for Thanksgiving. The players are looking forward to spending time with their families and resting a little bit. We'll come back Sunday and get back starting with our scouting report and getting back into game week looking at whoever will be representing the North.

"We're excited about it. Our players are looking for to having an opportunity to win a championship. We're anxious to go compete for it here in another week."

On OU controlling their own destiny toward getting to the Orange Bowl
"I don't know if anybody's totally comfortable with it. I believe we're in a strong position if we continue to play well. We need to win the Big 12 Championship, as opposed to a year ago when we had accomplished so much with strength of schedule and the way we competed a year ago, we were convinced we didn't have to win. It was obvious we didn't have to win to be in it, so that is different this year, which is good. The fact that we have to win it to put ourself in a position to compete for a national championship, we recognize that.

"I think what's coming into effect is the fact that our strength of schedule is making a difference. No, it's not the same difference it would've been a year ago but it's still making a difference. When all things are pretty equal or close, it gets down to what do you separate each of us by? We still have games to play — us and Auburn the championship game and SC two games. We still have work to do. If it ended up where we were all undefeated it wouldn't be right for whoever is out. It would be a tough situation because I think there's great arguments for each of us and very little argument against any of us. That's just the way it is."

On the defense being ranked in the top 15
"Actually, higher than that. I believe we're in the top 10 in scoring defense in the country and No. 1 in the Big 12, and that's what matters. I feel great about the way our defense is playing. You look through the entire season, we held seven of the 11 teams to zero or one touchdown. We're going to win a lot of games around here if we hold people to zero or one touchdown through the course of a game.

"Everyone wants to look at the two games where we gave up a couple big passes. If you go through the course of 11 games it happens on occasion. To me, what magnified it more were the special teams miscues in the same game. We gave up in back-to-back games four touchdowns on special teams, whether it's a fake or we're muffing or dropping a punt that's right in our hands. Look at what they've done through the entire year.

"Getting Antonio (Perkins) back the last two games has been a big boost. He's a great player, we've know that all along, not just as a return man. He's a great cornerback. We're 8th or 9th in the country in scoring defense. That's pretty good."

On why the offense is on pace for a record-low in turnovers
"Guys have been very responsible with the football. They've done an excellent job of taking care of it and not being careless with it. We do emphasize it, but I appreciate the players attention to detail that way that they're going to be responsible with the football. That's what the whole game is about. You've got to be responsible for it when you have it, and they have been."

On the pass rush getting seven sacks against Baylor
"Very pleased. We've had excellent pressure through our entire D-line. You look at the sacks across the entire Big 12, and I think we have three of the four sack leaders with Jonathan Jackson, Dan Cody and Larry Birdine. Those three guys are great, great players and get to the quarterback. Lynn McGruder's had a great year. And Carl (Pendleton), for a redshirt freshman, has been more than solid. Those other guys coming in there and helping them have been solid. They help push the pocket. All those guys work together. One guy's chasing him to another guy. The one guy that gets the sack gets all the credit, but usually there's somebody else that's started chasing them to somebody else. They work well together."

On if they're watching film of Iowa State and Colorado
"Sure. We'll study and look at them both and analyze what's similar and what isn't. We'll spend more time I think trying to go each at other sharpening ourselves up. We have time with Sunday getting on it (Big 12 preparation) and working from there."

On having a week off prior to the Big 12 title game being an advantage
"That can be debated, whether it's an advantage or not. It comes at a great time for us. We've been through this 11 straight,the focus on all the BCS been No. 2 in the country the entire year. Whether you're one or two, it's fair to say people have got you circled and are shooting at you and you usually get their best. We've gone though it all. This weekend and our guys get a chance to let their breath out and regroup and come back strong on Sunday. I get a sense that they're looking forward to it."

On if his comments last week got people around the country taking another look at USC being ranked No. 1
"I don't know whether it did or not. To me, my only regret is it takes too much attention off of what these players have done and what this team has done this entire season. Their work and how they've played is what should be talked about."

On if the Auburn-OU debate will help motivate the players for the Big 12 Championship game
"I would believe so. I would believe they understand they still have something to prove and go after. It doesn't help you when people are saying all those other things about you. I would think it helps."

On the Big 12 title game having a history of upsets
"Usually when you're playing in championship games both teams are awfully good, and that's what happens. You get two out there that are very good, and I think that got overlooked a year ago. Kansas State had won eight straight games. The games they lost they were without their starting quarterback, or just got him back the first week. When you get two really good teams they're both capable of making big plays and you've got to be on top of your game if you're going to have an opportunity to win."

