Stoops: "We are not that far off"

See inside for a transcript of OU head coach Bob Stoops' weekly press conference Tuesday in Norman. Stoops recaps the Sooners loss to UCLA, Rhett Bomar's emergence at quarterback, Paul Thompson's move to receiver and much, much more.

Below are excerpts from Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops' weekly press conference Tuesday in Norman.

Opening Statement

"Another disappointing loss last week here to UCLA — a good, solid football team. We went out there to UCLA and the Rose Bowl, an excellent place to play, and really just made too many mistakes to give ourselves an opportunity to win.

"The biggest issue — as you watch the game — to me the major factors that really led to points that add up yards, that increase time of possession, it all goes back to turnovers. When we have the ball on the ground the number of times we did and lose three of them, you're opportunity to win, especially away from home, decreases big time.

"We've got to do a better job in a few areas — just being responsible and taking care of the football. We've got to be better than that."

On the offense against UCLA

"The encouraging part is we did throw the football better. I thought Rhett (Bomar) and the quarterback play was solid for the most part, in that it he had some big runs, some big first down pickups running the option and different plays, as well as throwing the football.

"He threw it better, receivers caught it better and got open better. And to do that, at times we protected better. I feel like we are making progress, but we have to make it quicker and we've got to get some things done that way."

On the defense against UCLA

"I thought we were very good against the run game until the last drive, and that part of it isn't acceptable. To play so well the entire day and then to give up some yards there at the end isn't acceptable.

"Big factors in the game were the two turnovers that our defense forced that are taken away from you. Those are big factors in the game. When you have two turnovers that are going to put you in scoring position taken away, that's hard to overcome. That balances out some of the turnovers we have — have opportunities for points, more time of possession, more yards, and all of the sudden that's taken away and they add 15 yards on to where the ball was and give them back the ball. That's hard to overcome.

"Both of them, to me, were at critical times. The first is a 7-7 tie at the time and we got a chance when they fumble the snap to be in great position to score, we've got the wind behind our back.

"The second one it's a 10-point game and we had just lost the ball on fourth down and there's a chance to have great momentum, and then again it doesn't happen. Those are factors in the game that can't be denied.

"That's the part I want our team to know that we are not that far off. We'll get turnovers; we'll get those calls as we go through the year if we keep making them."

On the poor tackling

"We still needed to tackle better defensively. I think we gave up 130 yards after catches and that's too much yardage to give up after missed tackles.

"We've got to be better there, and we still have some busted assignments that are simple. If I'm covering a guy man to man and he releases and runs down the field, I go with him. That's fundamental, basic football that we can be better at. And that's what we've got to get across to our team.

"To me, the biggest factor is we can play smarter than we're playing and we can play harder. Our guys wanted to play; they were prepared to play. But we have to learn to play at a higher tempo than we're playing.

"We, as coaches, have to get that done. And that's what we're going to push to do here in the next few weeks. I think to, at times, we still definitely need to be more physical. Those are things that we have prided ourselves on here that we can be better at obviously, and need to be if we're going to have any chance to continue to improve as a team.

"I believe we will. I believe we're capable of it and we're going to push hard this week to get done."

On the kicking game

"The missed field goal hurt. That was a very makeable field goal that we didn't make. But the rest of the kicking game, when you look at punting the ball, has been very good. (Cody Freeby) averaged 45 yards.

"That's very good along with our kick coverage. We stopped them inside the 20 I think every time. Our punt cover units — they had the No. 1 return guy in the country — I think they got one yard through the whole day.

"We had some nice returns and we get a block or push in the back that all of the sudden nullifies it and brings it back. We've got to be more disciplined that way."

On off-week schedule

"We're going to work hard this week on our self. Everybody always wants to know what we're going to do this week — we're going to practice Monday through Saturday. We'll practice Saturday morning and then give them Saturday afternoon and Sunday off and be back at it Monday.

"We've got a lot of work to get done and we're going to work hard going against each other just trying to establish more discipline in all the areas that I just talked about it.

"We'll be on working our self and Kansas State as we go through the week."

On if they'll make any personnel changes before Kansas State

"Yeah, there's still guys there is competition with. In the secondary, there are still guys that need to step up and play better and compete harder and challenge more.

