I have never seen a Oklahoma football team more sad than following their 34-33 loss to Oregon. It was a different look and a different feeling from the one I witnessed following the controversial road loss to Texas Tech. The Sooners were fighting mad following that game and wanted justice served.
Following the Oregon game, Oklahoma had a look of disbelief and a look as if somebody had just tricked them and stole their wallet, and then watched as the crook went right out in front of them and celebrated his skullduggery.
Every Sooner that walked past me off the field looked as if they had been in a fight and kicked in the stomach. Adrian Peterson didn't know whether to scream or cry, but probably did a little of both. Reggie Smith had a wild look in his eyes like he wanted to hurt somebody, and those of us that know Reggie know his generous and caring personality. That look is not one that Reggie shows every often.
Allen Patrick was telling anybody that would listen that he got the ball, which I learned later meant that he felt he had recovered the Duck's onside kick. At the time, standing on the field I didn't realize it was it was Patrick who had come up with the ball. But I did now they felt they had recovered the ball. I wish he had been more animated when he actually recovered the ball, and so does Bob Stoops.
Every Sooner came off the field with a look of bewilderment, disbelief and were stunned at what just happened as the Ducks had just been allowed to steal an onside kick, score two touchdowns in 26-seconds and block a game-winning 44-yard field goal try by Sooner junior Garrett Hartley, one of the hottest field goal kickers in the country.
This loss is a double-whammy for the Sooners, because despite the poor officiating and a poor instant replay official, they still should have won this game. While on the one hand the Sooners will look at some poor officiating in disbelief, but with the other they will also look back at this game and see that they left so many points and so many tackles on the field. If they had just taken what was available for them they would not have to worry about poor officiating in the end.
"The game was just what you saw. We didn't make enough plays in the end to win," said senior linebacker Rufus Alexander following the game. "We are pretty down because we were not supposed to lose this game. At least that is what we feel. That is how the whole team and our coaches feel. We didn't relax at the end of the game, they just made plays and we didn't make enough plays. We weren't in a prevent defense. We kept on playing, but we didn't play well enough, I guess. We were playing the same coverage that we were playing early in the game, but they just worked off it and made the plays. This game should have never come down to that stuff at the end."
It was a game where a nationally-televised audience got another chance to watch first hand the greatness of junior running back Adrian Peterson, who hammered the Ducks defense for 211-yards on 34 carries and one touchdown, along with three kick returns for 68-yards. It was another game where sophomore wide receiver Malcolm Kelly stepped up and showed that he is indeed one of the top wide receivers in the country, catching three passes for 66 yards and one touchdown of 31-yards.
And his receiver-mate, sophomore Juaquin Iglesias, also showed he has star potential catching five passes for 78 yards while also having a 42-yard touchdown pass called back before of an illegal formation. Junior quarterback Paul Thompson gave another winning performance hitting on 13-of-23 passes for 174 yards and one touchdown.
However, the Oklahoma defense, for the third straight game, played as if they had an out-of-body-experience. I mean, who is that defense out there wearing that Oklahoma uniform?
They are playing hard, played with passion, chased the ball, but they couldn't stop the run and they are giving up big plays in bunches. This Oklahoma defense has not looked like the Oklahoma defense.
The Ducks riddled the Sooner defense for 501 yards total offense. They rushed for 158 yards with ace rusher Jonathan Stewart rushing for 144 yards and one touchdown. And Stewart burned the Sooners as a receiver as well catching four passes for 33 yards. Through the air, the Sooners gave up 343 yards as Ducks quarterback Dennis Dixon hit on 26-of-41 passes and two touchdowns. But the Sooners did manage to come up with two interceptions, both by sophomore Nic Harris, and force three fumbles recovering two. In the end the Sooners just gave up too many plays, and that allowed the Ducks to get some help from the officials and win the game at the end.
"I feel like I let the team down," said OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables following the game. "We couldn't stop them all day unless we came up with a turnover. They have a good team, but we had our opportunity and didn't get it done. That is discouraging. We just didn't get it done."
