Emails in on OU-Miami
The new emails are in, and the fallout from OU-Miami is mighty. We’ll group them by the Venables posse, the Wilson posse, the Stoops posse, the fire-everyone posse and the fans who aren’t quite so crazy. Heck, let’s start with Stoops.
Mike: “You hit it on the head on ‘No Defense.’ I would like someone to ask Bob why we have gone from a dime or nickel package on third downs when we know the opponent is going to pass. When Mike Stoops was here we could expect five or six defensive backs on third down. With Venables, we leave our linebackers in where the MLB has trouble covering tight ends or crossing patterns in the middle. This goes back to Texas last year with Shipley, BYU and Miami. It appears to be the defensive scheme is killing us as much as anything. With regard to Kevin, I really wonder who is calling the plays in the fourth quarter, Bob or Wilson. We have had a number of offensive coordinators and our play calling in big games on the road has been the same since Leach left. Conservative. Let’s play not to lose the game rather than being aggressive and going all out to win. The one common denominator has been Bob Stoops.”
Anyone know OU’s record away from Owen Field the year Leach was coordinator? 2-5. Scored 25 points on Ole Miss, 28 on Tech, 31 on Iowa State, 24 on Colorado, 28 on Texas, 30 on Notre Dame and 42 on Louisville. Not bad, really, but not nearly as impressive as in Norman. Sort of like now. OU doesn’t use as much nickel now because Keenan Clayton is a hybrid. He’s a safety who can play linebacker. Which can lead to problems against the run, which is the killer that no one seems to want to talk about.
Tom: “I was reading the Oklahoman interview script with Stoops this morning and was really shocked by his reaction to criticism. I learned in my business that criticism, I had to learn to accept it. These days I usually agree with many of their comments. I am much better because of the criticism. I don’t think Bob can handle criticism at all. He locked the press out of practice since 2006 mostly from criticism. No question, the data says that his teams have dropped off since that fateful game with USC. Honestly, since 1999, OU has become more conservative every single year depending more on talent than coaching effort. You can’t do that with the 85 scholarship rule. I will never forget Leach lighting up A&M in Norman with the Ninja Offense. I think sometimes you get so close to a situation that you can’t see what is happening. In 2000, when OU won it all, I remember the coaching staff scouted themselves during the open week and game planned against themselves to make sure they didn’t have any specific tendencies that other teams could pick up on. I don’t think they do that anymore and they sure need to. All you have to do is look at the formation and you know what is coming. It is not rocket science when watching OU, and there is little deception.”
Tom is right. Stoops doesn’t handle criticism very well. Actually, it’s not really criticism. Stoops doesn’t suffer fools gladly, which is lamentable. That’s a wonderful trait to have. Anyway, I don’t buy this conservative talk. Sure, OU was conservative against Miami. No Bradford, no Gresham, no Broyles. They had to go into a bunker and try to scrape out a victory, and they almost did it. But conservative in recent years? No way. That’s ridiculous. The no-huddle. The multiple formations, from power-I to shotgun spread. There’s nothing conservative about that.
William, an OU critic: “It’s such a relief that we won’t have to hear the word ‘national championship’ anymore this year in connection with OU football. As you can see, the spoiled fans will be satisfied with nothing less. Other coaches are just as smart and recruit just as well or better. I think Bob is in for a rough ride. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Stoops. He is a good coach. Unfortunately for him he won the whole thing in his second year, a hard standard to maintain, and yet the fans expect it. Blake left Stoops a ton of talent, especially on defense. They’ve never been as good on defense as they were in 2001 and 2002. I love OU and wish the academics and great cultural elements of the university were showcased more. Bob MIGHT win another Big 12 championship, but it will get harder. Other teams are recruiting so well. What he’s done is in the past. His glory days are in the past. Just wait and see.
Well, yes, what Bob Stoops has done is in the past. And just exactly how is that different from every person walking the Earth? Stoops MIGHT win another Big 12 title? OK, let’s trot it out again. The all-time standings in terms of coaches winning Big 12 titles. John Mackovic 1, Tom Osborne 1, R.C. Slocum 1, Frank Solich 1, Gary Barnett 1, Bill Snyder 1, Mack Brown 1, Bob Stoops 6. Yes, I would say he has a chance to win another Big 12 title.
