CNHI News Service
LUBBOCK, Texas —
The offers of vindication or validation were plentiful early Saturday evening. Two weeks after the sky seemed to be falling on the Sooners, they had just responded with a dominant 41-20 victory over Texas Tech.
OU coach Bob Stoops wasn’t interested in any of it. To him, the sky was in the same place it was two weeks earlier.
“What we care about is what we’re doing. How are we getting better? Stick with each other, recognize the elements we can control and change,” he said. “… We’ll just keep doing what we do, trying to get better in how we work and how we go to meetings. Our guys have had a great attitude. I keep saying that. They worked hard, and they played hard.”
The Sooners (3-1, 1-1 Big 12) proved their coach right with their performance against Texas Tech. There wasn’t a phase that didn’t show improvement in a victory that ended a three-game losing streak at Texas Tech’s AT&T Jones Stadium.
Players didn’t seem too interested in quieting critics either. They’d been through a rough two weeks and emerged with a big, momentum-building win at a critical time.
OU, which jumped four spots to No. 14 in the Associated Press Top 25 on Sunday, has entered its most intense week of the season. It concludes on Saturday at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas against No. 15 Texas (4-1, 1-1).
“I thought it was a big win for the team’s confidence — especially offensively,” center Gabe Ikard said. “I thought we executed really well against a defense that was ranked first in the country — statistically.
“I think it was good. I think it was whatever you want to call it. It was good to go on the road to a tough environment, a place we hadn’t won in a long time, a team that beat us last year, so to come here and get a win was big for our confidence and big for our season.”
The loss to Kansas State on Sept. 22 did knock OU off course. However, it became obvious in Lubbock and elsewhere on Saturday that OU has the potential to get back in the national championship race.
The Red River Rivalry always offers the kind of national stage few teams get to enjoy. Play well and win and the Sooners’ momentum continues to build with a showdown with No. 7 Notre Dame on Oct. 27 on the horizon.
Consistent play from their quarterback is something the Sooners must have in the Cotton Bowl. Landry Jones didn’t have gaudy numbers — 259 yards and two touchdowns, but he did play his most efficient game of the season. He didn’t come close to throwing an interception and engineered touchdown drives on three of OU’s first four possessions.
“I think we played up near to where we are capable of playing on both offense and defense,“ Jones said. “I felt like we really just did a good job on both sides of the ball and building confidence going into Texas. They are a really good team and a good defense and offense. They are really capable of doing a lot of good things. To have a game like this and have that momentum going into next week is nice.”
Perhaps that was the only thing OU lacked in its first three games. It was a team that shot itself in the foot with turnovers and made some defensive breakdowns. Those things were absent against the Red Raiders and the result was an unexpected rout.
The Sooners looked like a different team because of it and enter Texas week feeling a transformed.
“We have confidence,” safety Tony Jefferson said. “We proved ourselves.”