Sooners Look to Rebound in Lawrence
Unquestionably, Oklahoma, players, coaches and fans were still stinging from Saturday’s loss in the Red River Rivalry. However, Monday’s meetings and practice offered an opportunity to focus on the Sooners’ next opponent, the Kansas Jayhawks.
While losing is never palatable in Norman, if there was any silver lining to be gleaned from Saturday’s setback, it would lie in the ability of head coach Bob Stoops to help his club rebound after rare losses. You have to go back to the final two contests of the 2003 campaign to find the last time that OU lost back-to-back games in the season. In other words, the last 20 times the Sooners have suffered a regular season loss, they’ve tasted victory in their next outing.
Win or lose in the Red River Rivalry, Stoops has also been adept at getting his squad honed in after the always-emotional Texas contest. In fact, the Sooners have won 14 straight games under Stoops immediately following games against the Longhorns, including a 6-0 mark vs. Kansas.
“Our season, win or lose this game (Red River Rivalry), isn’t the end all and it never is,” Stoops explained. “We go back to doing our work like we always do and we have six more conference games to go so that’s what you have to do.”
The players know that despite the loss, the focus now must turn to preparing for Saturday’s game against Kansas.
“Especially here (at Oklahoma), you aren’t used to losing but it’s part of the game and you just have to move on and prepare for the next week,” said senior safety Gabe Lynn.
“Every team in this conference can beat us if we are not playing to the best of our ability,” Lynn continued. “They came out a little tougher than us and hit us in the mouth. It was an eye-opener. I hate for it to happen but we have to be prepared each week.”
Geneo Grissom, who grabbed his first career interception and brought it back for a touchdown in the Texas game, echoed the thought that the Sooners just have to move forward.
“There are always things you can do better,” he shared. “At the end of the day [Texas] beat us fair and square. That is over now and we have to start preparing for Kansa.
“No one likes to lose, especially this team, so I think we are going to have a big chip on our shoulder all week.”
Ball Security Essential vs. the Jayhawks
While Kansas hasn’t beaten Oklahoma since 1997, and the Jayhawks have lost 23 straight Big 12 Conference contests, head coach Bob Stoops has seen improvement in Kansas in their second season under head coach Charlie Weis.
“They look good, in that, offensively they are going to try to run the football and get their play-action passes from it,” Stoops said. “They do a good job of that. Defensively, the biggest thing you notice watching them a week ago is all the turnovers. I think they got five turnovers a week ago (against TCU). They play very sound and very aggressive in the way they play defensively.”
After committing two turnovers that led to 13 points for Texas last week, ball security will be stressed even more this week at practice. The Sooners are 35-2 (.946) under Stoops when they don’t commit a turnover, a trend that OU would like to continue this week. During its eight-game winning streak against the Jayhawks, Oklahoma has registered a +12 turnover differential (26 takes/14 gives).
Love Those Linebackers
Throughout fall camp, Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops indicated that linebackers would be play an integral part in the Sooners’ defense this season. While the experience of Corey Nelson can’t be replaced, freshman Dominique Alexander did an admirable job in his first start in place of Nelson, who is scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery to repair a torn left pectoral muscle on Tuesday.
Alexander led the team with 19 tackles (13 solo) and 1.0 TFL against Texas. It marked the highest tackle total by a Sooner since LB Travis Lewis also recorded 19 stops in the 2008 Red River Rivalry. Sophomore LB Frank Shannon also registered a career high with 16 stops. Although there was plenty of production from the linebackers, Stoops knows the linebacker corps still has plenty of room for improvement Saturday.
“Dominique (Alexander) had 19 tackles,” the head coach indicated. “He’s a young guy in there that’s really doing well. Early on he was out of position on a third down, and on an early run a time or two, but he’s going to keep getting better. Frank (Shannon) is the same way. They’re playing really hard and doing well. A time or two they missed where the needed to be. They got a little wide on a blocking scheme and need to stay a little tighter, but those are some things we’ve got to keep getting better at.”
