Sooners still have a goal, reason for optimism after second loss


Bob Stoops said it best on Monday in his press conference following Oklahoma’s 31-30 loss to Kansas State: “We played smarter, were more consistent but made too many mistakes.”

I think that about sums it up. Beyond seemingly countless missed tackles and assignments by Ahmad Thomas, the Durron Neal INT, the Trevor Knight pick six, and the kicking game, Oklahoma outplayed KSU by a wide margin.

Forgive me if that sounds sarcastic, because it’s not. OU racked up over 500 yards of total offense and the defense only surrendered 24 points on the afternoon. More often than not, those numbers are going to produce a Sooners victory, especially at home. OU still almost won, all it needed was for one of the biggest OLs in the world to get a good push or for the best kicker in the country to make a 19-yard field goal.

Still, there are many positives that OU can draw from this game going forward towards next season. Oklahoma is about five yards away from being undefeated and (probably) the no. 3 team in the country. For the rest of this season, that’s just an unfortunate statistic. But hopefully that’s something that this team can build on going forward.

Growth and Maturity

Clearly this team, in all of its youth, hasn’t figured out how to close out a game yet. They couldn’t get any points on a TCU team that was just begging for them to score. If not for a brilliant play call on third down against Texas, the Longhorns would have a good opportunity to march down the field and win the game in the closing minutes. And then against Kansas State, with the ball inside the five on first and goal, OU couldn’t put any points on the board.

That’s the kind of thing that can only be fixed with maturity. Luckily for the Sooners, they’ll be bringing back a lot of youth next season. OU is only slated to lose three OL on offense and just four players on defense: Geneo Grissom, Chuka N’dulue, Quentin Hayes, and Julian Wilson. While all of those players have been important, there are natural replacements waiting in the wings for all of them.

Josh Heupel

I’m hesitant to say this, but I think that Heupel has finally figured it out. Though he’s drawn some criticism for how he handled the goal line plays down the stretch, I think that’s hindsight 20/20. If he decides to do a play action on 2nd down and it doesn’t work, then people are upset for not trusting his jumbo package. To me, that failure was more on player execution.

Aside from the pick six, which was a terrible decision by TK9 and an even worse play call by Heupel, I thought the offense looked better than it has in any game since Tennessee. It’s no coincidence that Knight ended up with such an impressive line; the coaches set him up to succeed rather than fail as they did against TCU. The key to this offense will continue to be getting the ball to OU’s playmakers in space with a chance to make guys miss. I thought Heupel did an outstanding job of that on Saturday and I’m hopeful that he continues that trend.

Mike Stoops

With the way the defense was talked about after Saturday’s loss, you would have thought you were back in 2012 and Johnny Manziel had just gashed the Sooners again for another big run. While Stoops’ unit did have an incredibly frustrating game (not starting Sanchez on Lockett, not pressing on that last 3rd and four, not benching Ahmad Thomas), it’s encouraging that allowing 24 points to a ranked team is no long considered acceptable at OU.

The defense has to be better in the future, no question. But it’s hard not to get excited when you realize who will be back next year: Charles Tapper, Eric Striker, Charles Walker, Jordan Phillips, Matt Dimon, Jordan Evans, Dominique Alexander, Frank Shannon, Devante Bond, Zack Sanchez, Steven Parker, Jordan Thomas, Hatari Byrd, and more. The defense might not be quite what we hoped this season, but there is a lot of reason for optimism and it starts with Mike Stoops.

The Goal

How Oklahoma responds to this adversity will tell a lot about the character of guys in that locker room. Coming in to the season, that was seen as a potential strength for the Sooners. OU’s personnel was billed as a hardworking bunch that would do whatever it takes.

It’s going to be a tough road to get to 10 wins this season for OU, which has always been the minimum benchmark for Bob Stoops’ teams. That’s now the only goal that OU can attain without any help from others. They’ll have to beat Baylor and Oklahoma State at home while making sure to not trip up against Kansas, Iowa State, or Texas Tech. If they lose more than one of those games (plus a bowl game), this could be the most disappointing season of the Stoops era.

Next year will take care of itself once this season is over. But for now, the Sooners have work to do.