I think my fiance Robin said it best when she told me at lunch today that she woke up in the middle in the night still sick in her stomach over the OSU game. I know that is how all OU fans feel today as they try to figure out what happened to their heavily favored Sooners.
For the second straight year the Oklahoma State Cowboys pulled off a major upset by knocking their arch-rival Oklahoma Sooners out of the national title hunt. You noticed I said their arch-rival, because to Oklahoma the Cowboys are not their arch-rival and I am beginning to feel that is part of the problem.
To be honest, that has always been the case with OU and since the Cowboys only have 16 wins in the series, you can't say that has always been a problem for the Sooners. If you ask Barry Switzer who OU's top rival is he will say Texas, just like Bud did before him. Most OU fans will say the same thing. It's not that OU doesn't look at OSU as a rival, it is just that the Cowboys are not their top rival whereas for the Cowboys, everything they do in football is in an effort to catch up to the Sooners.
Bob Stoops pointed out at his weekly press luncheon this past Tuesday that OU has a number of rivals. He pointed out that Texas, Nebraska, Kansas State and OSU were all big rivals for the Sooners. Maybe Stoops should adjust his thinking and narrow that thinking to Texas and OSU, because at the rate the OU-OSU series is going soon the Cowboys are going to be thumbing their noses at their more celebrated rival from the South.
It is shocking to me that OSU beat the Sooners for the second year and even more shocking the Cowboys whipped the Sooners like they did. Do the Cowboys have the ‘MOJO' over the Sooners? Football has become a game of match-ups and maybe the Sooners don't match up with the Cowboys?
The Cowboys won 38-28 and the game didn't seem that close. Once the game was underway and the Cowboys got up 21-6, I didn't feel the Sooners had a chance to win until they climbed back within two touchdowns with 12 minutes to play in the game. OSU was so dominant in the game offensively that during the second quarter I never felt OU's defense could stop the Cowboys. I can't believe I just wrote that I never felt that the OU defense could not stop the OSU offense. That is unbelievable. Isn't it?
It was also unbelievable to the OU coaches and players after the game as well. As always the Sooners were gracious losers and classy in defeat. However, for the first time senior Trent Smith asked this reporter if he could talk with me on Monday. Never has Smith turned down an interview with this reporter and he wasn't rude about it, but he was so shocked at what just happened that he just couldn't talk or he didn't know what to say. The Sooners' defeat was so dramatic that the coaches didn't know what to say either, except the obvious. A number of players sprinted to the buses after the game, because they were embarrassed how they played.
"My hat is off to Oklahoma State, to their players and coaches, because they outcoached us and outplayed us in every conceivable way today," said OU Head Coach Bob Stoops after the game. "That is what happens when you get beat like we did today and you have to give OSU credit."
"They did an excellent job today and performed well and just beat us.
"I told the players leaving the locker room that a year's work doesn't go out the window after one game," Stoops continued. "We have put ourselves into a position to still play for a Big 12 Championship next week. We can sit around and we will take our lumps from this, deservedly so. We can shake it off, toughen up and get ourselves ready to win a Big 12 Championship next week against another very good football team in Colorado. I believe that we have the character to do that and we will go to work on that starting on Sunday. That is the only plus side to what happened today. Outside of that we just got beat and again, Oklahoma State should be given credit for that."
The bottom line is that the defense had a terrible day on Saturday. The Oklahoma State duo of quarterback Josh Fields and all-world wide receiver Rashaun Woods was too much for the Sooners to handle. The Sooners locked on their best cover man in senior Andre Woolfolk and Woods still toasted him to the tune of 12 catches for 226 yards and three touchdowns. Game, set and match. And this time the better man won.
"After we watched the game and looked back on it today it is exactly what I said after the game, they just beat us," said Bob Stoops Sunday from his office. "They outplayed us and outcoached us and executed their plan better than we did. That is what it takes to win. At times we were in the right place in the secondary and at times it was obvious we weren't. Other times we were in position and still didn't make plays. At times we just got beat in position and that is where you big plays come from."
"At times Andre had Woods by himself and at times he had help in the post," Stoops continued. "Another time the secondary busted a coverage and it was a check. A check that we have made virtually all year and it doesn't get made, so we are out of position there. Other times with the tight end down the middle, our linebacker is with him 95 percent of the time and in two games he hasn't been. Those were the Texas A&M game and yesterday. That is all it takes to get out of position and they did an excellent job of seeing it and capitalizing on it."
The Sooners were checking from cover two to cover three and Woolfolk didn't get the check. It is the first time this year Woolfolk busted a check. Bad timing, huh?
Again, it was Game, Set and Match for Mr. Woods. Sometimes you just get beat. I should also throw Mr. Fields in there as well, because over the last five games he has been the best quarterback in the Big 12 Conference.
