No. 3 Sooners try to avoid big game letdown

Coach Bob Stoops’ Oklahoma teams have never struggled to avoid a

letdown following the Red River Rivalry. He doesn’t want to start

now.

Stoops is 12-0 in games immediately after Texas, and he isn’t

putting too much into the latest blowout in the series.

”It just means we’ve got to keep getting better,” Stoops said

Tuesday.

After pummeling then-No. 11 Texas 55-17 on Saturday, the

third-ranked Sooners (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) must prepare this week to

face a Kansas (2-3, 0-2) team that has the worst defense in the

nation after a 70-28 loss at No. 6 Oklahoma State last week.

It’s the type of game that could easily fail to get the

attention of Oklahoma’s players, particularly after they made such

a resounding statement in a rivalry game that’s anticipated all

year long.

But the Sooners have already been through this situation once

this season. After winning at then-No. 5 Florida State, Oklahoma

didn’t maintain its intensity and had its worst week of practice.

That carried over into the first half against Missouri, when the

Sooners found themselves trailing at home for the first time in 21

games and had to rally from an 11-point deficit to win.

”I believe we’re past that. I think they learned a good lesson

a few weeks ago, just about doing the work and being very

businesslike in how we prepare and approach the game,” Stoops

said.

”I believe they understand that the really good teams – the

championship-type teams – get better through the year, and that’s

what we have to do this week,” he said.

Instead of focusing on what’s been going wrong for Kansas, which

ranks last in the Bowl Subdivision with 49.4 points and 556 yards

allowed per game, Stoops wants his players trying to move closer to

perfection

”They see the tape. I’m not going to detail it with all of us,

but there’s a lot we can do better, and we need to,” Stoops said.

”The players see that, so they’re aware of it.”

Stoops has said he wants to see better blocking from linemen and

on the perimeter in the Sooners’ run game, which got a 64-yard

touchdown run from Dominique Whaley but only 22 yards on the 18

remaining carries against Texas.

The return of running back Brennan Clay, who was splitting time

with Whaley before spraining his shoulder two weeks ago, could help

that. Stoops said Clay ”should” be back this week to face the

Jayhawks.

Stoops said he has also noticed breakdowns in pass coverage and

communication on defense.

And for the fifth time in the past 13 games, the Sooners gave up

a kickoff return for a touchdown – the most in the Bowl

Subdivision.

”We watched film on Texas, what a good win it was. But we

watched and there’s a lot more that we need to get better at,”

offensive lineman Stephen Good said.

”Just seeing that is definitely motivating us to keep pushing

forward and not to relax.”

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables called the week leading up

to the Missouri game a ”prime example” of what can happen if a

team has a lapse. Missouri got out to a 14-3 lead in the first 9

minutes before the Sooners came back to life and scored 28 straight

points.

”That’s to take nothing away from Missouri, but it doesn’t take

much to get off,” Venables said.

Despite rallying for a 38-28 victory, Oklahoma still hasn’t

shaken off the perception of that game. LSU passed the Sooners to

take over the No. 1 ranking that week, and Alabama leapfrogged them

the following week.

Even walloping Texas wasn’t enough to bump the Sooners back up

in the rankings.

”After the Missouri game, we had to bounce back. We had to make

a statement, let everyone know we had a bad game that week,”

nickel back Tony Jefferson said. ”But we bounced back and played

two good games in two weeks.”