On if he's for or against playing in a conference title game
"For it (laughs) because we're playing in it here in another week. I don't have much choice but to be for it, do I (laughs)?"

On if he thinks OU will play another regular season game after Thanksgiving
"I'm sure with TV contracts that will happen at some point, or will have to at some point. You don't hear much about that anymore after the last two years playing in the regular season when it's all still on the line and ESPN College Gameday has been here. It's taken nothing away from the attention of the state of Oklahoma. Here it is another year in another week to be looking at the Big 12 Championship. We've been in that position four of the last five years, so that is different than maybe some other people. In the end, I don't see where it's to our advantage to play then compare to where it's been. The attention's been there playing when we've played it. But there will be times with different contracts that we will have too, and that will be OK."

On bringing Garrett Hartley out of redshirt
"We just felt it was necessary. We had been more than patient. We felt the position we were in that points were too critical and championships are out there that we've got a legitimate shot for, and felt at this point this strengthened our team. We needed to do it and Garrett wanted to do it, so we went with it."

On if he thinks the squabble with ESPN is over now that he's got his comments out
"Hopefully, because the attention should be on the players and their accomplishments. I've said it many times, we all have strong cases for us and little against us. And that means everybody. Everybody that's up there undefeated, even throw Utah and Boise in there, it's not easy to do what they've done. There are a lot of opinions about us as coaches, and right or wrong people are free to express them however they feel they need to. And the same should be fine for us as coaches to have an opinion about why someone or a group of people have something to say. You should have the right to express that. I'm entitled to my opinion as well as anybody else is. Mine doesn't have to be any more than there's. We should be entitled to express our opinions on if they're speaking on opinions, not facts. My intentions in games are questioned quite frequently, and that's OK. That's part of the business. But again, we as coaches ought to have the ability to express our opinions about what they're expressing their opinions on."

On if the criticism has taken away what the team has accomplished this year
"Not really. I don't believe that. I think it's fair to say being 11-0 is special. We realize it. We've got championships out in front of us that we have a chance to pursue, and that's what we're going to keep trying to do. For me, I can handle it. That doesn't bother me. I'm willing to put myself out there and take it. It doesn't effect what we're doing. Again, I should be entitled to mine just like someone else is entitled to there's. We'll just keep moving on and do our best to put ourself in a position to win a Big 12 championship first."

On him not having to motivate the team much for the Big 12 title game after what happened last year
"I shouldn't have to say much, sure. They're all very aware of the position we were in a year ago and didn't finish the way we wanted. Hopefully, we can get ourself in a position and play better than we did a year ago and coach better and give ourself an opportunity to win it."

On the teams' slogan to 'Finish' this season
"They felt we were a better team than the way we finished a year ago and they want to finish it out this year playing better than they did."

On if he likes the 'plus one' idea of the top two teams playing in a title game after the Bowl season
"Again, it gets down to players and their time. After these bowl games our players get about one week to go home when everyone else has been home for three or four weeks for Christmas and the holiday break. It's a time element and our presidents and athletic directors, and even us as coaches are sensitive to that. There's a lot to consider. It sounds good. There's some merit for it, I'm not going to act like there isn't. And especially if this scenario holds true where we're at right now if everyone does remain undefeated, there would be more reason to talk about it and try and work it. Will it happen? I don't know. Again, I think the issue's with the time commitment of these players is what's out there that the presidents and AD's and all of us may not feel that we can do it."

On what they can do to see how Hartley will react to the pressure of having to make a clutch kick
"I can't put 80,000 people out there, 85,000 in our case, just to come watch him practice. You just practice. He's been very consistent, strong through practice. He's got a great track record and background through high school. Not that that equates to the to the crowds and pressure that's here, but I think mechanically and his skill, I trust he'll be able to execute in a good way."

On how strong a leg Hartley has
"He's strong. He's capable of 50 (yards) and a little more."

On Steve Spurrier coming back to College Football
"Has that been announced yet? Ask me tomorrow. I can't steal coaches thunder, not that I would anyway. He'll have something to say about it and I can respond once I've seen it."

On if he gives the players special instructions on what not to do or what to eat when they game home for Thanksgiving
"Be careful how you drive, buckle up. It scares me all these kids on the road. You actually think they're going to listen to me if I tell them not to eat too much? These are bright guys. They'll take care of thereself. We'll check them out on Sunday when they get back, believe me."

On if there's a special Thanksgiving tradition his family does every year.
"Just eat turkey like everybody else. That's about it. Like a Kennedy football game or something? (laughs) Back in Ohio we used to do that, but I'm not there anymore."


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