OU football: Stoops doesn’t learn this lesson
Earlier this season, afterBob Stoops didn’t put a deep man back against Texas for a late-game kickoff, and the Longhorns kicked it deep and DeMarco Murray had to run down the ball and delicately escort it into the end zone while a herd of ‘Horns descended down his neck, Stoops said he probably would have a deep man if faced with the same circumstances.
That was a good sign for Stoops. Admit a mistake. Learn from a mistake. That’s what living is all about. What experience is all about.
Unfortunately, Stoops hasn’t seemed to learn from mistakes he made at Missouri on Saturday night. Stoops made three game-management errors:
1. Stoops called for a 2-point conversion after OU drew within 36-27 with 6:06 left in the game. The play failed, and the Sooners remained two possessions down.
2. Stoops called for a punt on 4th-and-10 from the OU 7-yard line with 2:20 left in the game, down 36-27. Stoops basically surrendered.
3. With two seconds left in the game, OU got the ball back at its 20, and at that point, the game really was over. But OU quarterback Landry Jones handed off to tailback DeMarco Murray, who ran 20 yards downfield and lateraled to Ryan Broyles, who ran around and tossed the ball back to Jones, who eventually was swarmed before he threw an illegal forward pass, which effectively ended the game.
Bad moves, all three. Stoops didn’t play the scoreboard right, he quit before he needed to and, finally, when the game was over, he allowed the Sooners to run a futile play that did nothing more than expose Murray and Jones to unorthodox, open-field situations in which they could get their clocks cleaned.
This week, Stoops is sticking by his guns. He still stands by his two-point conversion decision and he still stands by his decision to punt. Let’s go over the decisions:
1. Stoops actually makes a decent defense of a near-indefensible decision on the two-point conversion. Basically, Stoops is saying this: If you’re going to miss a necessary 2-point conversion, he would rather know sooner rather than later. Stoops also admitted his team’s utter lack of quality kicking made his confidence in a one-point kick less than stellar.
“Miss it late or miss it then, you’re not going to win,” Stoops said. “In the end, I felt, have the opportunity to get within seven. The bottom line, the way you doubt it is if you feel the outcome would have been different.” And Stoops doesn’t.
I asked Stoops if he factored in the ramifications of not being within one possession.
“I get that,” Stoops said. “In the end, if you’re not going to make it (late), if you get the same result, you have no chance to overcome it. That’s not what the book says; I get it. It just didn’t work out.”
Here’s why you kick. Keeping a game within one possession changes everything. That means OU doesn’t have to try an onside kick, down nine with six minutes left. That means the pressure is on Missouri, because the Tigers are two plays from being tied. That lack of pressure was obvious when the Tigers, after recovering the onside kick, faced 4th-and-1 at the OU 45-yard line. Up eight, Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel might not be so quick to go for the first down. Up nine, the gamble required much less risk.
I understand what Stoops is saying. I disagree with him, but I understand it. Which is a far cry from John Blake, who in 1998 faced the same situation, also went for two points up nine, it failed, and OU lost to Colorado 27-25. I disagreed with Blake at the time, but his explanation was far worse than his decision.
Here was Blake’s answer: “We were planning to do that in the game so we could go score another touchdown and kick a field goal. We wanted to try to tie it up. Again, we felt had we made that situation by scoring two times, try to make it a one-time scoring situation for us.”
Did you make sense of that? Us, neither. So we asked again. “Again, you kick a field goal, but if you go by two and they have a chance to score again, tie it up, well, overtime. If you kick a field goal, you gotta score two times. So we just tried to score in that situation, put the ball in a situation we score again, tie the game up and maybe go overtime.”
This is what I wrote after that explanation: “We didn’t ask again. Even granting Blake a 9-year-old’s license to call an extra point a field goal, it was gibberish. OU fans wanted to know why Blake went for two, and he couldn’t tell them. He didn’t seem to know why he did it. He barely seemed to know that he did it.”
So feel good, Sooner fans, that while your 2010 coach made the wrong decision, he at least has the courage of his convictions and can explain why he did it.
2. As for the punt, Stoops said, “With no timeouts, I thought at that point it was over.” Stoops said. “The guys have played hard here, we’re in this situation that’s not where you want to be … I’ve never done it before. But there’s still a bunch of games to be played. Heck, LSU got in it (the national championship game) with two losses (in 2007). I don’t know where it will lead … but some people (voters) don’t see the game. They only see the score. Right or wrong, that’s what I chose to decide.”
Stoops’ theory about the voters can’t be dismissed. There are some voters who might penalize OU more for losing 43-27 than 36-27. At No. 9 in the BCS this week, the Sooners aren’t in awful position. They still could climb back into the national title hunt, with some help.
But it’s possible that Missouri wouldn’t even have tried to score from the 7-yard line with 2:20 left. Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel might have taken three knees; he could have run off all but about 14 seconds of the game.
And the message Stoops sent was bad for his team. You can’t preach fight, fight, fight to players, then give up down just nine points. I think Stoops was wrong on this one.
3. The last-play lateral stuff was more embarrassing than anything else. There are no nine-point plays in football, but we’ve seen Murray, especially, get hurt in some goofy ways. The opening kickoff of the 2008 Big 12 title game. An onside kick late in the 2007 Texas Tech game, when OU was hopelessly beaten.
I’m not going to sit here and criticize Stoops for quitting too early, then criticize him here for quitting too late, but be smart. Get Murray on the sideline if you’re going to turn Faurot Field into a sandlot. Tell Landry Jones to run for cover and don’t get anywhere near the ball or a Missouri Tiger, once the play develops.
So there you go. Stoops’ crimes and Stoops’ explanations. And Stoops’ future problems. He doesn’t seem to have learned from these mistakes.
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