Dixon led the Ducks on a 65-yard drive in just eight plays taking the final 16-yards in just two minutes against a Sooner defense that put up very little opposition. That brought the Ducks within six at 33027 with 1:12 left on the clock, which of course set up the controversial onside kick.
"It comes down to everybody just doing their thing and not trying to do somebody else's job," said Venables following the game. "It is obviously my responsibility to make sure they do their job. You start to press a little bit and a good team will take advantage of you, and they did."
The defense didn't play well and the offense did score 33 points, but they left enough points on the field to make this game an easy game in the fourth quarter. Once again, penalties and mental mistakes kept the Sooners from having a great day offensively despite 381 yards total offense.
"In all three games we have done a great job at half of seeing what they are doing and making adjustments," said offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson following the game. "Our kids understand that they have played well in the second half each week. I think I can do a better job in the first half getting us going. We have to do a better job down in the scoring zone on some play calls and what not, and maybe get seven. We got down there a couple of times where it was just far enough out that we couldn't punch it in and we had to settle for too many field goals. When you play on the road and kick too many field goals, you have a great chance to come up on the short side."
That being said, if the Sooners cover the onside kick then they easily run out the clock and win the game by six. As it is, the play turns out to be one of the greatest robberies in college football history. Everybody from the ABC Television crew, to ESPN College Game Day, to the radio voice of the Oregon Ducks, to the main columnist for The Oregonian, to every single media member at the game watched as Oregon's Brian Paysinger touched the ball on the onside kick before it traveled 10 yards.
Everybody that is, except for the officials on the field and the instant replay official, which left coach Stoops searching for words to describe the end of the game and one of the most frustrating games he had ever coached in.
"That is fair to say," said coach Stoops in the post game press conference. "Frustrating, maddening. Whatever you want to say."
As Oregon was awarded the ball and the Sooners were left to argue and ask for a review, there was a lot of confusion on the field as to exactly what the officials were reviewing.
"I was hoping they were reviewing that the ball didn't travel far enough," said Stoops in his postgame press conference. "My argument to them was that you are not to be contested inside of 10 yards and I felt he (Malcolm Kelly) was run into inside of 10 yards. Then our guy who has the football says, 'Coach, the ball is laying on the ground when I grabbed it. I didn't take it away from anybody.' Allen Patrick comes up with the football. That is what they said and that is when I asked it to be reviewed. They reviewed it, but I couldn't tell you what they actually reviewed or saw. They would have to explain what they saw.
One day later, Stoops explains further what the official told him on the field about Patrick appearing to recover the football.
"He never explained to me over the mic," said Stoops on Sunday from his office. "He said Oregon had already possessed the football on the ground before it was taken away from him. That was what was said over the PA. It is obvious as Allen said to me, 'Coach, the ball is just laying there on the ground.' So yeah, that would be for them to explain. And how they can explain that, I don't know."
Early Sunday, Stoops and the coaches had a chance to look back at the game film over and over again, and it didn't make them feel any better about the officiating calls at the end of the game.
"I am incredibly disappointed," Stoops said on Sunday. "The instant replay was brought up to eliminate issues like this. Here, there are a number of issues that are clearly, after looking at video, that are wrong."
However, despite the misuse of instant replay in the Oregon game that cost his team a great victory on the road, Stoops is not ready to send it off to the junkyard.
"I would hope not," said Stoops. "Even though they acted as they did, at least the whole country and everybody sees what was...what was. They see what really happened."
Can anything be done about the bad decision and can the Big 12 do anything about a bad ruling from a Pac-10 Officiating crew?
"I imagine they will have some kind of reply to what the issues are and that will be it," said Stoops. "Our Administration will pursue it and Joe (Castiglione) will pursue it, but in the end it is not going to change anything. I have to look at a bunch of kids who fought hard and have a loss right now."
University of Oklahoma Athletic Director Joe Castiglione issued the following statement in regards to the controversial calls at the end of the game.