“He’ll catch his stride and he’ll make a load of improvement,” added defensive coordinator Mike Stoops on Alexander. “There’s so much he has to see. It’s hard that you have to get burned before you learn it. Now he’ll see the mistakes he made and I don’t think he’ll make the same mistakes over and over but you have to see it. It has to happen. You wish they could learn just from practice but it doesn’t happen. He’ll learn a bunch from what happened Saturday, the good and the bad.”
While Alexander is still learning the ropes of the linebacker position, he understands that playing fast can help make up for lack of game experience.
“(Coach Tim Kish) emphasizes playing hard and playing fast all the time,” Alexander said. “If you’re wrong on something but you’re playing hard and playing fast, you can still get to the right spot. So I just try to listen to my coach and do what he tells me to do.”
When asked about his level of confidence in younger players like Alexander and DT Jordan Wade stepping up for the Sooners, senior CB Aaron Colvin didn’t blink. “I’m very confident,” Colvin said. “This is the University of Oklahoma and I know that’s why they come here.
“They wouldn’t recruit them if they weren’t good players and they didn’t think they could be great players, so those guys are going to step up,” Colvin continued. “When they get comfortable in the scheme of things, when they get the ball rolling, they’ll do a great job.”
Defensive Line Developments
During his Monday press conference, Bob Stoops indicated that DT Jordan Phillips will miss the remainder of the season as he is scheduled to undergo back surgery on Tuesday. Stoops said it is not the result of one specific injury but rather a chronic issue that has bothered Phillips for a couple of years. Junior DL Chuka Ndulue is perhaps the most experienced player on the OU defensive front and responded to getting an increased role by producing a career-best 15 tackles last week.
Jordan Wade, Torrea Peterson and Quincy Russell will join Ndulue in the rotation on the interior of the defensive front, while DEs Charles Tapper and Geneo Grissom will be counted on to step up, as well.
“We’ve got a lot of players that haven’t played a lot, but they’ll get better,” said Mike Stoops. “The more they play, they get better. They’ve got the talent to do that and what we’ve got to do is improve on our technique and being more physical at the point of attack.”
Grissom is a native of Hutchinson, Kan., and will have additional incentive when he returns to his home state.
“It is always good to go back to Kansas,” he said. “It is where a lot of my family is from so I will have to get a lot of tickets for that game. But it is a great environment and I see a lot of my friends from high school. Kansas and Kansas State are usually the games I have to show out for.”
While Grissom has plenty of incentive to show up in the Sunflower State, there’s little doubt that he and his teammates are eager to get the taste of the Texas game out of their mouths.
“I think we are a little bit upset with ourselves and the way the (Red River) game went,” he concluded. “We will definitely have chips on our shoulders.”
College Football Playoff Selection Committee Named
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long has been named the first chairman of the College Football selection committee, announced Monday. Beginning after the 2014 regular season, the committee will chose the four teams who will participate in the College Football Playoff.
Long is a former administrator at OU, serving as senior associate athletic director for two-and-a- half-years for the Sooners. Long managed external affairs, including development, marketing/promotions, licensing, media relations, ticket operations, radio/television and SoonerVision productions. He also served as primary administrator for the football and men’s basketball programs along with sport supervision of baseball, wrestling and both golf teams.
There are 12 more reported committee members expected to be announced Wednesday. Five other current athletics directors join Long on the committee, including West Virginia’s Oliver Luck, Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez, Clemson’s Dan Radakovich and Southern California’s Pat Haden, a group that has strong football credentials.
Completing the committee will reportedly be former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, retired Lt. Gen Michael Gould; former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese; former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne; former Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham; former NFL and Mississippi quarterback Archie Manning; and former NCAA vice president Tom Jernstedt.A press conference is slated in Dallas on Thursday to formalize the committee assignments for the College Football Playoff.