Sooner Survival: Thoughts on Saturday's Win

A win is a win and that's all that matters at this point as undefeated teams are dropping faster than George W. Bush's popularity. Following are a few of my thoughts on the Sooners' latest win, a 41-31 triumph over Missouri.

Kentucky and Oregon State did Oklahoma favors Saturday by knocking off the top two teams in the country.

The Sooners then did themselves a favor by earning their biggest win of the year, a 41-31 decision over then 11th-ranked Missouri.

OU is back in the national title hunt thanks to the same upset bug that bit them last month at Colorado. The Sooners sit at fourth in the polls and fifth in the first BCS standings.

And the way things are going, you have to believe the likes of Ohio State, Boston College and South Florida will join the ranks of the beaten before it's all said and done.

That leaves the door open for the Sooners, who still have a shot at the BCS title game if they take care of business the rest of the year.

That almost wasn't the case Saturday when Missouri used a pair of quick scores in the third period to take a lead over the Sooners.

It was short-lived, however, as Sam Bradford led OU on a go-ahead drive, then Curtis Lofton scooped up a Missouri fumble and drug a pair of Tigers into the end zone for the clincher.

That's the quick recap of the game. Here are some other thoughts, but this time from the stadium seats and not the press box.

1. The pre-game atmosphere was a good one. Of course, it always helps when you play an afternoon or night game and not at the butt-crack of dawn. Tailgating was about as good as its been all year. The great weather (with the exception of some pretty stiff wind) certainly contributed. We'll never catch the SEC when it comes to tailgating, but OU has come a long, long way.

2. I guess my initial impressions of linebacker Ryan Reynolds and his pass coverage were correct. Reynolds saw the field for less than half of Missouri's offensive snaps and his deficiency in pass coverage was the sole reason. Brent Venables admitted as much after the game. The good thing is – if and when Reynolds is fully healthy – he's enough of a student of the game and determined worker to improve in that area.

3. Garrett Hartley you let me down again. Add two more missed extra-points to the list. The first one almost cost us. How bad were you wanting that point when Missouri took its lead in the third quarter?

4. Reggie Smith, what's up with you and punt returns? I've never returned a punt in my life unless you count backyard football in Muscle Shoals, Ala., in 1990. That said, I thought it was a fairly common rule to plant your heels at the 10 and if the ball is going over your head, let it go. I'm sure there are exceptions, but I can't imagine one for either of Smith's catches inside the 10 on Saturday. He did it once and got his butt chewed royally. Later in the game, he caught a punt as he was heading into the end zone. I can't say I get it.

5. It was obvious Missouri was loading up to stop the run much of the game, forcing OU to beat it with the pass. Fortunately, the Sooners were able to do that. It was also good to see OU get in its power game formation late and move the ball on the ground when it had to. I was never a big fan of platooning running backs, but it's great to see the Sooners have so many options. Chris Brown isn't a bad third choice.

6. Sam Bradford. He's not bad.

7. Malcolm Kelly. He's not either.

8. Juaquin Iglesias. We've got to have you on the field because you are a tremendous, reliable complement to Kelly in the passing game. However, you keep turning the ball over and you could be over by Toby Keith more than you like.

9. Jermaine Gresham showed how good his hands can be on his touchdown grab. He's the kind of player who can take his position to a whole new level. I'm excited to watch his continued development.

10. What can you say about Curtis Lofton? Eighteen tackles and a fumble recovery for a TD, which helped him earn Big XII Defensive Player of the Week. I remember when he committed to the Sooners in 2004. The Kingfisher native took a lot of heat because a lot of people who had been very good to him growing up were OSU fans. He did what he thought was right although he knew he'd upset a lot of good people. That couldn't have been easy. Of course, those people gave him instant motivation by saying he'd just go to OU and become a statistic. Probably never see the field. Maybe special teams. Nice choice, Curtis. See you in the NFL.

11. Bradford, Lofton, Gresham, Smith (who despite his punt return gaffes is still a solid corner), Gerald McCoy, D.J. Wolfe. Each is either playing out of his mind or showing great gains. Each is also a homegrown talent. You have to love it.

12. With the exception of Bradford, is Auston English the best surprise on this team? The sophomore defensive end had little name recognition coming into his career in 2005. You almost thought he was there to plug a hole when he started this season. Now? He's one of the two best players on defense. On Saturday, he had nine tackles, two for losses, two pass break-ups, a quarterback hurry and 1.5 sacks. On the season, he has 28 tackles and team-highs in tackles for losses (11) and sacks (7.5). All this from a three-star recruit who was rated the 47th best player at his position coming out of Canadian, a 2A high school in Texas. English is a perfect example of great recruiting and development.

13. Chase Daniels is better in person than I ever saw on TV. Booger eater or not, the kid has a cannon for an arm.

14. Best sign at Gameday? I loved the life-size picture of Lofton that read: "I'm 40. I'm the man." A close second was the confiscated picture of ESPN and former Arkansas, Notre Dame and South Carolina head coach Lou Holtz. It read "Thoonerth."

Whether you think the Sooners gave up too many yards or too many points, they won and that's all that matters at this point. And they beat a team that was better than I thought, especially offensively.

Just win, baby. That should be the motto for the rest of the season. If the Sooners do that and a few other dominoes fall, it could be another special year.


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