"The University of Oklahoma has taken immediate steps to follow Big 12 procedures in officially requesting a comprehensive review of specific officiating decisions and use of instant replay during Saturday's Football game against the University of Oregon. The game officials were assigned by the Pac-10 Conference and we believe that the situation will be properly handled and analyzed by the Pac-10 and then communicated through our conference office."
"There should be no mistaking our very serious concerns about the events that transpired and the energy we will exert in voicing those concerns. At the same time we need to make clear several other points. First of all, this action should not take any focus away from the extraordinary effort displayed by the student-athletes of both the University of Oklahoma and the University of Oregon. It was a very exciting game and both coaching staffs had their players well prepared. Secondly, we fully understand the outcome of the game is irreversible, regardless of the decisions made in regards to the grievance. Therefore, we are moving on in preparation for our upcoming game. We congratulate the Oregon Ducks on their victory in this hard-fought contest."
Officially, the Sooners are taking the high road like they always do and that is the right thing to do. OU has to show the best sportsmanlike manner they can muster, but behind close doors you know they are fighting mad. Nobody likes to lose because of an officials bad call, especially when they have a chance to get it right and they still don't get it right. However, in this case OU can only do so much and there is nothing they can do to change the outcome of the game.
Where the Sooners can win is in the area of public opinion, and this is and overwhelming victory for the Sooners. Every national media member says Oklahoma got robbed, even those closest to the Oregon program.
"Because during Oregon's 34-33 victory at Autzen Stadium, the Ducks adapted, overcame and did just about everything necessary to start the season 3-0. The rest was provided by human error," said Oregonian columnist John Canzano in his Sunday sports column. "If we're going to have a group catharsis here, we need to acknowledge that Mr. Magoo must have been working the video replay booth. If they're going to use instant replay and slow down games and leave players and coaches and fans standing around then they'd better start getting it right."
"The onside kick in the final 72-seconds that was awarded to the Ducks?" Canzano continued. "If you were watching on television from your sofa, you saw it touch Oregon's Brian Payinger before it traveled 10-yards. Your spouse saw it. Your children saw it. The family dog probably saw it. So did anyone who looked up at the giant video monitor. Yes inside the stadium, which happens to be the only place it counts, it was, "After further review there is conclusive evidence the receiving team touched the ball.
Mr. Canzano also points out the bad luck for the Sooners on the instant repla andy on the Darrien Williams interference call, in which the ball was clearly tipped by senior defensive end C.J. Ah You at the line of scrimmage. The officiating crew also ruled that there was not conclusive evidence to overturn that 17-yard gain, even though everybody that was watching the play could clearly see that the ball went from a spiral to a knuckleball during flight.
While the play was being reviewed, Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti asked his quarterback Dixon if the ball was tipped?
"Yes, sir" said the quarterback, who is always going to tell his coach the truth.
So, after watching the game film several times again ,what did Coach Stoops see on the onside kick?
"I see my guy stepping up inside of 10 yards and to go up and gain possession of the football," said Stoops on Sunday. "I see their guy go up in front of him and hit the football before my guy is allowed to at 10 yards, and I see him collide with my guy inside of 10 yards as well. That is illegal touching and interfering with the reception. Then I see my guy getting up with the football that is lying on the ground."
How about the interference call against Williams a couple of plays later?
"C.J Ah You tipped the ball at the line of scrimmage," said Stoops after reviewing the film. "Darrien Williams, if you watch the coaching tape of itm makes a heck of a play and doesn't even touch the receiver."
After all the bad calls and the Ducks taking the lead late, Oklahoma still gave themselves a chance to win the game thanks to a 55-yard kick return by Reggie Smith to the Oregon 27. Sooner place-kicker Garrett Hartley was perfect on the season up to that point and went on the field very confident that he was going to kick the game winning field goal before disaster struck the Sooners once again.
"Well, here it is guys for the win," said Hartley following the game. "I was feeling confident, nice and relaxed before the kick. I thought I hit it really well. It came off my foot and by the time I looked up on my follow-through, I saw somebody batting it down. That was just the worst feeling in the world. I am not sure where they came from, but I thought I hit it well. I didn't think I hit it low, but we will just have to watch the film and see what happened."
After further review.