Now, on to Venables. Gary: “What keeps hurting us year after year is the drag pattern and tight ends down the middle. I guess these are linebackers’ responsibility. What will Shipley and Texas do to these linebackers? Here are a list of teams with pro-coaches experience or coordinators Alabama, USC, LSU, Washington, Nebraska and offense coordinator for Miami who just came from Philadelphia Eagles ( I’m sure I left others out of the mix). Our offensive coordinator has Northwestern background and our defensive coordinator has Kansas State, two powerhouses with winning traditions. Stoops needs major upgrade to his coaching staff. Same old problem. Sooners can’t run and Murray and Brown won’t be playing on Sundays as running backs. Oklahoma has major injuries this year and were only favored by seven points for the Miami game. They scored three TDs and no field goal; we got two TDs and two field goals If we get four touchdowns and no field goals we win by seven. I just hope we don’t get hyped up by the media again next year. One of these years they will have to prove themselves first. Hey, it still beats the John Blake years.”
Go back and read that email again. This is a textbook case of a psychotic fan who is sitting in a room, his brain scrambled, trying to make sense of it all. Where to start, where to start? Year after year on tight end drags? Texas in 2008 and Miami a little bit last Saturday. That is year after year? OU lost to Miami because it allowed the Hurricanes to run the ball. Period. Here is a list of coaches with no pro experience: Mike Leach, Mike Stoops, Mark Mangino. All the guys OU fans lament losing. And I love the math lesson. Yes, turn one of those field goals into a touchdown, and OU beats Miami. Heck, get a safety and OU beats Miami.
Brent: “Has anyone looked at the results of Mike Stoops leaving? Venables is a great technique teacher but a mediocre (at best) defensive coordinator. My background is a Sooner fan since 1970 and a high school and NCAA Division II football official of 24 years experience. I’ve seen a few games in my lifetime. Since Mike Stoops left (November 2003), the defensive plays ‘bend don’t break,’ gives up more points (more games over 20+ points), more yards passing, more first downs. The numbers don’t lie and they are all trending the wrong way! OU wins when they out talent people now. Equal talent means a high chance of a loss. Our blitz packages are now predictable and non-effective for the most part. When we start in a 5-man front, we’re highly successful. Four-man fronts with linebackers 6-8 yards off the ball means giving up yards. If I can chart this, why can’t they? Mike Stoops was the aggressive coach. Venables is still at OU because no one else wants him. Leach, Mangino, Stoops, Long – all got head coaching jobs. Venables couldn’t even get the job back where he came from; KSU went back to Snyder. Until Venables goes, OU will win very few big games. Defensive wins championships. It allows your offense to play on a shorter field. Few teams can drive 80 yards, with near mistake free football, to score on a regular basis. The data doesn’t lie. If you write this, just give me a little credit.”
Here’s the funny part. This guy signed off with “grace and peace.” He’s leading a lynch mob and leaving behind a card that says “grace and peace.” Now that’s funny. But not as funny as wanting credit for saying OU gives up more points and yards the last five years than it did the previous five years. I guess I have to keep saying this, but you know Big 12 football and college football has changed. Teams are scoring more all over the country. Comparing 2001 defenses to 2009 defenses is like comparing baseball offense in 1961 to baseball offense in 1968, when scoring was so down they had to change the rules.
Steve: “Why is it the whenever the Sooners face a decent passing team, they are so open to passes across the middle? This goes back for several seasons. A&M game a few years ago, OSU and continues this season with BYU and now Miami. Sure, Tulsa didn’t do much, but Tulsa really doesn’t have much. I have been on the Venables-must-go bandwagon for years. And if Stoops keeps defending him, then let’s start the Stoops chant as well. Just sick of another overrated defensive team. Rockies canned Hurdle and they rolled.
The best example you can come up with is a different sport, different level and different culture? That’s what you want to risk the status of OU football on? By the way, those A&M and OSU games you referenced were the Mike Stoops era. And again, OU lost to Miami not because of free-roaming receivers, but because James gained 150 yards on 15 carries.
Chad: “I always enjoy reading your columns, even when I disagree. I find myself in agreement with you in defense of the offensive play calling. The Sooners have an amazing dearth of speed and play-makers on offense, and the line is too porous. Anything but the safe approach is foolhardy. But I still believe Venables needs to move on. His failures in too many big games presents a healthy amount of examples. He is not a bad coach, given his successes against Missouri and Texas Tech. But he is also not an exceptional coach in any way. If I remember correctly, when Texas was in a tad of a funk (as much a funk as 10 wins every year can be) a few years back, Mack Brown changed coordinators. He recognized that he needed a good coordinator more than he needed a good buddy on his staff.”
