Sooners must bounce back after tough loss to Texas
Despite gloomy atmosphere after Red River loss, Sooners back to work to prepare for Kansas.
By ANDREW GILMANFS Southwest
Monday was rainy and so was the mood around the
Oklahoma football team.
That's what happens when you get whipped by
Texas 36-20 in a game where you're favored by two touchdowns.
We learned a lot on Saturday about the
Sooners, but here are three more things – with a bonus fourth – we learned on Monday.
1. It's going to be Blake Bell, for now
Think of it this way: If the Sooners didn't make a change Saturday against Texas, why would they make a move now?
That's why when Bob Stoops said, "We'll see, but that's not something we're looking to do," when talking about making a quarterback change, it gave a strong impression the Sooners were not interested in making a switch.
A few weeks ago, Stoops and co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said the team had a package where they could feature quarterbacks Trevor Knight or Kendal Thompson. Neither Knight or Thompson played against TCU and neither played against Texas.
And if they aren't going to play when Bell goes 12-of-26, like he did against Texas, tossing a pair of dreadful interceptions, it sure doesn't seem like likely the coaches wouldn't trot Bell out there against hapless Kansas.
Stoops said there was never any discussion during Saturday's 36-20 loss to Texas about replacing Bell. OK, maybe the coaches didn't want to yank Bell out of the game, but never a discussion about it? Not a whisper? It would be more surprising if there wasn't any dialogue about Bell. The coaches have a responsibility to constantly evaluate talent, before, during and after games, so if they weren't doing that with Bell, or by some stretch, thought he was good enough to keep playing, there may be larger issues to deal with.
Bell was sensational against Tulsa and good against Notre Dame, but since the
OU offense has just three offensive touchdowns in the past two Big 12 games. In addition, Bell looked shaky against TCU (20-of-31 for 152 yards) and was lost against Texas.
No one is definitively saying Knight or Thompson is better than Bell, but Bell didn't have it on Saturday. Giving someone other than Bell a shot, at least for a short time, might have given the Sooner offense more life.
Then again, maybe Bell would have thrived if Bell was able to do what he does best – run the ball. But Texas stacked the middle of the field and Bell wasn't really given any real opportunity to run it up the middle. OU's running success came on sweeps and stretch plays.
Bell will start Saturday against Kansas. If something happens and the Sooners don't move the ball, expect Stoops to have some talks and some discussion this time around.
2. Losing Corey Nelson hurts, but losing Jordan Phillips could be worse
The loss of Corey Nelson was a bad break for the Sooners. He was a three-year starter at linebacker and a team leader.
But the loss of Jordan Phillips is a crusher. The OU defensive line, thin and inexperienced to start with, just got thinner and more inexperienced when Stoops announced Phillips would be out for the rest of the season due to back surgery scheduled for Tuesday.
"He dominated the middle," defensive end Charles Tapper said. "Losing him is mentally hard as well as physically. Now someone else on the defense has to step up. One of us has to and take that role."
Phillips started the first four games of the year at defensive tackle and missed the past two with an injury that Stoops never disclosed.
Now with Phillips, a sophomore, and Nelson gone we'll see what kind of defense the Sooners have. They were great against the run the first five games of the season, but teams – like Texas did with success – will certainly test the run game even more now.
Jordan Wade will get the start against Kansas. He has started the past two games as well. Wade blocked an extra point against Texas and also had a pair of tackles.
It's going to take something more than a leader for the OU defense. It's going to take someone who can step up and stop the run.
"Now we have a super-chip on our shoulder because no one thinks we can stop the run," Tapper said.
3. Josh Heupel will be answering a lot of questions
By all accounts, co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel didn't have a great day Saturday against Texas. And while the defense didn't do a lot better, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops indirectly stood up for Heupel.
"There are no magical calls," Mike Stoops said. "It's about how your players play. We thought we had a good plan, they made all the plays. That's to their credit."
OK, most anyone would buy that line of reasoning from Stoops, but it sure didn't seem like the OU offense gave its players much of a shot. The offense seemed to have very little flow and hat's been the case in pretty much all three conference games so far.
"Ask coach Heupel," said offensive lineman Daryl Williams when asked why the Sooners didn't try to run the ball more.
Uh, oh. Not exactly the kind of thing that says, "Everything is under control."
4. No one is interested in really talking about Kansas
Maybe if the Sooners had won against Texas, instead of lost, there would have been some questions about what was next up for the team. But since the Sooners lost, Stoops wasn't asked about this week's game against Kansas.
But there were plenty of questions about Texas.
Stoops brought up Kansas briefly but not one of the questions in the 20-plus minutes Stoops stood in front of the media were about the Jayhawks.
Not saying there should have been, but if the Sooners were guarding against overconfidence last week, they should have the same issues this week, too.
Stoops has never lost to Kansas (8-0) and OU is 14-0 under Stoops the game after playing Texas. In addition, Kansas hasn't won a Big 12 game since 2010 and has lost 11 games in a row overall to ranked opponents. OU is No. 18 this week.
Maybe it was the gloomy weather in Norman, but not any of the players who talked with the media, including Bob Stoops, was exuding confidence. And maybe that's due to the fact that all anyone wanted to ask questions about was Texas.