"That is right and sometimes that happens," said Co-Defensive Coordinator and secondary coach Mike Stoops. "USC went up and down the field against Notre Dame for 600 yards and a ton of points against the fifth-rated defense in the country. That happens and if you play enough good football teams, at some point that is going to happen to you. Offensively, Oklahoma State has as many weapons as any team that we will play all year. They may have more. They are greatly undervalued as a team. Why OSU doesn't win more games is something that I can't answer. They certainly, against us, played as well as anybody all year without question."
Oklahoma State was so good on offense against the Sooners that the OU coaching staff is puzzled why that Cowboy team hasn't played better all year.
"It is a puzzlement to me, because from what I have seen from them personally is that they have played us as well as any team in the country," said Mike Stoops. "They have probably outplayed us three years in a row. Some teams just match up better with some teams more than others. They had a good read on us and they understand us really well. They had us scouted well and they knew our tendencies really well. They max protected and gave themselves an opportunity to be successful and then they went out and executed better than we did on the flank. That is just smart on their part."
"I thought Mike Gundy (OSU's Offensive Coordinator) and Coach (Les) Miles had a great gameplan. The way they moved Woods around it was hard to double him or bang him around in certain situations. We were very embarrassed how we played in the first half and we tried to come back fighting in the second half, but didn't get the job done."
"Fields is playing incredible right now," Mike Stoops continued. "It is unbelievable how much he has improved. Right now he is playing great and putting the ball right on the money. Then add to the fact that Woods is playing at a high level and you have quite a combination.
Did OSU want this game more? Did OU want it enough? Is OU not approaching the game the right way? Does OU care about the Bedlam game anymore?
"They should care about the game a lot and we should too," said Mike Stoops. "It is a rivalry, but it is hard to play at a certain level every week. They would tell you the same thing. It is hard to play at a certain level emotionally every week. Every great player will tell you the same thing. That is why you see upsets and lulls and why certain teams set up against certain teams better than others. Obviously, this game didn't set up very well for us and it is a good matchup for them for whatever reason."
"You can't play at your ultimate peak every game. They would tell you that they have not played well in certain games and they would tell you that they would like to have the Texas Tech game back or certain games that they lost. They were a better football team in those games they lost and they would like to have those games back, but you don't get those games back and we can't get this one back."
Once again the Sooner pass rush wasn't where it needed to be, and I think at this point we just have to except that OU is not a great pass rushing team this year.
Tommie Harris can't get the push that he had last year. Dusty Dvoracek's toe won't get totally healthy until the off-season and the Sooner defensive ends just aren't cutting lose like they did last year. Jimmy Wilkerson is trying so hard to be the perfect football player he is not playing on instinct at all. Same with Jonathan Jackson, who should be like a running back at defensive end with his size and quickness. Jackson has moves that he just isn't using to get to the QB.
Why? well that is the million dollar question. Dan Cody plays well when he is available, but once again he has missed a considerable amount of time.
However, in this game the Sooners couldn't stop the run either as Tatum Bell finished with 106 yards rushing at 4.8 yards per carry and his backup Seymore Shaw finished with 48 yards at 6.9 yards per carry.
"They were having so much success against us that we really never got into a good flow in the game," said Brent Venables immediately after the game. "We didn't tackle well in the box and Bell ran the ball hard. We were in pretty good position sometimes, but we just didn't clean up the play like we should. That was disappointing, because there were several times in the game they picked up a big first down that kept drives going, especially in the fourth quarter after we had cut the lead to two touchdowns, by just hammering us with the run. We have been pretty good against that all year, but because they were so balanced against us I guess we were playing on our heels up front."
"We tried to play hard and it wasn't just our players fault," said Mike Stoops. "We got outplayed and outcoached and that is pretty simple. The game of football is not that complicated and they didn't make the game very complicated. When we were in certain coverages they threw and attacked certain places on the field that we didn't cover very well. They had some minor adjustments in their game plan that I thought were really good and we just didn't adjust very well."
You have to wonder if opposing teams haven't found a flaw in the Sooner defensive scheme. The Sooners are not covering the vertical pass and that has become a major problem. It appears to me that OU is not playing well at safety and their safeties are not good in pass coverage at all. Eric Bassey is not playing well at strong safety and the coaches can't go to Brodney Pool because he doesn't understand the defensive scheme well enough. It will be interesting to see what adjustments the Sooner defensive coaches make from this point on.
Texas A&M and Oklahoma State both took advantage of the Sooners aggressiveness and burned the Sooners deep. The Sooners won't change what they are doing defensively, but they need to make slight adjustments to counter what the Aggie squads did to the Sooners because every team from this point on will try the same thing.
Offensively the Sooners played a solid game picking up 21 first downs and finishing with 333 yards total offense. Quentin Griffin went over 100 yards (102) for the eighth straight game and the Sooners averaged close to five yards per play. The problem was that OSU's offense was having a monster game with 506 yards of total offense that the OU had to dump their gameplan early to try to play catch up.
Early in the game the Sooners came out and threw slip screens and flair patters with little to no success. At one point quarterback Nate Hybl had five completions for nine yards and that is not going to get the job done. So, what were the Sooners trying to do on their first couple of series?
