By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
What a difference a week made for the Oklahoma Sooners.
At this time last week, after a 20-17 win over TCU, Sooner fans were talking about how bad they were going to be beat Texas and how it looked like OU had a very good chance of going 12-0.
But as the late OU coach Jim Mackenzie once said (after a 38-0 loss to Notre Dame when the Sooners were 4-0), “it’s not too far from the castle to the outhouse.”
“I still believe in our team,’’ said OU head coach Bob Stoops after the game. “We’ll improve as we go on through the rest of the season. There’s still a long season ahead. I see a lot of potential. We’ll get some things ironed out and play better.’’
There has been life for OU after Texas losses.
The Sooners, under Stoops, have a 32-8 record in games after losses to the Longhorns, including Big 12 titles in 2006 and 2008 when OU fell to Florida in the BCS Championship Game.
Stoops might be at his best in crisis situations. That’s why OU hasn’t dropped back-to-back games in the regular season since his first year (Notre Dame and Texas).
“It’s very disappointing,’’ said OU center Gabe Ikard. “But we have to bounce back from that and get ready for Kansas.’’
The question after the upset was if the Sooners were too overconfident after drubbing the Longhorns the past two seasons, and Texas being 3-2 and lucky to have beaten Iowa State 31-30 the week before.
There were no Brian Bosworth bulletin board-like statements coming out of Norman last week. The Sooners had been politically correct saying Texas is Texas, and it would be a tough game. But it was evident the Longhorns played with more passion.
“The young men had a good week of practice, there’s no complaints there,’’ Stoops said. “In all competitive arenas, there’s a very fine edge between what somebody is listening to and what their mindset is. We’re not going to say we were overconfident, but they played a lot better than we did.’’
Ikard pleads not guilty to the charge.
“We had a good week of practice,’’ he said. “We kept committing errors that put us in bad spots. Their offense executed better than our defense and their defense executed better than our offense. We knew they had good players.’’
Bell came into the game having completed 72 of 104 passes for 835 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions. He was 12 of 26 for 133 yards and two interceptions Saturday. He was sacked four times.
It may have been part of the education of a first-year starting quarterback.
“Blake needs to make improvement, but he needs help, too,’’ Stoops said. “We broke down in areas of protection, and they beat us in coverage.’’
Bell said he didn’t think he was intimidated by the Cotton Bowl surroundings.
“They did some stuff that we hadn’t seen before,’’ Bell said. “They were a really good team. They came in and executed. That’s the bottom line. We’ve got to execute better. I didn’t play well, and the offense didn’t play as well. It’s as simple as that.’’
History shows first-year starting quarterbacks have games where they struggle. Bell said he was throwing off his back foot too much and didn’t handle the Texas pressure well.
“I think when I get in there (film room) and see what I did wrong and the others see what they did wrong, we can put it altogether and be a really good ballclub,’’ Bell said.
The Sooners missed the presence of senior linebacker Corey Nelson, whose interception for a touchdown ignited the 35-21 victory over Notre Dame earlier this season, and nose tackle Jordan Phillips.
“It’s not hard to say that hurt us,’’ OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “But everyone has injuries. Again, you have to play well.
“It doesn’t make it easy,’’ Bob Stoops said, “but we’re not making excuses about it. The players who were in there for them did a good job.’’
Freshman linebacker Dominique Alexander had a career-high 19 tackles. Defensive lineman Chuka Ndulue had a career-high 15.
The loss means OU no longer controls its own destiny. It has to hope a now more-confident Texas team must lose twice while it wins the rest of its games — no easy task, but certainly not impossible.
Conference favorite Oklahoma State already has a loss, and undefeated Baylor had to rally past Kansas State on Saturday.
Never try to predict what will happen on a Saturday in college football. It’s why it’s such a great game.
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.