Stoops coaching decisions
Bob Stoops obviously had his team prepared and ready to play against Missouri on Saturday night in the Big 12 title game, but a few strategic decisions were dubious. When your offense hits 60 points — for the fifth game in a row — it doesn’t much matter. But it could matter in the BCS title game against Florida, a matchup that will be confirmed tonight. The Stoops decisions:
* First possession, OU drove down to 4th-and-goal from the Missouri 2-yard line. Stoops settled for a field goal. Later, Stoops admitted he thought about going for the touchdown, and he also talked about how comfortable he is placing the ball in Sam Bradford’s hands on fourth down.
The trouble with settling for a field goal on the game’s first possession is the emotional lift it can give an opponent. Missouri’s defense had to figure it was under siege; a first-possession stop had to fortify the Tigers.
Look back at the OSU-Missouri game in Columbia on Oct. 11. The Tigers had 3rd-and-goal from the OSU 1-yard line on the game’s first possession; the Cowboys stuffed Mizzou, and Gary Pinkel settled for a field goal. OSU’s defense grew whiskers and the Cowboys won 28-23.
* In the second quarter, Stoops accepted a penalty that gave MU a 3rd-and-7 instead of 4th-and-1 at the OU 21-yard line. That’s a classic debate — 3rd-and-7 or 4th-and-1 — but I thought 4th-and-1 was the better call. Missouri is not a great short-yardage team; it always runs that danged shotgun that can work most of the game but is a curse when the game turns to trench ball. Go to fourth down, and Pinkel might resort to a field goal, especially with OU leading 10-0 and Missouri trying to get rid of the goose egg. Sure enough, on 3rd-and-7, Chase Daniel threw a 27-yard TD pass to Jeremy Maclin.
* In the third quarter, Stoops wasted a replay challenge on an obvious non-fumble by
Missouri. Truth is, college coaches really haven’t grasped how to use the replay review system. Later in the half, on 3rd-and-10, Daniel completed a pass to tight end Chase Coffman. Officials conferred and decided it was a good catch. Replays might have overruled the call; that would have been a good time to use the challenge.
* With 4:58 left in the game and OU leading 55-21, the Sooners got the ball back on a Lendy Holmes interception. Stoops sent out quarterback Sam Bradford and later said, “If you can’t get in a championship game and play it out, I’m sorry, we’re going to play til the end.”
OK. But did OU have to fake a handoff and throw deep? That’s what Bradford did on 2nd-and-5 from the Missouri 39.
Several factors went into the decision to keep chucking. 1. The BCS. The Sooners are on a mission, but I have to think that throwing deep ahead 55-21 with four minutes left in the game has to hurt as much as help. 2. Bad blood. OU and Missouri had quarrelled several times throughout the game. Lots of talking going on. 3. Most significantly, I think OU wanted that 60-point barrier. The Sooners have hit 60 points in five straight games, a monumental feat and one worthy of achieving. But that attempt came at a price; Stoops’ sportsmanship took a hit.
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