Sooners aim to bounce back against Jayhawks
It doesn't seem to matter how well Oklahoma fares in its annual Red River Rivalry with Texas. Whoever is next on the schedule had better watch out.
For some reason, that often ends up being Kansas.
The No. 18 Sooners have won 14 straight games played the week after tussling with the Longhorns, and that includes a 6-0 mark against the Jayhawks. Only five of those games came on the heels of a loss, as will be the case when Oklahoma plays Kansas on Saturday.
''Our season, win or lose this game, isn't the end all and it never is,'' Sooners coach Bob Stoops said after a 36-20 loss to the Longhorns last weekend. ''We go back to our work like we always do, and we have six more conference games to go, so that's what you have to do.''
Still, it will surely be an ornery bunch of Sooners (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) heading to Memorial Stadium. Their national title aspirations were likely dashed by the loss, and now they're left wondering where they stack up in a wide-open conference race.
''At the beginning of the season we had high hopes for ourselves,'' Oklahoma defensive end Geneo Grissom said, ''and this loss kind of changes that for us. We're a little bit upset with ourselves and the way the game went. We will definitely have chips on our shoulders.''
That doesn't sound like good news for Kansas (2-3, 0-2), which is still trying to end a 23-game conference losing streak that predates second-year coach Charlie Weis.
The Jayhawks were blown out by Texas Tech in their Big 12 opener, but fared better in a close loss to TCU last weekend. Still, Kansas hasn't won a league game since topping Colorado - which is no longer in the Big 12 - under former coach Turner Gill during the 2010 season.
''Statistically if you look at Coach Stoops' record coming off the Red River Rivalry, especially coming off a loss, the numbers are almost astounding in the dominance they've shown coming off of that game,'' Weis said. ''We're going to be ready for their `A' game, because I'm sure they're not in the happiest of spirits right now.''
As the Sooners try to get back on track, and the Jayhawks try to deliver Weis his first Big 12 win, here are five things to keep in mind:
BELLDOZER UNTRACKED: Sooners quarterback Blake Bell was just 12 of 26 for 133 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions against the Longhorns. In three of its last four games against the Jayhawks, Oklahoma has thrown for at least 300 yards and three TDs. ''We're going to get better,'' Bell said. ''Me and all the receivers, the more we get timing down and know what we're doing, we'll be able to make plays and hit some shots down the field.''
BIG SLOWDOWN: Kansas went with an ultra-conservative game plan last week against TCU in an attempt to minimize risk. The result was a dreadfully boring affair, but one in which the Jayhawks were competitive until the fourth quarter. ''You have to play to the strength of your team,'' Weis explained. ''That is the defense for us.''
FLOTILLA OF RBS: Brennan Clay leads the Sooners with 476 yards rushing, but there are a bunch of guys fighting for carries. Damien Williams and Roy Finch have taken snaps, and speedy freshman Keith Ford recently joined the mix. ''He's fast,'' Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. ''He has a chance to make a lot of explosive plays.''
COACHING CHANGES: The Jayhawks shook up coaching staff responsibilities this week in an attempt to generate more offense. Quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus is handling the passing game and tight ends coach Jeff Blasko the running game while Weis oversees the whole thing. ''Coach has always been open to ideas,'' Powlus said. ''It's just the way we presented them was a little bit different. ... But we all work together and did no different this week.''
BIG 12 HOPES: The Sooners still believe they can win the conference title, which they did after losses to Texas in 2006 and 2008. They still play league-unbeatens Texas Tech and Baylor, along with Oklahoma State. ''We can still win the Big 12,'' Sooners offensive lineman Daryl Williams said, ''and possibly go to the championship if we win out.''