You know, I think it would be a fascinating poll of disgruntled fans. You can only fire one coach. Is it Wilson or is it Venables? I’m guessing Venables would win the election, but it might be close.
Bill: “Pretty good column on Wilson, although he’s building a resume’ of turning into Woody Hayes whenever the chips are down: three yards and a cloud of dust. Pretty obvious when we’re sitting at the Miami 20 with five minutes to play that Wilson has zero trust in Landry Jones, based on the plays called in that series. In tight spots, Kevin drifts back to Big Ten football, but I suspect he’ll figure that out soon enough this year when it becomes obvious he’s going to have to win games with his group, injuries or not. Think about this, though: When was the last time a Brent Venables defense got a stop to win a key, tight football game? The answer rolls all the way back to 2006. Three years. Was there anyone on Earth not wearing a headset who didn’t expect a drag route from the tight end on 3rd-and-6 with two minutes left? Instead, we get Ryan Reynolds, who is a proven liability in the passing game, and Keenan Clayton, who had a tough night all around, inexplicably in the ballgame. We’ve seen it before. Reynolds goes down against Texas last year and Venables tries to match back up with Brandon Crow and Lamont Robinson. No Sam Proctor, or no other DB. No Austin Box, either. Shipley goes nuts. Right now, I can see Shipley and Dan Buckner combining for at least 250 against this exercise in hubris we call the Cover Two. I’d like to read your thoughts about a defensive coordinator and a head coach who continue to throw ballgames away because they steadfastly refuse to match up with receivers in passing situations. There are some growing systemic patterns in the OU football program that look like corporate arrogance to me, not good football preparation or execution.”
This sounds like a call to play without a middle linebacker, which is truly revolutionary football. No one’s ever done it, so far as I know, but it would be interesting. And by the way, OU lost to Miami because it couldn’t stop the run.
Mark: “Is it just me or do we just get outcoached every time we play a ranked opponent outside the big 12? Shouldn’t Venables be encouraged to take another job at the end of the year or am I off base?”
It’s not just you. But you are off base. Could OU find a couple of better coordinators? Probably. But the chances of falling are much better than the chances of improving. If there is a problem, and I would agree that there is, the far better method is working through it. OU has won three straight Big 12 titles and is very close to being the nation’s most elite program. It is NOT the most elite program, but it is close, and throwing the baby out with the bathwater is not prudent.
James: “The problem is not with Kevin Wilson, although everyone in the football universe knew that with one successful draw play he’d call another one in the same situation. The problem is with Brent Venables. I know. Handsome, nice, capable, should be head coach. Lousy with one critical aspect of OU’s defense: Give ‘em the crossing route passes all night, but don’t get burned on the long one. So, opposing coaches simply recognize
OU’s soft underbelly, instruct the QB to throw over the linebackers and Voila! there goes 4, 6, 9, 13 yards on each play. End of story. Even that nitwit Brent Musburger recognized that flaw in OU’s vaunted defense when Jacory Harris began picking OU to pieces. Funny how coaches attain certain lofty (and other) heights. It seems like heresy to be critical of Venables. But if I’m wrong, I know you’ll correct me. Simply reply and say “James, you’re wrong.”
From you, I’ll buy it.”
James, you’re wrong. But plenty of people believe you’re wrong because they see Kevin Wilson as the absolute problem.
Jerry: “Needless to say I was so very upset with the Miami game. I understand that injuries hurt any team, but that is why you have good recruits, to fill in. We do not play enough of our players, so if we do have problems we can count on other people other than the starters. Each time we have this problem, Kevin Wilson gets too conservative! I am not a fan of Mr. Wilson at all. It is time to promote Josh Heupel to call the offensive plays. He has a really sharp mind and a good coach. I love Brent Venables, the only problem I have with him is that he always uses the same defense each game no matter who we are playing. One of the best ways to beat Oklahoma is just throw the ball in the middle a lot, because they cannot defend it at all. I realize that we cannot win every game and we got spoiled because of last year, but we need to change things up a little and find some people that can step up when we have injuries!”
Actually, this has happened before, and Wilson was anything but conservative. In 2007,. Bradford goes down at Texas Tech, and OU sends in Joey Halzle and throws the ball all over the place, when it should have run more. Stoops even admitted it. And again, OU’s defensive problems were run-related. Why do fans get so irrational after a defeat?
