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Bowl game quandary
Stoops latest in long line of coaches to endure slump

by Berry Tramel Published: January 21, 2008
Three weeks after the thrashing in Arizona, mystery still shrouds Oklahoma football's newfound bowl malaise.

How did the Sooners become such January weaklings? Four straight BCS defeats, interrupted only by a Holiday Bowl escape, have raised such questions.

Poor preparation? Over-rated to begin with? Foes too tough? Outcoached? Lack of motivation?

The answer eludes all searchers, hidden in parts of all the above. The plague will dog Bob Stoops until he does something about it. Like wins.

Stoops last week again admitted no clue on a diagnosis. Said he had chatted with Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, whose Buckeyes have been blown out in consecutive national-title games. Tressel told Stoops that Ohio State made wholesale changes in prep work for this Big Bowl compared to last year's. To no avail.

Bowls are funny business. Week-long road trips. Played sometimes six weeks since the most recent game. Usually against unfamiliar foes.

Peculiar situation, and Stoops will carry the burden until the Sooners win a big bowl.

But Stoops can find solace in this: He's not alone. Many a memorable football coach has slumped in bowls.

Georgia legend Vince Dooley lost four straight bowls, including a Cotton and Sugar, from 1974-78. He ended the streak by beating Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl for the 1980 national title.

Jackie Sherrill lost four straight at Mississippi State, Doug Dickey four straight at Florida and Charley McClendon lost four straight at LSU.

John Cooper lost four straight at Ohio State, Mike Bellotti four straight at Oregon and Lloyd Carr four straight at Michigan, including three Rose Bowls.

George Welsh, in the shadows at Navy and Virginia but one of the great coaches of the last 50 years, had two four-bowl losing streaks. But West Virginia's Don Nehlen trumped that, with an eight-bowl losing streak.

Some old Sooner enemies had their bowl troubles. Fred Akers lost four straight bowls at Texas, Bill McCartney lost his first four bowls with Colorado and Texas A&M's R.C. Slocum went 1-7 in bowls from 1991-00, including four Cotton losses and one Sugar.

A day after West Virginia routed OU, Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer joined Stoops in losing four straight BCS game, though Beamer's four defeats date back to the 1996 Orange Bowl.

But those are just stumbles. Mere oddities in the small sample of bowl games.

Three coaches were masters at bowl bungling. Three coaches were so hapless in bowl stretches, they make Bob Stoops look like Mister January.

Bear Bryant already was an Alabama legend in 1967, with a 5-2-1 bowl record and three national titles.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops needs to figure out why the Sooners keep falling short in bowl games. BY STEVE SISNEY, THE OKLAHOMAN


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