NORMAN, Okla – It took two weeks and one game, but Oklahoma went from flawed to fixed.
The truth is, the Sooners, at 3-1, lost at the wrong time and won at the right time. They have issues, but 2012 isn’t lost, either.
And this week, it’s the Cotton Bowl, the Longhorns and a chance to establish an identity. Fixed or flawed? More answers are on the way.
“Each year is different and players are different,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “You can’t pay attention to outside distractions. You know who and what you are as a team. If you pay attention to outside influences that don’t have a ton of understanding of what’s going, aren’t there every day and don’t watch the tape, you set yourself up for failure. Just go about your business and go to work.”
Up until last week’s Texas Tech win, no one knew much of anything about the Sooners. Quarterback Landry Jones looks lost for three games and then plays close to perfect in the fourth game. We’ve seen an offense without an identity find itself – seemingly deciding on Damien Williams at running back while becoming diverse. On defense, in one game, the Sooners forced more turnovers (three) vs. Texas Tech than they had against UTEP, FAMU and Kansas State combined (one).
Heupel pointed out no one but his team knows or understands what’s going on behind the curtain, essentially wagging his finger at the notion of being questioned. However, no one is allowed behind the curtain at Oklahoma. Practices are closed, media availability is limited. The only thing left is games, and so far, the Sooners have played one game of note and three that were underwhelming.
We might know a bit more, but we really still don’t know what kind of team Oklahoma is from what amounts to be a two-game sample size.
“Now, hopefully we can get into a rhythm,” coach Bob Stoops said of his team which already had two bye weeks. “It’s hard to make that improvement if you’re not playing games. Games is where you learn the most.”
Jones hasn’t been the quarterback he was before star receiver Ryan Broyles got hurt late last season, but he showed signs of snapping a slump with his performance against Tech. Meanwhile, Heupel and the offense was clearly sensitive to the fact Jones had struggled, putting him in better position to succeed. Jones went 25-for-40 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions. OU mixed in formations unseen up until Saturday and it worked. The Sooners went for 380 yards against Tech.
“We just played a lot better,” Jones said. All across the board. We played the way we’re capable of playing. We’re starting to build and starting to figure out who’s capable of what.”
Texas should provide a better barometer, and the timing is just about right. OU not only won and dominated at Texas Tech, but got a lot of help too with the losses by Florida State, Georgia and LSU. Also, Texas, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma all have a loss in conference play. The loser between OU and Texas is likely eliminated from winning the conference. Expect urgency to be high for both teams.
“I think we’re playing with more confidence and you see it in the eyes of some of the guys,” defensive end R.J. Washington said. “But you can’t predicate your season on one week. We can’t say, ‘We’re back, we’re the greatest ever,’ and then go get smashed by Texas. We need to keep an even keel. We know what we’re capable of and I think as long as we take some positives and take the good out of that game and fix the negatives, the sky’s the limit.”
The Sooners responded poorly in their first big game of the year, against Kansas State, fumbling once on its own goal line and once again on K-State’s in the 24-19 loss. But OU responded well its next time out at then-unbeaten Texas Tech.
“That’s the way it goes,” Jones said. “One week you’re the worst in the world, and now everyone loves you. Don’t ride the waves. You’re not as bad as you think and not as great either. You’re somewhere in between. You continue to learn that you can make plays that you didn’t think you could. That’s what great about football, you can’t hide.”
No hiding against Texas in the Cotton Bowl. We’re about to find out if OU is fixed or if the Sooners are flawed.