Richard quoted from my Sunday column: “‘But just exactly what was Wilson supposed to call with Bradford, Gresham and Broyles out?’ Well, Berry, he could not be so predictable; I mean running on first down most of the time. What is wrong with a first down pass play? Has Wilson never heard of play action? Just think, during the times that the Sooners were running well, what could a play action pass play do? Pick up a first down maybe? Have a long gain for a change? Yes, I know, the receivers have to get open, but with play action, it would probably give them more time to shake defenders and give Landry Jones more time to find the open man. I don’t claim to be an expert, but tell me where I am wrong.”
OK. I’ll tell you. Wilson wasn’t predictable. Like I said, 1st-and-10, OU ran 17 running plays and 11 pass plays. Seems pretty unpredictable to me. I meant what I said. What was Wilson supposed to do? Now, I think a little more first-down passing would have been better, and more third-down runs. But the truth is, Miami’s defense was better than OU’s offense, and there’s not much you can do about it from that standpoint.
Len: “There is a large group of us season ticketholders and donors wondering when somebody, namely the press, is going to quit being intimidated by Bob Stoops and start reporting OU football as it should be. OU has as much or more talent than anybody in the country. OU was ready to come out tonight and attack Miami and take the game under control. But Kevin Wilson wants to run on first and second down and then put pressure on Jones to throw for a first on 3rd-and-10. This guy is worse than Chuck Long, who we finally got rid of and who has proved to be a flop. But nobody will call Stoops on it because they are afraid of him. I pay a ton of money to buy my tickets and I have the right to go to the games or not go to the games. Why do I want to spend my Saturdays going to see this? And why do you continue to report senseless articles about who were the greatest second-team team quarterbacks, or what was the history of OU-Miami games or all of this silly stuff that you guys dream up that nobody reads or cares about. Why don’t you report about what happened tonight? It was a coaching debacle and somebody needs to have the balls to report it. You need to speak for the public. They are your readers and they pay the money for Stoops to get his outrageous salary and hire people like Kevin Wilson who I guarantee you tonight is looking in the mirror and doesn’t have a clue what happened.”
I love this email, for this reason. Here’s what I wrote back to the guy – “Please. Settle down. When you say that OU has as much talent as anyone in the country, you are embarrassing yourself. OU’s receivers, without Broyles and Gresham, are not elite. OU’s offensive line is just OK. And the Sooners are playing with a young quarterback who looks good against Tulsa and Idaho State, but Miami is a whole different deal. OU had 28 1st-and-10′s. It ran 17 times and passed 11 times. Sounds like someone doesn’t have a clue as to what happened.’ And Len wrote me back: “You are right. We were so upset last night, we were throwing chairs. Best.’”
Jerry: “After the Miami disaster tonight, I’m still a loyal Sooner fan, but the Sooner Nation may need your help. Hopefully you will question Kevin Wilson’s playcalling in big games (BCS bowls, national championship game and now Miami). Where was the play action pass, when even the broadcasters were saying it was a perfect time for it? He seems to call free wheeling, up tempo, games until the pressure is on, then he goes conservative and seems to over think it and choke. In golf we all call it the yips. I know Broyles injury hurt in this game but we still had a chance on that last drive (like we did against BYU but settled for a field goal instead of a game sealing TD), but he called what he usually calls at critical times when the pressure is on in big games. A run, then another, etc. I think opposing coaches can be heard in preparing for big games with OU what Tom Hanks said in the movie Cast Away, ‘I know you Wilson.’ Maybe it’s time for some new blood. Could Josh Heupel do worse? He is probably too young to have the yips.”
I loved Cast Away. What a great movie. There’s like a 25-minute sequence with no talking, or maybe just Tom Hanks talking to himself. Loved it. Anyway, all this red-zone talk boils down to Florida, where OU failed twice. Once when it ran and once when it threw. Then the BYU deal was a clock problem (which was indeed a coaching issue, I’ll grant you). In Miami, OU was just trying to get out of their with its head, after Broyles was hurt.
Gerry: “It’s apparent the defense is either lacking in ability or there’s a problem with the coaching. And the offensive line is average at best. If the line had protected better, the Sooners would have probably scored two more touchdowns. After the first drive of the game, Kevin Wilson got too conservative. There’s still a truckload of talent on offense, and with some imaginative play-calling, the Sooners would have scored more points. With the erratic play of the offensive line, the Bradford family has a difficult decision. Sam wants to play, but exposing him to Texas and other opponents might place his future at risk. I think the Sooners need to let Landry Jones improvise on offense with more rollouts and designed scrambles.”
