NORMAN – Just before the scheduled kickoff and a few minutes after sundown, with monstrous clouds surrounding Owen Field, a pocket of the eastern sky lit up with a yellow light.
Looked like the kind of opening you’d expect for the voice of the archangel and the trump of God. Armageddon’s advent would have been no less shocking than what we saw Saturday night on Owen Field.
The Sooners’ national championship hopes? Gone. The Sooners’ home invincibility? Gone. A Bedlam battle of unbeatens? Gone.
Texas Tech, thought to be toothless without Mike Leach, dominated every facet of the game, thrashing the third-ranked Sooners 41-38 in an upset that shook college football 2011 and sent fans from Boise, Idaho, to Clemson, S.C., dancing into the streets.
The Sooners were outclassed and outcoached in the first half, then played desperate in the second half. Sometimes desperate works. Mostly not. And this didn’t.
“They whipped us in every part of the game,” Bob Stoops said. “We were definitely outcoached and outplayed. Defensively, we really got outplayed. Offensively, it was too little too late.”
The final margin was misleading. Only twice in the final 38 minutes did OU get within one possession of catching Tech.
* Landry Jones’ 3-yard touchdown pass to Trey Millard on the first play of the fourth quarter made it 31-24. Tech responded with a field goal and touchdown on its next two drives to make it 41-24.
* Jones’ 22-yard TD pass to James Hanna with 1:10 left made it 41-38, but Tech recovered the onside kick.
Give Tech coach Tommy Tuberville credit. His team came ready to play, even after a 94-minute weather delay just before kickoff.
And give Bob Stoops blame. His staff was hoodwinked by Tuberville’s. OU’s defense didn’t have a first-half clue and improved only marginally in the second half. OU’s offense was spotty, too.
The second quarter was as bad of football as the Sooners have ever played under Stoops. You’d have thought this was Southern Cal down in Miami.
Tech outscored OU 17-0 in points and outgained OU 194-40 in total yards. The defense was bad, the offense worse.
This one was a total team effort. You can cut the defense a little slack, since starters Casey Walker, Jamell Fleming and Tom Wort were sidelined with various injuries.
The OU offense missed flu-stricken Dominique Whaley, who must be the most valuable player in Sooner history, considering how his mates fared without him. But Roy Finch was a decent replacement.
Nope, you can’t blame injuries on this one. A team in the national title race has to take care of business against a team struggling to be bowl eligible. A team with a 39-game home winning streak should take care of a game in which it’s a 29-point favorite.
Now the Sooner goals have to readjust. The Big 12 title is still there, but after this performance, the Bedlam debate has shifted. The better team resides in Stillwater, and OU has to go from the hunted to the hunter.
Some out there will conjure up national title scenarios for OU, but Boise State isn’t losing, and Boise State will be ahead of the Sooners the rest of the year. So the hopes shift to the LSU-Alabama winner losing somewhere along the line. Good luck with that.
“Anyone we play the rest of the year will whip us if we don’t play any better,” Stoops said. “They just flat-out beat us.”
We’ll see how the Sooners respond, starting with next Saturday in Manhattan, Kan., against the unbeaten Kansas States.
“Next week, Kansas State will beat the living heck out of us if we don’t play better,” Stoops said. “But if we can make some improvements, who knows what can happen?”
That improvement might need to start on the practice field. Stoops said the Sooners had a couple of poor practices during the week, then seemed unfocused in meetings on Saturday. That’s not just a player problem. That’s a coaching problem.
OU certainly didn’t respond to adversity Saturday night. A 24-7 halftime deficit was bad enough. But the most discouraging part of the game for the Sooners was the first two minutes of the second half.
OU got the kickoff, went three plays that produced zero yards and punted. Tech promptly went 72 yards in four plays, with quarterback Seth Doege throwing 11 yards to Alex Torres for the touchdown. It was 31-7 with 12:57 left in the third quarter.
“We talked about that in the (halftime) locker room,” Stoops said. “A chance to get the ball back, close the gap right away. But they outworked us the whole way.”
That’s when the Sooners turned desperate. They made a game of it but ran out of time. And now the biggest dreams of this 2011 season are gone.