No. 8 Sooners have close shave wins, Texas next
The Sooners are squeaking a bit these days and that’s just fine
with linebacker Travis Lewis.
No. 8 Oklahoma (4-0) isn’t regularly demolishing opponents, but
Lewis says it’s better than losing.
”All I care about is we’re 4-0,” said Lewis, a team captain.
”Last year, we were 2-2 at this time and we lost two games by one
point. Right now, we’re 4-0 and we’re winning the close
Three of Oklahoma’s four wins this season have come by less than
a touchdown, with the opponent each time mounting a late comeback
from a double-digit deficit that came up short.
Realistically, the Sooners know they’re flirting with disaster.
It took a muffed punt by Cincinnati and an onside kick recovery in
the fourth quarter for Oklahoma to escape with a 31-29 win last
week. Before that, Utah State and Air Force both provided late
scares before the Sooners escaped.
”We’re a long way away and we’re 4-0,” safety Quinton Carter
said. ”With that being said, you can’t be disappointed. We only
can get better.”
Opponents have outscored Oklahoma 41-10 in the fourth quarter,
and only a few timely plays have kept the Sooners unbeaten. It took
a late interception to secure the victory over Utah State; against
Air Force, the defense never came up with a late stop and the
offense ran out the clock after back-to-back scoring drives by the
”It’s a good thing at the time, but we can’t rely on bending
and not breaking because one day it will break,” safety Jonathan
”We have to realize that for a defense, you can’t rely on
turnovers to win the game. Even though football is huge about
turnover margin, you can’t rely on turnovers and get your butt
kicked throughout the whole game … because turnovers aren’t
automatic. They don’t always happen.”
The Sooners have led by at least 15 points in each of their
games this season, but only showed a killer instinct in a 47-17
rout of Florida State in Week 2. Coach Bob Stoops admitted his team
may be letting up after it builds a substantial lead.
”I think that’s an excuse. It’s a poor one in my eyes,” he
said. ”If that’s the case, you get to feeling comfortable, `Now,
we’re good,’ then that’s a pure setup for someone to come
So far, the Sooners have been able to get by without playing
their best. That may change Saturday when they face No. 21 Texas
(3-1, 1-0 Big 12) at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The Longhorns are
coming off a 34-12 loss to UCLA but have beaten Oklahoma four of
the last five years.
”We’re not playing near our best, and we need to pick it up,
especially on the defensive side of the ball,” Nelson said. ”The
offense, they’re putting up 31 points and we’re still making it
close. That’s not a good sign at all. We have to give the offense
more of a cushion and not put so much pressure on them.”
The positive side is that the Sooners have reversed a trend of
losing close games. Last year, they had four losses by a combined
12 points and finished 8-5, settling for a victory in the Sun Bowl
after going to three straight BCS bowls.
”Though I’m not at all pleased in the manner in which we did
win, I still recognize as a team there’s a big difference between
winning by two and losing by one or two,” Stoops said. ”I again
am positive, I feel good about the team that that we are making the
plays necessary to be on the other side of that.”
Of late, the rivalry has been getting more competitive. In the
early years of Stoops vs. Mack Brown, there were scores like 63-14,
65-13 and 45-12. But the last three years, the game has been
decided by 10 points or less and seen the winning team take the
lead in the fourth quarter.
”In a game like this, you’re going to need to be able to make
those big plays because it’s the team that creates the most
turnovers, that holds the ball the longest, that controls the clock
that wins this game,” Lewis said. We may give up some big plays
sometimes, but we play hard and we make plays. That’s what you need
in a game like this.”