The Edmond Sun

October 31, 2012

Sooners can play for more than pride

Clay Horning
CNHI News Service

NORMAN — No national championship remains for Oklahoma. Still, there is talk about a Big 12 title, though it seems almost equally unlikely.

Kansas State would have to lose twice, and even though the Wildcats may scare nobody, just who’s going to beat them once?

Seven games in and the Sooners have been bounced from all of their chases. It’s an amazing thing.

Last season, they weren’t out of the national championship race until Baylor bounced them, the 10th game of the season, and still played Bedlam for the conference crown.

The year before that, OU wasn’t done until it couldn’t push it in against Texas A&M, two weeks after it couldn’t push it in against Missouri. The Aggies were the Sooners’ ninth game that season.

Take away the Sun Bowl year, 2009, and the last time Bob Stoops’ bunch endured two losses in the space of the first seven games of the season was 2006, when OU began with a highway robbery loss at Oregon and a Cotton Bowl defeat three weeks later … and still came back to win the first of three straight Big 12 championships, led by that great quarterback Paul Thompson.

Perhaps that only depresses the present, because here OU sits with what exactly to play for?

The crazy thing?

It feels like there’s more to play for. It seems nothing like last season, or the year before.

Monday, Bob Stoops, backed his team.

“We still have a lot of games to go and it’s always a fight to get better,” he said. “This team has been great to coach — their attitude, everything about them.”

Stacy McGee went off and got himself suspended before the season began. So did Geneo Grissom, for a game. And that’s been it. Injuries have been an issue on the offensive line, but that’s bad luck rather than poor character.

The loss to Kansas State?

The Sooners were bad. Landry Jones was worse. No mystery. But that wasn’t a character issue, either. And Jones has been good ever since. Stoops was right to defend his quarterback on Monday. His team, too.

“We haven’t had the issues we had a year ago,” he said.

There may be something to the cries for better talent, because since Kansas State, the Sooners have not underperformed.

They lost to Notre Dame, but doesn’t OU always lose to the Irish? And the Sooners got none of the calls. Things happen. Sorry, but there is no villain.

It’s quite the situation.

Monday, Jones pled his case that OU’s last loss was unfortunate, but no sign the Sooners have lost their way; that the Sooners of Texas, Texas Tech and Kansas are the real Sooners.

“I think we are playing a lot better than we were last year,” he said.

But for Ryan Broyles being there to save the day, he’s right. Up and down the depth chart and roster, OU is better than last year. The losses are still losses, but that’s all they are.

What’s left to play for?

The best possible season, and right now that’s an 11-2 campaign from a team that probably winds up in a BCS bowl if it can get to 10-2 by Dec. 1.

On the national shows, predictably, you’ll hear talk that maybe OU just isn’t that good this season. Maybe everybody was wrong.

Well, they were wrong from the start when they had OU playing for all the marbles. But they’re just as wrong now, painting the Sooners into an overrated corner.

Last Saturday did not expose OU nearly as much as the Irish exposed themselves as true contenders. If the Sooners play as they played entering that game exiting that game they could very well have six more wins in them,

“I don’t think we’re going to shut it down,” Jones said.

Other seasons, maybe.

This team’s better than that.