The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK


October 29, 2012

Stoops: Nothing missing for Sooners

NORMAN, Okla. —  Bob Stoops isn’t changing his message after another rare home loss for No. 14 Oklahoma.

Stoops stood behind his team Monday, refusing to admit any sign of weakness beyond simply facing a better team for the second time this season.

The Sooners (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) were effectively knocked out of national championship contention Saturday night with a 30-13 loss to Notre Dame that resembled their other defeat, last month against Kansas State.

At a place where a national title is the goal every year, Stoops’ first season with two losses at home has brought questions of what’s going wrong.

“Nothing’s missing. We’ve lost to the No. 2 and 3 teams in the country in two really good, hard-fought football games,” Stoops said. “When you schedule Notre Dame and you know that’s coming, that’s just part of the way it’s unfolded.

“There’s nothing missing with this team. A play or two in each game, and we’d have a chance to be different. But that’s not the case.”

Just like in the K-State game, it was the visitors who made the critical plays in the fourth quarter on Owen Field. OU couldn’t come up with a third-down stop in crunch time and again committed a costly late turnover.

“No one likes losing at home. There’s really no positives out of it, other than the teams we lost to are No. 2 and 3 in the country,” said center Gabe Ikard, a team captain. “That’s about all you can see is positive. No one else has beat them.

“But yeah, very disappointing to lose at home, especially twice in one year. That’s unheard of around here.”

Not since a five-game home losing streak in 1997 and ’98 — the two years before Stoops was hired — has Oklahoma lost multiple times in Norman in the same season.

Stoops opened his weekly news conference by complimenting the Fighting Irish, but also second-guessing officials on a few close calls that went against the Sooners — particularly a holding penalty against Bronson Irwin that negated a touchdown and the ruling on an interception by Manti Te’o after Notre Dame had taken a 20-13 lead in the fourth quarter.

Stoops thought it could have been either a pass interference call or an incomplete pass, but an instant replay review upheld the pick.

“We were just on the wrong side of, particularly through the game, on the wrong side of some judgment calls that in the end, in a tight football game, they’re part of the game,” Stoops said.

“I’m not complaining at all,” he added. “I’m just saying when you’re in a tight game, those kind of decisions are tough to overcome. And again, they made the big play at the end to get the lead.”

The Sooners also lost leading rusher Damien Williams and starting left tackle Lane Johnson late in the game to ankle injuries. Stoops said both would miss practice Monday. He held out hope both could return to practice by mid-week and play Saturday at Iowa State (5-3, 2-3).

Williams is OU’s top rusher with 581 yards on 87 carries this season with seven touchdowns. Johnson has started every game this season at left tackle.

“It’s going to be our job to keep this team together, make us realize we still have a lot to play for,” Ikard said. “You never know what can happen on Saturdays, whether we still have an outside shot at a BCS game, I guess, and then we still have a chance to win the conference.

“We’ve got to keep this team, keep up a positive attitude, just make sure we’re all invested in practice.”

Between the two losses, the Sooners had put together an impressive three-game winning streak that seemed to have all phases clicking. But the same problems that led to downfall against Kansas State arose against Notre Dame.

The offense moved the ball, but failed to establish a running game and then made untimely mistakes when forced to sustain long drives. Notre Dame was able to control the clock with its power running game, leaving OU only 12 drives. Two of them were doomed by bad snaps. Irwin’s penalty ended up taking four points off the board on another and the interception wiped out one more.

“Regardless of what happens during the course of a game, you have to figure out a way to score touchdowns,” said quarterback Landry Jones, who threw for 356 yards but no scores. “That’s the big factor of the night, that we kicked two field goals when we should have scored touchdowns.”

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