Oklahoma football: The fans speak
I wear many hats in my job. One of those hats is being a sounding board after Sooner football defeats. People need somewhere they can go to vent and get some feedback that is part understanding, part counseling, part correction. I’ve had to talk fans off virtual cliffs, educate them, comfort them and often agree with them.
As you may have heard, the Sooners lost to Kansas State 24-19 Saturday night. I was rather hard on the Sooners in my column for the Sunday Oklahoman, which you can read here. And here’s the nature of Sooner Nation’s unrest. Of the 100 or so emails I received, only one took me to task. No kidding, just one. Everyone else was in sackcloth and ashes, or wailing and gnashing teeth, or gathering torches and swords.
So I went through some of the emails — and my responses — to share with you.
Jeff: “It appears Bob’s stubborn arrogance will prevent him from making the necessary assessment to improve the situation. For one, Bob needs to tell head recruiting coordinator (Cale Gundy) to hit the bricks and then he needs to hire an unemployed guy who basically played a large part in running off the greatest coach in college football history, Mark Mangino. Sure he looks like an unmade bed and he is prickly and surly, but he is one whale (no pun intended) of a ballcoach.”
Interesting. I wonder if Stoops would consider bringing back Mangino, even if he had an opening?
Duane: “Oklahoma 16, Kansas State 7. Not the score, the latest top-25 rankings came out today. A national embarrassment, this game. Good job by Bill Snyder’s boys, OU can’t give away two TDs against a Top 25 team and expect to beat anybody. Take away those two “unforced” quarterback fumbles and the score could have been Oklahoma 26 K-State17. The Sooners are going to have a tough time with everybody else on the schedule, especially the four teams ranked higher now, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Texas and TCU. Not to mention, Baylor is undefeated and ranked 25th.
You know, I don’t buy this national embarrassment stuff. Sure, fans are frustrated and angry and alarmed. And you can’t blame them. But that doesn’t mean college football fans or even media in places like California and Michigan and North Carolina are sitting around saying, man, the Sooners stink. Locally, sure. The frustration is high. But not nationally.
T.W.: “When you have 85 scholarships available now, you can’t miss on many. Sooners aren’t getting the talent level they used to, though they recruit nationally. Three games don’t make a season, but don’t see much right now to give Sooner fans a great deal of optimism. Perhaps four to five losses this year? Hey could be worse, what if you were a Hog fan?”
Yep, the grass is sometimes browner on the other side of the fence.
Larry: “Looks like the Sooners are in for a very long season. One question, if you are Stoops, do you try Bell, or do you stick with Landry?”
I stick with Landry. He clearly gives you your best chance to win, and if you’re not committed to winning, then it’s mass chaos.
Jerry: “I seldom offer criticism of an article, but your conclusions in today’s article about Oklahoma football are really off-base. You say K State “Out-toughed OU. Out-clutched OU. Out-worked OU. Out-played OU. Out-coached OU.” You also had considerable criticism for Landry Jones and the entire team. However, K-State is obviously a pretty good team. And, with all the so-called bad play and weaknesses, OU still could have easily won the game. In fact, only one play probably cost them the game. That would be the mistake by Blake Bell, who fumbled away OU’s chances on the one-yard line. Points from that score would have been enough for a victory. Yes, OU did make a lot of mistakes, but with such bad play, it takes a pretty good team to stay in the game and have a chance to win. I believe your criticism was excessive and sincerely believe you owe the entire team an apology.”
You know what’s interesting about this. The idea that OU could have won. Probably would have won if not for the two goal-line fumbles. (Jerry seems to give more weight to Bell’s fumble than Landry’s fumble; who knew anyone this side of Whitney Hand were still sticking up for Landry?) Anyway, the last few years in college football, we’ve grown desensitized to the margin of victory. OU for the last four or five years has been so high-scoring, games get out of hand. We’ve lost sight of the fact that a 24-19 game, while a one-possession game that absolutely could be flipped with a play or two, is the way some teams win games. Like Kansas State. Bill Snyder was in control last night. He kept the game close, he shortened the game, he had new plays ready for critical situations. The idea that the game would have been reserved if Blake Bell had scored instead of fumbled, to me, does a disservice to Bill Snyder and K-State.
Erick: “Your article was spot-on! The defense often looked confused (how many timeouts did they call?) and blew some assignments. But had Jones and Bell not blown their roles (Jones passing behind a wide-open tight end on the first drive, plus Jones and Bell’s fumbles), this could have been a potential win for the Sooners. That said, I believe it would have hidden a fate yet to come. The bottom line is a complete lack of discipline plagued the Sooners. And to think I’ve paid a fortune for my father (from San Jose) and I (from Washington, D.C.) to come to the Notre Dame game. Oh well, it will be nice to see Dad.”
Excellent point about masking some problems. OU could have won that game, and yet the Sooner problems would remain. But let me make a point about the Notre Dame game. OU still has Texas, OSU and Notre Dame on the schedule. Are you telling me it wouldn’t be cool to fly from D.C. or San Jose and see the Sooners beat Notre Dame? OU hasn’t beaten the Irish since 1956. This season is disappointing, yes. But I’m not so sure it’s any less interesting.