"We're going to give more opportunities as we go through this week and next week to see who's going to do what, as well as in the offensive line and really across the board.

"Offensively, there are receivers as well. There are some guys that need to step up and make some catches. We have a touchdown dropped as well. We've got to be able to make a catch in the end zone for a touchdown when it hits us in the hands.

"Across the board, we're going to keep having everybody compete. And we need to play at a better level."

On Rhett Bomar's presence in the huddle

"He hasn't been out there that long. In the first game, he didn't have that many opportunities, the second game he did. He's showing more confidence, he's more comfortable in this short amount of time, and that should only improve.

"He's capable of doing what we're asking, he's capable of making all the throws. It's just getting the confidence, the comfort and the time. Sometimes it isn't the quarterback, it's the time to throw it, the proper route.

"We saw great progress in one game and I think it will continue to improve.

On his demeanor in the huddle

"I think that will be the same thing. His demeanor in the huddle will improve. The players actually used to complain a little about hearing Jason, and everybody says they're hearing Rhett just fine. Everything in the huddle's been good."

On Paul Thompson's move to receiver and the possible injury factor in losing him as the backup quarterback

"It's not the ideal situation. I understand that, I'm fully aware of that. Selfishly, as a coach, if I am selfish and not concerned about my guys at all, then he just stays as a quarterback and that's it.

"I believe the fact that he's a junior and only has this year and next year left to play. What he's done for the program already coming out of his redshirt year to play for us because we had nobody else at the time to prepare, he's worked too hard here for me to sit here and not give him an opportunity to not get on the field more.

"That's just the way I am and our coaches are. And I think the team's excited about it.

"Yesterday, he made a play — we're in team and we're going against each other trying to pick up our tempo and we had a blitz drill going — he ran a fade route and I mean it looked like he'd been here forever at receiver.

"Rhett threw it up high, which is kind of neat Rhett throwing to him, he timed it perfectly — he's a high school 6-10 high jumper — and I mean he went up and took the ball away and looked great.

"And the team went crazy. They loved it and were excited about, because they see the excitement in him the fact that he's got that opportunity.

"I think, in the end, it will help us chemistry-wise as well. Not that the chemistry is bad, but I think they respect Paul as well and how hard he's worked. It gives him an opportunity to do something that excites him.

"That's the reasoning behind it. We feel the progress Rhett made in one game, the fact that he's a redshirt freshman and what the potential is — that we have to keep developing that. That's the other part of it."

On how much the other receivers' struggles had to do with the decision to move Thompson

"That had nothing to do with the decision. No matter what the situation was, we want to give him the opportunity to get on the field more.

"He'll still work (at quarterback). Just like yesterday, he comes in at certain times and take three or four snaps like he had been doing at quarterback just to keep up with it. But we're going to continue to give him more (reps) at receiver.

"He's not going to be getting hit at practice. He's still got a blue jersey on, but we don't hit any of our receivers at practice though. We challenge for the ball, but nobody is in there taking kill shots at our guys in practice.

"Anyway, in the end I think it's the right thing to do and that's how we're going to go. How soon he'll contribute? We'll see. Hopefully fairly soon."

On if Bomar will be able to learn how to avoid taking hits when running with the ball

"Yeah, he can. There's no question we don't want him taking the hits that he took. I think that's part of the experience as well — learning how to get out of the way, how to not take the impact correctly.

"In fact, Coach Wilson brought it up to pull out some tape of Brad Smith and Vincent Young and how these guys who run quite at bit, step out of bounds, slid quite a bit. Just slide out of the way at the last second and avoid the square hits. Hopefully, that's something I think he'll learn and learn quick as he goes to not take all those hits.

"I think the first one he knew he was only a couple yards short of making a first down, which you can appreciate, but he has to be careful of that."

On if Bomar was still trying to prove his toughness to the team

"I think he's competitive. I think he wants to show the team how tough he is, and he is. But we don't need to see that over and over. The players know he is.

"The good part about it is I think our players take notes that the guy is tough, will go after it and isn't afraid of anything. A lot of guys, you have to demonstrate that before everybody believes you."