Let’s be clear about something. There is NOT a truckload of talent on offense. Where is it? Not at receiver. Not on the line. Not at quarterback. OU has two good running backs. Outside of that, where is the talent? Standing on the sideline. Everyone wants to believe that play-calling makes a huge difference in games. But the truth is, gameplanning makes a bigger difference. And blocking and throwing and running and catching make the biggest difference of all. But I do like the idea of more rollouts.
Some fans don’t want heads to roll, but they’re not crazy about what they see. Steven: “What are your thoughts on the Sooners’ offensive scheme of looking to the sideline? It seems like they would do that to get in a better play and I am sure it works more times than not, but I saw a couple on Saturday where it didn’t appear to. On a 3rd-and-3 Cameron Kenney was lined up outside and the corner was at least eight yards off him. Landry never looked that way and his pass fell incomplete to the other side. Even Herbstreit saw Kenney would’ve been open. It seems like they would have a call for the receiver to go to the first down, turn around, and catch the ball. Also on OU’s last possession it was 2nd-and-11 or so and on TV you could see all 11 Miami players in the screen. I would consider that loading the box. You would think the obvious call would be to give one of your receivers a chance with man to man coverage. I don’t know if those plays would have made a difference, but I just wonder how often they change the call.”
Well, you’re probably right about those two plays in question. Any play that doesn’t work is subject to scrutiny. But the notion that OU’s offense suddenly doesn’t work, that turning around looking to the sidelines somehow impedes the Sooners, well, that’s ridiculous. It worked to fabulous heights just a year ago.
Tony: “You’re being too tough on the OU defense; 35 points in two games against two ranked teams on the road? C’mon man, I never bought these claims of ‘best Stoops defense’ at the beginning of the year. Absurd; better than a defense with Calmus, Harris, Williams, Dvoracek, Strait? However, they have improved. The problem with our defense is not the players, it’s the scheme. OU plays a 4-3 soft zone, with the concept of stop the run, force the pass, don’t get beat deep. Corners play way too safe, that’s why 10 yard outs/slants are wide open all the time. If Jackson and Franks are supposed to be such great corners, why can they not press off the line? Bottom line is this: Stoops/Venables play a system defense, and you either play the system or sit the bench. Those coaches have no tolerance for any player who does anything that is different than they are taught. As with the offense, it is way too predictable what we do on defense. It’s not a talent issue, it’s a ‘we got better players than most teams, so we aren’t gonna change our scheme for anybody’ issue. For about the last seven years, and especially after Mike Stoops and Mike Leach have left, we keep beating the crap out of average teams and can’t win a game against a team who either has a) more than two weeks to plan for us or b) can match us with talent. Sure, there might be one or two exceptions over that seven-year period, but against ranked teams outside the conference, it’s only getting uglier each year. That Miami team had speed, but talent was no better, and they were beat up. OU plays them in Norman, and they crush them. You’re wrong on the defense. They are playing much better than 2008. If I told you before each game that BYU would get 13 points and Miami 20, you would have bet the house OU wins both games by a bunch.”
BYU, yes. OU, no. I picked OU to beat Miami 19-14. No way was OU going to score much more than the low 20s on Miami. But let me get this straight. Which one of us likes the OU defense? I’m confused. You keep talking about soft zones and coverages, but OU lost to Miami – I’ll keep repeating this until the cows come home – because the Hurricanes ran the football so well.
Richard: “I probably need to stop reading all these Oklahoma publications because I start believing all the hype they print. Oklahoma’s defense is good but it is not great. Gerald McCoy is a good college player but will never be in the same class as Harris, Casillas, Bryan or the Selmons. I was surprised the announcers never said Gerald McCoy’s name during the Miami game. He never made a great stop in the backfield or hurried the QB into making a bad toss. The half of dozen times I focused on him he was being blocked by just one guy, with a second in the wings in case help was needed but it never was. Oklahoma is not a top 20 team and if I was Bradford ‘s parents I would think long and hard about allowing my son to put his NFL riches on the line behind that offensive line. Don’t misunderstand me, I still love and support the Sooners, but this season has taken a very dramatic turn. I’m no longer thinking about a national championship but whether or not Oklahoma can beat Nebraska and Oklahoma State ? A Texas loss is a foregone conclusion.”
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