The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 7, 2012

Sooners begin to find their way

By Clay Horning, CNHI News Service
CNHI

LUBBOCK, Texas — Oklahoma got it. Bob Stoops got it. That means Josh Heupel got it and Landry Jones found it. Mike Stoops probably already had it.

Strangely, in the midst of OU’s 41-20 win over Texas Tech Saturday, Stoops and Heupel appeared to want more. Up 28 points late in the fourth quarter, Jones was not only in the game, but still throwing the ball. Heupel said Tech was stacking the line. That’s a reason, but not a great one. But Texas is next. Maybe they needed the work.

Anyway, a day late and one ungained victory over Kansas State short, the Sooners started being what they needed to be and quit being some version of themselves, only the sideline braintrust was late to understand they couldn’t and shouldn’t be.

That meant Damien Williams not only started for the first time, but became the first Sooner tailback this season to get the carries associated with being a No. 1 guy. He carried 14 times, 12 more times than Dom Whaley and 14 more times than Brennan Clay. That meant OU came out playing hurry-up and kept playing hurry-up, much more than it had the first three games of the season; not really slowing down until the game was put away, and even then not really slowing down, because Jones wasn’t just throwing in the fourth quarter, but he was throwing without huddling.

“That package of plays, we’re starting to get it closer to who and what we want to be,” Heupel said.

So maybe it took a while, but a late identity is better than no identity.

And, for all the rhetoric we’ve heard in the name of fullback Trey Millard’s greatness for so long, finally it looked like somebody put their foot down to get him more involved in the game, even if Heupel tried to say it was more situational than anything.

Millard carried four times for 19 yards, caught two passes for 26 yards and was on the field a lot more than that. It’s almost like the coaches heard the screaming for their bunker and decided everybody had a point.

Also, Jones was really good, making several terrific throws, like his first touchdown pass to Justin Brown and his second to Kenny Stills and a little recognition-improvisation hook-up with Williams for 35 yards that set up another score.

Even better, he can get better, because his 62.5 percent (25 of 40) completion rate is oddly less than the rate he entered the game with and his 259 yards was all the Sooners needed, but still more than 50 yards off his career game average.

It’s just that he looked so much better along the way. No awful interceptions. No how-did-he-do-that-pull-your-hair-out decisions.

“You have to realize what kind of player you are and realize what you’re capable of, and kind of silence the outside and not really listen to what’s going on around you,” he said.

It would be more reassuring to hear how it all clicked. Like maybe Jones and Heupel were on the same page in a way they hadn’t been, or maybe he just played without fear, leaving the panic behind.

It would feel more permanent if Jones could describe a light-bulb moment, but the Sooner Nation has to like what it saw from its until-now much maligned quarterback.

There’s probably some retroactive anger out there. It’s still hard to make a lot of sense of it. How could they be so bad against the Wildcats and so good against the Red Raiders?

More important is the fact it happened going forward, even if Stoops, so proud, wanted to play that one down, too.

“For you out there, yeah,” he said, asked if the Sooners’ confidence had been restored. “For us, we recognize that we played a good Kansas State team and we did a lot of good things in the game. It all goes out the window when you drop the ball on the 1-yard line going into score. That’s not going to happen every week.”

Right, but OU was so much better, crisper and more certain of itself, even on a day it changed up its game plan, running the ball 29 times, featuring a No. 1 running back, getting its fullback involved (Oh yeah, the defense was plenty good, too; but isn’t the best defense the defense you don’t notice so much, even on a day it gets three turnovers?)

It was a better effort. It was a different and new effort, too.

It’s not important the Sooners see it that way. Only that they keep it going.

USA TODAY POLL



The USA Today Top 25 football coaches poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Oct. 6, total points based on 25 points for first place through one point for 25th, and previous ranking:

    Record    Pts    Pvs

 1. Alabama (58)    5-0    1,474    1

 2. Oregon (1)    6-0    1,411    2

 3. South Carolina    6-0    1,345    6

 4. West Virginia    5-0    1,296    7

 5. Kansas State    5-0    1,216    8

 6. Florida    5-0    1,165    11

 7. Notre Dame    5-0    1,152    10

 8. LSU    5-1    961    3

 9. Southern California    4-1    940    12

10. Oklahoma    3-1    872    14

11. Florida State    5-1    819    4

12. Georgia    5-1    761    5

13. Clemson    5-1    759    15

14. Oregon State    4-0    691    17

15. Texas    4-1    663    9

16. Louisville    5-0    628    16

17. Stanford    4-1    577    18

18. Mississippi State    5-0    558    19

19. Rutgers    5-0    410    21

20. Cincinnati    4-0    365    23

21. Texas A&M    4-1    208    NR

22. Boise State    4-1    197    25

23. TCU    4-1    194    13

24. Louisiana Tech    5-0    131    NR

25. Iowa State    4-1    73    NR

 Others receiving votes: Arizona State 61; Baylor 52; Michigan 33; Northwestern 31; Michigan State 27; Ohio 23; Nebraska 18; Texas Tech 11; Duke 10; Wisconsin 8; Western Kentucky 7; Louisiana-Lafayette 6; North Carolina State 6; Oklahoma State 5; San Jose State 4; Louisiana-Monroe 3; Nevada 2; Toledo 2.

AP POLL



By The Associated Press

The Top 25 teams in The Associated Press college football poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Oct. 6, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote, and previous ranking:

    Record    Pts    Pv

 1. Alabama (60)    5-0    1,500    1

 2. Oregon    6-0    1,435    2

 3. South Carolina    6-0    1,359    6

 4. Florida    5-0    1,265    10

 5. West Virginia    5-0    1,260    8

 6. Kansas St.    5-0    1,217    7

 7. Notre Dame    5-0    1,176    9

 8. Ohio St.    6-0    1,053    12

 9. LSU    5-1    938    4

10. Oregon St.    4-0    873    14

11. Southern Cal    4-1    812    13

12. Florida St.    5-1    800    3

13. Oklahoma    3-1    756    17

14. Georgia    5-1    733    5

15. Texas    4-1    711    11

16. Clemson    5-1    657    15

17. Stanford    4-1    587    18

18. Louisville    5-0    494    19

19. Mississippi St.    5-0    450    20

20. Rutgers    5-0    331    22

21. Cincinnati    4-0    205    NR

22. Texas A&M    4-1    153    NR

23. Louisiana Tech    5-0    129    NR

24. Boise St.    4-1    114    NR

25. Michigan    3-2    82    NR

Others receiving votes: Ohio 79, Baylor 62, Iowa St. 54, TCU 50, Michigan St. 49, Arizona St. 39, Washington 39, NC State 17, Nebraska 5, Arizona 4, Duke 3, Tennessee 3, Texas Tech 2, Tulsa 2, Northwestern 1, Penn St. 1.

 

Horning is the sports editor of the Norman Transcript.