NORMAN — One Oklahoma football player was quoted following Saturday's opener that the Sooners had thought they were on top of the world.
OU football coach Bob Stoops was asked if the closer-than-expected 31-24 win over Utah State could serve as a wake-up call.
"Hopefully," Stoops said. "I don't know 'top of what world' they're talking about. In the end we're far from that. You'd think they'd have enough sense to understand that. I've sure tried to explain that to them."
The player was linebacker Travis Lewis, a Butkus Award candidate who said: "As players, we thought we were on top of the world, ranked seventh, all that. A Utah State team comes in here and they almost beat us. It's a great humbling experience."
It's not the first time OU has had a lackluster opener under Stoops. Besides losses to Texas Christian (2005) and Brigham Young (2009), the Sooners edged Alabama-Birmingham 24-17 four years ago and defeated Bowling Green 40-24 in 2004.
The 2004 and 2006 teams went on to win Big 12 titles.
Was Saturday's opener vs. Utah State an aberration, a case of a team heavily favored making first-game mistakes that can quickly be corrected?
Or are the Sooners so vulnerable that nationally ranked Florida State can possibly end OU's 31-game home winning streak?
"I think we just got on our heels and relaxed a little after we got up 21-0," said safety Jonathan Nelson. "We were on our home field. We just have to realize we have to play every single play like it's our last and stay true to basic fundamentals."
Before the opener, some in college football suggested OU could be a national title contender if inexperienced players filled voids. Days later, the Sooners have several areas that must improve after Utah State matched them yard for yard.
Stoops said the Sooners must improve "across the board in all areas" before singling out the secondary, inconsistent offensive line play and quarterback Landry Jones.
"Landry started off really well early on," Stoops said. "For whatever reason, in the middle part of the game, he got a little rushed, a little hurried or he didn't trust his protection. He was forcing it a little bit. Landry is a bright guy. I'm sure he'll realize it and see it and make those corrections."
The most glaring red flag was Utah State quarterback Diondre Borel throwing for 341 yards. This Saturday, the Sooners face Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, a Heisman Trophy candidate with a cannon arm.
Defensive coaches stressed before Monday's practice: Utah State gained 340 yards on 12 plays but was held to 101 yards on the remaining 63 plays.
"It was a great learning experience," Lewis said. "Practice today, we were fired up. Everybody was locked in. There wasn't a lot of laughing and everything. We had the mentality we're going to get things done. We don't want games to slip by... We're not going to let it happen again."