"Looking at it our protection was pretty decent," said Stoops Sunday. "It wasn't like anybody shot through, but there are a bunch of them in there that just get up. I think the kick is just a little bit low, and they are climbing on each other pretty good in there so it is just one of those things, you know? It looks like Garrett hit a pretty good ball, but the ball didn't rise quite quick enough."
After Smith's return, the Sooners had time for one play before the game-winning kick. But the play they, Adrian Peterson off the right side, netted two yards. OU barely got lined up in time to spike the ball with just two seconds left on the clock. Could the Sooners have run a pass play or a play to get more yardage to give Hartley an easier shot at the game winning field goal?
"We were trying to get the ball in the middle of the field," said Stoops. "You can second-guess that we probably should have tried to get another 10 yards. Without a timeout, if anything goes wrong you are pushing it. Yeah, we were just trying to get the ball in the middle of the field."
It looks like the kick was hit well, but didn't get up as high or as quick as it needed to and Oregon got some great height from their defenders and blocked the kick. It was a great, effort by the Ducks, and Hartley was just a tad off and boom the Sooners don't get the kick off.
Despite losing, the Sooners played well enough to win and still give great hope for the future if the defense can find its way and start playing like it should. In all three games thus far, the Oklahoma defense has fell short of expectations.
"Our problems are in a lot of different areas. It is different guys at different times," said Venables Sunday from the OU Football Complex. "It is being too flat on a zone play, not folding on a fold zone, not making a tackle in a hole. Tackling has not been good. End-zone coverage and how that relates to routes as sometimes you have to have more depth, and sometimes you have got to have more width. That first third and long, it is a real simple concept that if you don't stay enough inside and you don't get enough depth, they are going to find a crease on you. You got to know where you got to protect and we just have to get our players playing with more polish."
"We have to make sure they have awareness on the field of the calls and how it relates to them," Venables continued. "We told them that we expected them to come out and throw a bunch of quick, short screens. I told our guys to be ready to jump all over it and the first play of the game there it goes. So it is just getting to be more aware and use some better technique in some certain things, whether it is a man technique in coverage, or blitz technique verses the run, so that you don't get out of your gap on the blitz. We do have some blitzes designed for the run game. If you get lazy with your approach you can get out of your gap when you go against a good team with a good athletic line, which they were."
On Saturday, the Sooners had a bunch of fundamental issues defensively as well.
"We had some fundamental, technique issues," said Stoops Sunday from his office. "Really, the beginning of the game — the first three and four minutes — and then the last three minutes we had issues. Then there is a great period of time when the defense does a nice job. They create four turnovers and are playing well and stopping them, and then we have the big plays early in the game and big plays late in the game. We had some fundamental breakdowns in some of our base coverages. It is too inconsistent and we've got to get more consistency and not give up those big plays.
"We are not playing like we did at the end of last year, and that is frustrating," Stoops continued. "What we are missing are just some fundamentals in the way we play technique, whether it is defending the run or our position on the pass, or jamming receivers. It is just all of it together, and I just feel we are sloppy with technique and fundamentally. I should also say we are inconsistent, because there was a good stretch of that game we built the lead and we are really playing well. It is just being inconsistent and we need to get more consistent with it."
However, the defense has not been deficient on lack of effort or big plays.
"Our guys are playing hard," said Venables. "It is like you put your finger in one hole and allow problem sprouts up somewhere else. You play consistent for three and four snaps and you get gashed, and it doesn't take much. I know it sounds like a broken record. There is simplicity to it and yet it is complex. What is very frustrating is the lack of consistency in our play. If our guys weren't playing hard and showed that they didn't care, that is the dagger of all daggers. But that is not the case at all. These are good kids that want to be successful. They are trying hard. And again, we have to do a better job of getting them to play with more consistency and giving themselves a chance to be successful with better understanding and better technique."
"It is little things. We have to do better in certain areas," said Venables continued. "We need to be better at creating a pass rush out of our four-man front, and when we do drop back in coverage we have to be much better at understanding our zone drops and who is responsible for what. For example, if you have the check down for the running back coming out of the backfield, you need to be all over it when he gets out."