On if Reggie Smith has improved enough catching punts in practices to get a shot at it during the game

"I'm going to have a guy back there that I see catch the ball all the time in practice. Lendy (Holmes) demonstrated that all throughout practice, but hasn't done it in the games. Jejuan Rankins does hit, but he's had a bad ankle.

"Reggie needs to do it better in practice before I put him back there in a game. That's the bottom line. Not until I see it over and over and over that the ball's secure. That's what needs to happen.

"I'll take a guy that can't go anywhere with that's just going to catch it."

On if Smith has improved catching punts in practice

"Yes and no. It's still not as consistent as it needs to be. He has ability. He played the whole game at safety and has potential to be a great return guy. You see it in the kick-off returns.

"Hopefully that will continue to progress where you see him catching it all the time and has not trouble whatsoever with it."

On if the corners were lined up deeper than they usually do

" They were where they were. What we didn't do as well was challenge, close on the quick throws that we have done in the past.

"I think they get caught watching the receiver as opposed to seeing the quick game and being there to make an easier tackle when the ball's there.

"We have always played soft corners depending on the coverage. At times, we didn't react quick enough so we didn't challenge like we need to."

On the bad center snaps

"The first one was on the ground. It slipped out of his (Chris Chester) hands. Everybody says whose fault is it? Well, that one was Chris' fault. The shotgun one was Rhett's fault. He has to catch that. And the other one that we fumbled from the center was the quarterback's fault as well.

"We're getting a million of them in practice and hopefully it comes with experience in doing it over and over. Heck, I'm watching NFL games and I see them doing it. It should be that easy, but it happens.

"But it needs to stop happening. We need to get it done. So, I'm not at all sitting here trying to justify it. We need to be better at it."

On if they'll protest the officials' calls against UCLA

"At the time when we picked up their fumbled snap and ran off the field with it, I thought surely they were going to review it and then I realize what had happened. That's why I didn't call time out.

"I thought I'll call time out and give them time to think about it, but I knew when they blow it down and he's pointing at the ground blowing his whistle, that's not reviewable. When they blow the whistle down that's it.

"I figured why waste a time out, but at least the TV would've shown it. We got the ball running off the field what are they blowing down other than us on the ball? They blow that they had the ball and it's clearly underneath Rufus' knees, and ends up picking it up and running off the field with it.

"So as soon as he blew it down we're done. There's nothing to review. That's how it goes."

On if the officials told him who was called for the defensive pass interference call that negated OU's interception

"There's a call sheet on all the penalties. They all have a number, but that one that has a dash. So, that's the way it goes. It's not going to change.

"Those are big factors in the game. I don't can cut it any way you want. They end up scoring after that one, after they give them 15 yards as opposed to us having the ball inside 15 going in to score in a tight game.

"Any turnover, regardless of where they are, are game-changing plays and we had two that we didn't get counted."

On if he asked the official who they called pass interference on

"At that point I didn't want to talk to him. I was afraid of what I'd say (laughs). He came over and I just waived him off. What are they going to say to me?"

On if the officials were supposed to tell him what the penalty was

"Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I knew what happened, I saw it. I knew what he was going to tell me. The guy they're throwing to the ball ricocheted off his chest, our guy thought he caught the ball on the screen. You're supposed to tackle a guy that catches a screen.

"I could see if they call holding when he throws him down, but we've got the ball running the other way when he throws him down, because he thought they just threw it to him for a screen."

On if the play could've been reviewed

"That You can't review pass interference, holding, judgment calls."

On if they'll do any type of a formal protest

"All I can do is send it to our officials at the Big 12 office, and then they send it to the Pac-10 and say, "give us your opinion on these calls and if you feel they made the right call or not.'"

On if they'll send the tape to the Big 12

"Oh yeah. It isn't going to matter though."

On why there were Pac-10 officials at UCLA

"Because when they played here we used Big 12. Probably because of logistics. The Big 12 officials are right here in this area, so it's easier for them to be here. And the Pac-10 ones are out there, so it's easier for them to be there."

On if he'd rather have officials from the road teams' conference officiating their teams' road games

"Definitely. I believe there's more pressure here for them to make calls like that with 85,000 people sitting here saying...wait a second that isn't what we saw. I would definitely not want that to be the case ever again.

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories