Brent Venables: 'A lot more to be thankful for than not'

Dec 28, 2023; San Antonio, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Brett Venables addresses reporters during a press conference following the Alamo Bowl game between OU and Arizona.
Dec 28, 2023; San Antonio, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Brett Venables addresses reporters during a press conference following the Alamo Bowl game between OU and Arizona. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Disappointment abounds after the Oklahoma football loss to Arizona in the Alamo Bowl that closes the book on the 2023 season for the Sooners.

You could see it all over the face and in the voice of head coach Brent Venables as he addressed reporters in the Alamo Bowl postgame press conference.

The Sooners and their freshman quarterback of the future, Jackson Arnold, got off to a terrible start in the game, with turnovers in two of their first three offensive possessions, and fell behind 13-0 early. But OU responded to the early adversity and fought back to take and hold on to the lead in the second and third quarter.

Then, almost as quickly, all the momentum that was at the back of the Sooners changed sides in the fourth quarter and Arizona seized to score 17 unanswered points in the final frame to seal the victory. One of the qualities of this Oklahoma team all season has been its determination and will to keep fighting and responding to adversity to the bitter end. Even in their two regular-season losses, the Sooners were in the fight all the way to the final whistle.

On Thursday night, however, they weren't able to overcome a season-high six turnovers that unfortunately led directly to 28 Arizona points. The six turnovers were the most by an OU team in a single game in almost a quarter century.

But there is a commonality to all three Oklahoma losses this season: The Sooners were able to close out those games because of costly mistakes.

"We got everything we could out of this group of guys and you guys led the way. We squeezed all the juice out of it that could be squeezed," Venables said in his opening remarks in the postgame interview session.

""We came off on the wrong end of it, but it didn't take away how amazing these guys are, the type of team I believed in and the season that we had."

Head coach Brent Venables

There are many fans that say a win in a postseason bowl game is important because the it carries over momentum to the next season. The Sooners are going to need all the momentum and positive thoughts they can muster in the offseason because next fall they begin play in the SEC, college football's most competitive conference. And the 2024 Oklahoma football schedule is one of the toughest in the SEC, let alone the country.

Venables has been quick to point out all of the 2023 season that Oklahoma football is still a work in progress and that the Sooners need to improve in all position groups and in all facets of the game. The second-year OU head coach is definitely building something, and we saw the progress in just his second season and glimpses of what the program aspires to be under Venables and the type of players, culture and belief that will get it there.

Chief among them is quarterback Jackson Arnold, who did not have a great starting debut in the Alamo Bowl, but the skills and commitment to keep getting better are there. He will learn from his Alamo Bowl performance and grow and get better from it.

"This is a strong dude that's very process driven," Venables said about Arnold after the Alamo Bowl game. "He's very committed. He's relentless with his work ethic, and he'll bring out the best in everybody. He's a great leader and incredibly skilled."

Despite the disappointing loss and the unusual number of mistakes that contributed to it, Venables like the way his team continued to fight together through it. "The defense responded several time, and the offense continues to come right back with Jackson (QB Arnold) as our leader."

""Even in moments of adversity, or when things went dreadfully wrong, we continued to respond on both sides of the ball. "

Brent Venables after the Alamo Bowl game

The Alamo Bowl loss will continue to sting for a long while moving forward, but it will also be used a learning opportunity and what Team 130 needs to keep working on to get better.