Oklahoma doesn't have Dusty Dvoracek in the middle and they don't have Lance Mitchell playing middle linebacker either, but they should be and must play the run much better to win games in the future.
"We are missing a big presence inside. That is for sure. But we have talked about that," said Venables. "Their run game was not complex and we need to be better, more physical and more downhill in our gaps and staying on our feet. We need to quit thinking. If teams can run on us then they can do anything that they want. If they can have balance in their offense it makes it difficult zeroing in on one particular area. It is how we have built this defense and how this defense works. When you allow people to have any kind of consistency whatsoever, it makes it very difficult for the defense to work."
Sports can be a mixed bag of emotions, no matter what the sport. Nic Harris makes two great plays on interceptions and then gives up the game-winning touchdown when he was beaten in man coverage. The Sooners felt they had a great defensive call in that situation, but on this one the defense shows a lack of consistency and gets beat for the game-winning score.
Lendy Holmes got his first start at field corner for the Sooners and didn't fair well, playing tentatively and giving up a 30-yard touchdown pass at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Holmes would not have been in the game at that time if junior Marcus Walker had not cramped up in the third quarter.
The Sooners made a change in the secondary that worked Marcus Walker was inserted into the game. OU switched Reggie Smith from the field corner to the boundary corner to start the game, and started Lendy Holmes at field corner. Oregon went right at Holmes and coach Wright pulled the converted wide receiver and put Walker into the game in the second quarter. Walker was outstanding and the move appeared to stabilize the Sooner secondary. Then, he got cramps in the third quarter and Holmes was beaten for the touchdown before Walker was healthy enough to come back into the game in the fourth quarter.
When Walker was in the game, the move seemed to solidify the Sooner secondary as Smith made big plays to stop the Ducks throwning to the boundary corner. And Walker made several big plays in man coverage in the open field.
"I thought Marcus really competed well and did a really nice job," said Venables. "He played really well. He really competed well and his timing was great. He was physical out there and had the right attitude and the right chip on his shoulder. Marcus made a bunch of nice plays."
Does Walker get a start at field corner against Middle Tennessee State?
"There is a good chance that Marcus will start next week," said Venables. "I know that coach Wright will figure it out here in the next day or two, but there is a good chance of that. Reggie played the boundary corner and Walker did a good job at the field corner."
It didn't help the Sooner defense that Hartley had an off day on kickoffs, putting two out of bounds and giving Oregon great field position at their own 35. He also kicked short of the goal line on two kicks, so even Hartley was inconsistent against Oregon.
On a good note, defensive end coach Chris Wilson played more players against Oregon as junior John Williams got into the game and made a couple of tackles, as well as junior Alonzo Dotson. Both were very active and provided some fresh legs for trio of Larry Birdine, Ah You and Calvin Thibodeaux. Williams once again showed great promise. There may not be a more physically gifted player that Williams among the defensive ends, and now that he is beginning to play with confidence coming off major ACL surgery he will see more playing time in the future.
Once again, Sooner offense struggled with penalties and mistakes that put them behind the 8-ball so many times. However, they eventually wore down the Duck defense and took control in the fourth quarter. Peterson dominated the fourth quarter rushing for 145 yards of his 211-yards, but he was still shell-shocked after the game.
"Words can't express how I feel right now," said Peterson following the game. "We fought hard for four quarters and just came up short. We could have made several plays that we didn't make, that we didn't execute and we had to settle for field goals. It is unbelievable that we would have a 13-point lead with two minutes and lose."
"Nothing changed for us in the fourth quarter," Peterson continued. "Offensively, we knew it was going to be a tough battle and we knew that Oregon was going to come in and try to stop the run. We knew that we were going to have to go four quarters and that sooner or later something was going to go down. We saw them out there tired and we just kept pounding them. The whole time we didn't panic, we just stayed calm and didn't try to make any big plays. We just knew that once we got to the fourth quarter and kept pounding them that we would start to make some big runs. The offensive line did a great job of creating holes for me and just staying with it. They started to make blocks and just gave me the opportunity to make some big runs."