Johnny: “I just have two comments regarding the game. First, don’t lay any blame on the defense. Mike’s boys held KSU to one legitimate, non-turnover-related score, and that occurred very late in the game when the defense, having already spent about 35 minutes on the field due to inept offensive play, started to tire a bit. If the offense had kept its end of the bargain, OU would have won by three touchdowns, and KSU would have been held to seven to 10 points. Also, did you notice how well the Venable defense worked yesterday — – Clemson held FSU to only 49 points. I think Mike has the defense going in the right direction, in spite of a thin D-line. Second, even though Landry is a really nice guy with his head screwed on straight, in the final analysis, from a football standpoint, all he has going for him is a strong (although frequently inaccurate) arm and a big body that is not particularly mobile. He does not react well under pressure, he has no apparent concept of a sense of urgency, witness the slowness of his play execution when time is running out. He displays no apparent fire-in-the-belly leadership aptitude, and he always seems to have a deer-in-the-headlights look about him at crunch time. I like him a lot personally, but the more I have seen of him I don’t see him as anywhere near a Heisman Trophy candidate. I’m not sure he could start on very many of the current Big 12 teams.”
I agree that Mike Stoops has the defense headed in the right direction, but you can’t sugarcoat it. The OU defense collapsed vs. Kansas State. Three KSU possessions, no stops. Two touchdowns and a grind-out-the-clock series. Kansas State’s offense was the star unit of the fourth quarter. Collin Klein made all the right moves. As for Landry, well, he’s regressed, there’s no doubt about it. Not playing well at all.
Tom: “I will ask again, do you think Bob is burned out? Got outworked by a 73-year-old coach this week when he had two weeks to prepare. Personally, I think the staff has gone stale and lost the edge. You can’t just hire your Iowa buddies (Kittles being the ultimate reach) to be your assistant coaches or promote from within and think it will continue. One of the things that Josh Heupel was good at was developing QBs. Now that he is in the booth calling predictable plays, the QBs are not improving. How many teams have two O-line coaches? How many teams don’t have special teams coaches? It takes years for Shipp to get a DT ready to play. It took him years to get Gerald McCoy ready. I think this staff is getting is getting whipped in practice, preparation and recruiting. The sad part is that Bob doesn’t seem to have the stomach or the desire to work at the level to turn it around. I guess he has finally succumbed to that sense of entitlement that comes with making 5 million a year. The question that I wish someone had asked Bob after the game last night, which coaching staff do you think worked harder to prepare for the game, Bill Snyder’s or yours? I think OU will be closer to .500 this year.
The hard-work angle is silly. Nobody outworks Bill Snyder. And while I long have proclaimed he’s the greatest coach of all time, outworking him isn’t the answer. He hadn’t beaten the Sooners in nine years. So that’s just frustration on your part and not particularly relevant to the problem. The questions about the coaching staff is legit. Heupel and Kittle are question marks. I don’t think the criticism of Shipp is legit. Defensive linemen don’t show up on campuses ready to play, except in extreme circumstances.
Larry: “That performance last night was not up to par. I saw a poorly coached team that was simply outcoached by the grand ole wizard. I have supported the team and coach Stoops since day one. I travel to many away games and many bowl games. This is not the football I want to see at OU. Time for something to change. Go hire John Blake to recruit or something. When Bob won, it was with John’s recruits. Time to put this era behind us and see what is ahead.”
Earth to Larry. Earth to Larry. Don’t be the children of Israel, wandering in the wilderness, wishing you were back in Egypt.
Braniff: “K-State sent Laundry Jones to the cleaners. People actually drive all those miles and spend all that money for this?”
Yes. Games like Saturday night are what sports are all about. The opportunity to win. Not the guarantee to win.
Dave: “My friends and I have a running bet each game on how many boneheaded plays our quarterback will make during a game. Other than Blake Bell’s emotions after he scored a touchdown, I don’t see any passion in this team. Just going through the motions. And I think coaching has a lot to do with that. I also think it’s time for Bell to get a shot, at least he appears to have some sand in his belly.”
Sorry, I don’t buy the passion stuff. The Sooners don’t need Landry Jones to get fired up. They need Landry Jones to take care of the ball. That passion stuff doesn’t mean anything.
Gene: “Texas, West Virginia and Notre Dame are just 3 of 7 that OU might lose. The others, TCU, TT, OSU & Iowa State are not gimmes. Big Game Bob needs to find his rabbit’s foot in a hurry! Rather than being angry with the press, Big Game Bob needs to be upset with himself, staff & players.”
Regardless of how the OU-KSU game turned out, the above is true. Heck yeah OU could lose those three games and some others. That’s life in the big city. And let me again reassure everyone. Stoops’ anger at the media is overstated. That’s just his personality. Probably the personality of most 50-year-old males raised in Youngstown, Ohio.
Sean: “Tired of his attitude. The part of the postgame press conference that I saw was of an arrogant ass who honestly has little reason, as of late, to be arrogant. I don’t envy guys like yourself having to try and ask important questions of a guy who refuses to be realistic or willing to be critical of himself. This program has seen a decline in talent since the UF loss and the only changes in the staff were to make room for Mike to return. For all the crap Mack Brown has taken, at least he’s gone outside and tried to hire good candidates when he’s needed assistants. Bob’s attitude seemed fine to many when we were winning. But it’s clear he’s gotten lazy and takes his position for granted. Time to learn some humility.”
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