"We were trying to get Quentin the ball, and we were trying to get Nate into some rhythm," said Offensive Coordinator Chuck Long. "We also try to go into games early and try to get Nate into a rhythm and then take our shots. In this game we got down early quick and it pretty much knocked us out of plan. You pretty much have to get out of your plan and start throwing a little bit more, which we had to do in the second half. We always go into a game and think of our players first. What do our players do best and get them into a rhythm and then take our shots from there."
"Last week against Texas Tech our very first play was a vertical down the field and we missed," said Long. "So, we decided to get Nate into a rhythm early and then take our shots from there, not thinking we were going to be down so early in the game. We ended up taking enough shots yesterday and we missed. We have been really good down the field this year and we have had more big plays in the Coach Stoops era as far as getting the ball down field this year. We certainly took our shots yesterday and if we hit three or four of those down field then who knows, it is probably a different ball game."
OU wanted to be balanced in their gameplan yesterday. Woods and company took the Sooners right out of that gameplan. OU went to their spread offense, which they have confidence in and in the second half moved the football quite well.
"We put three good touchdown drives together in the second half," said Long. "We closed the gap to 14 points with about 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter and we felt we were in pretty good shape. We felt we were in pretty good shape, but we didn't get the ball back and things didn't work out."
You also have to figure in that the offense was a little shell shocked watching their defense getting chewed up like they were Kansas or Baylor.
"Our defense has been so great for us all year that I guess you are not used to seeing a team move the ball on them like that," said Long. "What we do as they are on the field is to always think ahead. Depending on when we get it and what we have to do when we do get the ball back. We have to adjust to what has happened with the defense. We are thinking in terms of how much time do we have left on the clock. You have to credit them. They did a nice job of eating time off the clock, leaving us with very little to work with."
It is always easy to blame the quarterback when a team loses and once again Hybl has his critics. However, what I don't understanding here is that the defense played so badly that unless Hybl was playing safety you can't put this loss on his shoulders. Again, Hybl wasn't spectacular and in this game when needed to be, but in the end he played pretty well.
"I thought Nate had his best percentage on the year," said Long. "I think he was at about 66 to 67 percent on the day and he threw three touchdowns. He had one of his better days. Again, if he hits three or four of those long ones he has 350 to 400 yards passing. We were just missing those and we need to get them and we will. We will continue to work on making those catches. Nate has had a strong year. He has 20 touchdowns now and only eight interceptions, four in one game. You take away the Texas game and he has thrown only four interceptions all year. Nate has had a solid year and played well in the game yesterday. He was calling his own plays in the two-minute drills and felt good about things. He was throwing the ball well and had a good game."
Hybl hit on 25 of 38 passes for 211 yards and three touchdowns.
If Hybl has Woods to throw to his numbers would be pretty good as well. Josh Fields has been in a pretty good groove over the last five games, but in each game Woods has been his favorite target and either made some spectacular catches or ran super routes to get open. OU doesn't have a receiver yet that can come close to matching Woods. Is Will Peoples that kind of guy in the future? Is Brandon Jones? Is JeJuan Rankins or Travis Wilson? I guess we will see.
At this point the OU fans and media will want to talk and remember the loss to OSU more than the Sooner players and coaches. In fact, after Sunday the Sooners want to move and get onto what they feel are more important things, which is to play for the Big 12 Championship.
"We have a lot to play for and have our biggest game of the year coming up when you are competing for the Big 12 Championship," said Bob Stoops. "We recognize that we have played well enough in the last few years and this year to expect us to play well next Saturday. We have before and believe that we can again. This isn't a team that hasn't done it before. We will come in confident that we will play well and do whatever it takes to win. We have done it once against Colorado and we have played 12 football games and in ten of them we have played pretty decent. This isn't like we are coming in with four or five losses."
"We will have confidence in the game and maybe that is because we have players that have won a national championship here and over the last two years have been fighting for it up to the end," Stoops continued. "We have earned the right to feel pretty good and confident about ourselves. We will not take Colorado lightly. We respect them and realize how hard it was to beat them the first time and our players will be ready to play them again."
The Sooners' injury situation is still up in the air for Colorado. Safety Brandon Everage has a sprained knee and is questionable for the game. If he can't play the Sooners will either play Matt McCoy or Antonio Perkins at that spot. If they determine that Everage will be out early in the week, the Sooners probably would go with Perkins because they need an active free safety and Perkins has the athletic ability to be that kind of player.
Offensive tackle Jammal Brown does not have a separated shoulder, but he does have a slight tear in his left shoulder. His status is up in the air. Jerod Fields and Chike Ozumba would likely share the position with Fields drawing the start. Fields played against the Cowboys with a bad back that forced him to miss three practices the week leading up the game.
Andre Woolfolk has a broken nose, but will play in the game. The doctors are not going to set the nose until Monday after the game. He will wear a protective covering to protect the nose.
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