With is 211-yard performance, Peterson is now fifth on the all-time Sooner rushing list with 3,548 yards moving past De'Mond Parker.
"I don't know if AD can impress me anymore than he already has," said Stoops. "He is a tough, hard-nosed competitor who has great fight to him to go with that great talent. He is just so determined and good at what he does. AD is so strong at what he does."
For Paul Thompson, just managing the huddle and getting plays off were a chore. The Duck crowd was loud forcing the Sooners into several false-start penalties. Early on the Sooners struggled in the running game, but as planned they found some openings in the passing game.
"We usually make adjustments in the second half," said Thompson following the game. "We just seem to come out with more of a sense of urgency and we always seem to open up in the second half. We got more comfortable in the second half and we started to move the ball well. We just got more productive with what we were doing out there. We did let the crowd force us into some penalties, but I think we adjusted to it pretty well. But it was definitely a factor out there. We wanted to tire them out and we noticed they were getting exhausted in the second half. AD was still running hard as usual and we wanted to take it right at them in the second half, and that is what we did."
The offense has the personnel to be a dynamic unit this season. Yes, the offense line is still a work in progress but there is talent there, which is evident by the fact they get better as the game goes along. In the second half, the offensive line took charge of the game and in the fourth quarter they were whipping the Ducks' front seven on a regular basis. However, mental mistakes and penalties are keeping the them from reaching their full potential.
"Some of it is penalties more than anything. Those were the issues," said Stoops. "We had a touchdown called back for not having enough guys on the line of scrimmage. That was just miscommunication in the huddle. Then we are down on the goal-line and we have some penalties. They call a holding call on one that is a judgment deal that is a heck of a block, so penalties to me were the biggest issue."
The Sooners had to settle for three field goals when they were in position for touchdowns, which is another huge factor in the game's outcome.
"That is tough. That came back to get us right there at the end," said Thompson. "We definitely want to finish off drives strong and get the seven. That was definitely a big part of the game, getting seven instead of three.'
Thompson also watched as the Sooners had one of their worst mental lapses of the season — at the Oregon 7-yard line with a first and goal only to have to settle on a field goal after three straight penalties. Tight end Brody Eldridge and tackle Chris Messner were penalized for false starts, and then Messner was penalized for holding.
"We have to correct those kinds of mental errors," said Thompson. "We can't let the crowd effect us that much down there, if that was what the case was."
For the most part it was a pretty good effort offensively, but the coaches expect better days ahead.
"Our guys are disappointed, but nobody is upset, mad or yelling at each other," said Wilson following the game. "Those guys played hard across the board and did a great job of settling down in the second half. We played some great defense in the second half with some things. I thought we did solid in the kick game. We have a good young team that is battling and we have a chance to be pretty good. We wanted to show that we are tough enough to play on the road. We have four remaining tough travel trips. After next weeks home game with Middle Tennessee State, we go on the road at the Cotton Bowl, then at Missouri, then at A&M and at Okie State. This was a great gauge to see where we are at.
"I have to do a better job early of getting us settled down," Wilson continued. "We wasted too many timeouts in the first half that got us. Our communication wasn't good. I messed up a couple of things that hurt us. Our kids are playing well and I have to look at some things that I am doing to help them. We are doing a good job at halftime, but we have to come out a little bit better in the first half."
At this point nobody, can question the ability of Paul Thompson to play quarterback. Thompson played very well for the third straight week.
"Paul was very good and all of his passes were not even close to be intercepted," said Stoops. He really played well that way and he made a lot of nice throws. He made a great play really under pressure throwing down to Juaquin Iglesias down to the goal-line."
One disappointing thing for Thompson and the offense was that he had to use all of his timeouts in the first quarter. Was the problem Thompson?
"No, it was me on some calls and getting the right cats on the field," said Wilson outside the Sooner locker room. "I blitzed a couple that I just messed up. I know I got the play in late on one time out. I just need to do a better job of getting the call in early and getting the right guys on the field. We have to do a better job with our kids getting into the huddle. We are trying to get the plays in quick and we are not trying to be to smart and fancy. I have to do a better job. because those kids played hard. We left some stuff on the field and that is attributed to me, I think."
