Sooners still thinking championship despite shocking loss to Texas
Despite Oklahoma fans’ shock and disappointment following last Saturday’s 24-17 loss to rival Texas, their Sooners are in virtually the same position they were in before the game.
The schedule presents multiple chances to get back into the playoff picture. Oklahoma (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) still has yet to play No. 2 Baylor, No. 3 TCU and unbeaten No. 16 Oklahoma State. The 19th-ranked Sooners still have big-time goals, and they are using Ohio State’s example from last season as a rallying cry.
"If you look at it, not many teams at all go undefeated," Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield said. "Last year, Ohio State won the national championship and they lost to a Virginia Tech team at home. They got it going, and they fought back. You can’t harp on the losses. It can either make you better or make you worse."
The route back to the playoff hunt starts Saturday at Kansas State.
"It’s simple," Stoops said. "Like I said a year ago, we won this game (against Texas) and didn’t end up having a great year. Two years ago, we lost this game and ended up going on and winning the Sugar Bowl. So we’ll see. All you can do is get ready to play this week and be the best we can and make improvement and take it game by game."
Traditionally, Oklahoma bounces back well. The Sooners haven’t lost back-to-back regular-season games since 1999, a span of 34 straight wins following losses. They’ll face a formidable Kansas State squad that lost a 52-45 heartbreaker at home against TCU last Saturday.
"We’re going to be ready for a Kansas State team that’s going to give us their best shot," Mayfield said. "They took TCU down to the wire. It’s just a tough environment to play at. We’ve just got to be ready to come in there with the right attitude and be hungry."
How the Sooners lost to Texas is as big an issue as the score. Mayfield was sacked six times and the Sooners rushed for just 67 yards on 37 carries. Center Ty Darlington said the offensive line can’t accept numbers like that.
"I think a lot of it is the tone we set as leaders and what you accept every day in practice and the level of intensity and the level of competitiveness that you approach every day with," he said. "Especially where we’re a pretty young group, and even the guys that aren’t younger are inexperienced. But by this point, we’re almost halfway through the year. You can’t just keep saying inexperienced."
Darlington believes the Sooners will recover.
"What it’s going to take from here on out is an incredible level of character," he said. "Our character gets revealed in times of adversity. This is definitely an adverse situation, but at the same time, all is not lost. We have a lot of our goals still out in front of us, and we’re going to have a lot of opportunities to prove who we are."
Oklahoma needs a win to keep from falling two games back in the conference chase. Stoops is 5-0 against Kansas State on the road but doesn’t have a specific formula for his team’s success in Manhattan, Kansas.
"There isn’t any magic to it," Stoops said. "It’s execution and making plays when you get the opportunity to make them."
However, the Sooners lost 31-30 at home to the Wildcats last season after missing a 19-yard field goal with 3:53 to play and letting Kansas State run out the clock.
The Wildcats (3-2, 0-2) have since lost five straight to ranked teams, but the two defeats this season were nail-biters in the past two weeks. One came on a last-minute field goal by Oklahoma State and the other on a last-minute touchdown by TCU – teams that are a combined 12-0.
At halftime, the Wildcats led TCU 35-17 and Oklahoma State 28-20. Before those games, K-State had won 49 straight when leading at halftime.
"We’re having some serious dialogue about that," coach Bill Snyder said. "It’s pretty hard to put your finger on. I don’t think it’s a conditioning problem."
Quarterback Joe Hubener rushed for career highs of 111 yards and four touchdowns against the Horned Frogs, but the junior completed 13 of 33 passes for 157 yards and had two critical second-half turnovers.
Mayfield, meanwhile, is coming off arguably his worst performance, rushing 18 times for minus-5 yards while throwing for 211 with one touchdown. He averaged 345.5 yards through the air in the first four games and threw for at least three TDs in all of them.
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- Ty Darlington