Oklahoma football: Bob Stoops cautions fans not to overreact to 2022

Dec 29, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Oklahoma Sooners incoming coach Brent Venables (left) and interim coach Bob Stoops celebrate after the 2021 Alamo Bowl against the Oregon Ducks at Alamodome. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 29, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Oklahoma Sooners incoming coach Brent Venables (left) and interim coach Bob Stoops celebrate after the 2021 Alamo Bowl against the Oregon Ducks at Alamodome. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Bob Stoops won a lot of Oklahoma football games over nearly two decades, and he knows as well as anybody the high standards and expectations of the OU football brand and the pressure and privilege of “feeding the monster,” as Barry Switzer likes to say.

This has been an unsettling football season for the Sooner Nation. OU fans aren’t used to a 6-6 season. You have to go all the way back to 1998 — ironically, the year before Stoops arrived on the scene — to the last time Oklahoma didn’t produce a winning record.

In fact, in what is considered the modern era of OU football (1947-present), the Sooners have lost more games than they’ve won just five times, and three of those came in consecutive seasons (1996, 1997 and 1998). They finished .500 three other times.

So, do you think Oklahoma fans aren’t a little spoiled? And with pretty good reason, I might add.

When Stoops took the head coach’s job at Oklahoma — 24 years yesterday (Dec.1, 1998), by the way — he was quoted as saying:

"“I will not shy away from the expectations that you have at Oklahoma. There are no excuses. You succeed or you don’t.”"

Stoops lived up to that promise. His success was almost immediate. He won seven games his first season in 1999 with a team that was 5-6 the previous year, and the next season, in 2000, his Sooner team went undefeated and won a national championship. Over a remarkable 18-year run, Stoops won 190 games and 10 conference championships. He is the winningest coach in Sooner gridiron history.

Stoops’ name was on the short list of most every top job that came up in college football right from the beginning of his long tenure in Norman, but to his credit, he stayed the course and left the program in considerably better place than when he came in.

One of the assistants Stoops brought in as part of his initial staff at OU was Brent Venables, who was on the staff at Kansas State when Stoops was a defensive coordinator there. Venables was part of the Sooner program for 13 seasons under Stoops before leaving in 2011 to become defensive coordinator at Clemson.

Stoops has long been a supporter of Venables, and when his close friend and former colleague accepted the head-coaching job at Oklahoma, the legendary head coach couldn’t have been happier, proudly declaring that athletic director Joe Castiglione and OU had brought in the right man for the job.

Although it had been five seasons since Stoops last coached a game at Oklahoma, he didn’t hesitate to volunteer his services to help out in the coaching transition, agreeing to help with recruiting in the critical final days before National Signing Day and also took over the coaching duties in preparing the Sooner team for its impending Alamo Bowl game against Oregon.

No one knows more about the history and tradition of the Oklahoma football program and Brent Venables new role in it better than Bob Stoops. Earlier this week Stoops appeared with Chris Plank and former Sooner player Gabe Ikard on SiriusXM College Sports to discuss the 2022 season and whether OU fans should be worried about what’s ahead.

“I’m not going to be the guy to sit here and talk about major issues,” Stoops said. “Brent and his staff can tell you what can be better, and they will. I never react to anything; never have.”

Stoops pointed out that last season’s 11-2 record and the 6-6 regular season in 2022 were dissimilar only in the fact that Oklahoma was on the right side in close game decided by one score or less more often in 2021 than this season.

“We lose our last three games (Baylor, West Virginia, Texas Tech),” the former OU head coach said. “They were all by a field goal and all on the last drive of the game. So, you get one stop or make another first down or don’t have a dropped pass, or whatever, all of a sudden it’s different.

“The two games we don’t play very well in,” Stoops said, “we don’t have Dillon Gabriel for most of one game (TCU) and all of another (Texas). And then I look a year ago, and we win five games by less than a touchdown.

‘I get it,” Stoops informed listeners. “I’m not acting like it’s okay, but you just gotta make a couple more plays. Literally one or two more plays either side of the ball…and you’ve got a couple more wins. We were able to make ’em a year ago, and we haven’t this year.”

You can point the finger at the coaches or the players, or you can say it’s a combination of both, Stoops said. What it boils down to is, “You’ve got to be able to make a play or two more to change the script.

“The coaches get it, the players get it,” he reiterated. “But we’re not as far off as it may look.”

It won’t matter now, but the reality is Oklahoma was just a few plays away from potentially being an eight- or even nine-win team in 2022.

Football is a game of execution, as Venables likes to say, in all three phases of the game. This Oklahoma football season was living proof of that.