Iowa St.-Oklahoma Preview

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops made two things clear this week: There
won’t be a change at quarterback for the Sooners and he is OK with
the direction his program is headed.

Stoops declined to publicly criticize junior quarterback Blake
Bell or co-offensive coordinators Josh Heupel or Jay Norvell
following the Sooners’ woeful offensive performance in a 41-12 loss
last Thursday at then-No. 5 Baylor that effectively knocked
Oklahoma out of the Big 12 title race.

Despite calls from some quarters for sophomore Kendal Thompson –
who missed almost all of preseason practice with a fractured foot
and hasn’t played this season – to have a shot at quarterback,
Stoops said Bell would remain the starter when No. 22 Oklahoma
(7-2, 4-2) hosts Iowa State (1-8, 0-6) on Saturday.

“We’ve just got to be able to throw the football better. We’ll
continue to work on that,” said Stoops, who later added: “I’m not
going to change what we’re doing with the quarterbacks” regarding
playing time.

The Sooners played in the national title game after the 2008
season. During the past five seasons, Oklahoma has lost six games
by 14 points or more, with three coming in the last 16 outings –
against Texas A&M, Texas and Baylor.

Stoops’ take on the “state of the program” was that Oklahoma is
“7-2 and working to the end of the year. Just (Big 12) co-champs a
year ago, right? What else do you want to know? Let’s see. We won
it in 2010 and tied it in ’12 and we’re going through ’13. I think
there are only four or five teams that have won more games over the
past five years. I believe that’s right. If that’s not the answer
you are looking for, I’m not sure. It seems like every time you
lose a game, it’s like, ‘Oh, geez, the sky is falling.'”

Against Baylor, Oklahoma managed only 237 yards of offense and
failed to effectively move the ball – particularly in the first
half, when the Sooners limited Baylor’s high-powered offense to a
field goal during the first 23 minutes.

“That was probably the most frustrating performance we’ve had
since I’ve been playing here,” senior center Gabe Ikard said. “Just
knowing all the opportunities we had in the first half, how well
the defense played, to not be able to put something together and
put points on the board was extremely frustrating.”

Bell finished 15 of 35 for 150 yards and threw two
interceptions. He has started seven games after Trevor Knight
struggled with his passing while starting the first two.

Asked to grade his quarterback play, Stoops said, “I’m not going
to grade it in front of everybody. It’s been inconsistent. I think
that’s the fairest thing to say.”

But he also offered little hope for those wanting Thompson to
play.

“I’m not going to sit here and make wholesale changes in the
ninth game of the year, when we’ve done some awfully good things
through the year,” Stoops said. “Kendal has done an awesome job. We
love what he’s doing. He’s got a bright future. It’s hard to
overcome the initial way he started. It’s no one’s fault that he
was injured and missed 40 practices to start the year. Are we going
to go experiment now to find out? I don’t know that that’s the
case.”

Stoops acknowledged he’s always spent more time working with the
defense than the offense, but said he was “on board” with
Oklahoma’s offensive game plan heading into the Baylor game. He
said that Oklahoma’s coaching staff spent the weekend diagnosing
what went wrong and that he’s satisfied with the results.

“It’s always fair to say there’s blame to go around to
everybody,” Stoops said. “But also sometimes, when you’re getting
beat up front, it doesn’t matter what you’re calling. You’re going
to be an ugly play caller when the defense is playing a lot better
than you.”

Stoops hasn’t had any trouble against the Cyclones, going 8-0 to
help extend Oklahoma’s win streak in the series to 14. The Sooners
are 69-5-2 in the all-time series.

That doesn’t bode well for Iowa State, which allowed the
go-ahead TD with 38 seconds left last Saturday to fall 21-17 at
home to TCU for its sixth straight loss.

The Cyclones are also likely sticking with their quarterback
after redshirt freshman Grant Rohach made his first career start
last weekend. Rohach did not play well, finishing 18 of 38 for 148
yards, but he expects to be better Saturday.

“I don’t think I graded out very well,” he said. “I made poor
choices with the ball, which can’t happen being the quarterback.
But knowing those are things we can improve on is something that’s
good about the game.”