Kelly and Iglesias both had outstanding games for the Sooners, and Manuel Johnson and Fred Strong had a catch apiece for short-yardage. The Sooners got big plays out of Kelly and Iglesias, and they are becoming more of a factor in the offense.
"We need to find a way to get them the ball more sometimes," said Wilson from the Sooner football complex on Sunday. "We like to get as many guys involved as possible, but we are kind of getting everything stacked in the middle and getting a lot of one-on-one stuff outside. Those are pretty safe throws for Paul too, where he isn't throwing into heavy coverages or across the grain into loaded looks and all that deal. Those guys are getting good match-ups and they are playing pretty good and playing hard. They are gaining on it and they are all young. We are playing three sophomores and a couple of freshmen. They are doing well and we are going to build on those cats."
Overall, Wilson felt the play of the offense was pretty good most of the day. And as great as he was, Peterson could have stayed in bounds a couple of times late in the game to keep the clock moving. But he played tremendous and the Sooner offense was very close to having a very big day.
"I thought we had a pretty solid performance by a lot of guys," said Wilson. "I thought our effort was outstanding. We didn't have a good first half at all, mainly attributed to some over-coaching. Like I said yesterday, I didn't do a good job of getting us into a rhythm early, whereas in the second half I think we set some things up better in the run/pass mix. We executed better when we came out at half for three games in a row, so that is three weeks in a row that we are playing good second halves.
"It would be nice for us to start a little bit clearer and a little bit faster and have some momentum. Everything was kind of against us early, and as young as we were we didn't want that to happen. For those guys to settle in and play pretty good was a pretty good sign by a lot of guys. You are looking at four sophomores in the O-line and three sophomores and a couple of freshman at receiver. So those guys are gaining on it as a total group. It was a best group effort across board, other that maybe the first half with the rhythm I had getting us started."
Oklahoma did unveil a new weapon in the game as Adrian Peterson was put back on kickoffs where he returned three kicks for 68 yards. Many media and fans alike have been wondering when AD would get a chance at returning kicks, but it turns out Peterson has been wondering the same thing.
"Actually, I asked the coaches last week and kind of bugged them about it," said AD. "I was just looking for a way to get in the game and get a couple more touches. I came close to breaking one on my last return, but there was one block that I cut inside on instead of outside. I am just going to work on it and get better at it this week."
It was also the first game that Peterson didn't get all the snaps at running back. Late in the fourth quarter, he was slightly injured after he was horse-collared and was taken out of the game, giving understudy Allen Patrick two plays. Patrick even got a carry rushing for one yard.
The Sooners have had some tough road games under Stoops the last several years, but they have now played two straight road games where poor officiating has cost them in the end. However, coaches have to look past a bad call or two and evaluate how the team played on the road, and they came away from Saturday still encouraged about the rest of the season.
"There was a lot of great play in a game away from home," said Stoops. "We made a number of great plays away from home in a great environment. For a good period of time, through the second quarter up to the last three minutes, we really controlled the game. There has to be a positive in that, right? There were a ton of positives in what we did, how we competed and how we played. We are aware of what the deficiencies are, or what are problems are, and what we need to do to work them and improve them. It wouldn't be correct to deny that there was a lot of good in the game as well."
The Sooners are now 2-1 on the year and without question everybody on the team is taking responsibility for this defeat.
"Our coaches all want to take responsibility," said Stoops. "I stayed up all night myself trying to find out or question what I could have done — what I would have done differently to change that outcome. We all want to take responsibility for your actions of your players. That is what a coach does. In the end, we can all do some things better, of course. But in the end, players can do some things better as well, especially when some of it is some fundamental parts of what you do and what we have done for a long time."
Stoops said Sunday that sophomore center Jon Cooper is not seriously injured and he should play against Middle Tennessee State. He also said that Peterson is just sore, and that there were no other serious injuries in the game.
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