Another 10-3 season. Another defensive performance Sooners fans are already trying to forget.
But this season isn’t quite like last season when Oklahoma got upset at home by one of the worst teams in the conference. The defense wasn’t marked with three losses that were easily blamed on them giving up big defensive plays. But the season surprises and underachievers will come next Sunday.
This Sunday, it’s time to look at the surprises and underachievers from the last game of the season, the Cotton Bowl.
Javon Harris’ last performance. In silver marker on his left biceps were the numbers 51, 50. “Why go 100 percent when you can go 101?” Harris said of the numbers. That’s how he played in his final game for the Oklahoma Sooners.
Yes, written in my notes a couple times are the words “Harris missed,” meaning he missed a tackle. Yes, he still needs to learn better how to not just two-hand touch a defender, but wrap his arms around him and bring him to the turf. However, he also intercepted a pass in the end zone. He batted down another that was intended for Texas A&M’s Ryan Swope that, had Harris not touched it, would have ended in Swope’s arms just before he waltzed across the goal line. Also, some of those missed tackles by Harris aren’t that Harris didn’t try, it’s for the reason Johnny Manziel won the Heisman. He just always seemed to be out of reach.
Ty Darlington and Gabe Ikard’s flexibility. Everyone knows it. Where Gabe Ikard is asked to go, Gabe Ikard goes. Ty Darlington is similar. As soon as he was called on, in a bowl game situation, he was ready and he performed well. Sooners fans truly need to thank the offensive line for being so flexible and still understanding their role and covering their man. Ty Darlington at center was again an almost seamless transition for the Sooners, except for that illegal snap that got called against him at Baylor and again against A&M.
Sterling Shepard’s hands. With Justin Brown graduating and Kenny Stills possibly going into the NFL, behold one of the receivers who will be key to next season. The freshman continued to make plays in tight situations, although it wasn’t his best performance. Don’t worry, though. He will be the guy you can trust won’t get in trouble. In the 500-some student athletes I’ve met thus far, Shepard is by far the most respectful and most polite. He truly cherishes his role representing that football program.
Landry Jones’ leadership. He yelled. Ok. This is a small step in Landry Jones visibly showing his leadership in a way most Oklahoma fans want – a hooping and hollering guy. But it was a step in his final game. We don’t know the exact words the senior quarterback yelled at freshman wide receiver Sterling Shepard. We do know that he was talking to him about routes and making the catch. He made it clear after the game, he doesn’t hate the kid. He wants to see Shepard excel and he knew he could handle, in a game situation, what Jones had to say to him.
Any attempt at trying to contain Johnny Manziel. They all fell flat. That’s evident by one number: 516. The total number of offensive yards accrued by Johnny Manziel alone.
The defense as a unit. Before ultimate freak out ensues, realize these are guys recruited from one system to fit into another system. Before pulling the ‘Well the players from Mike Stoops’ previous system back in Arizona aren’t performing to well’ card, realize that what gets recruited to Arizona and what gets recruited to Oklahoma defensively is very different. If they were the same, you probably wouldn’t even be reading this because you would have long ago given up on Oklahoma.
As for this current defense’s performance in the game, it’s quite simple – they missed tackles. They were slower. Hey, that happens in ball games. That’s what makes it a game. The bottom line is simple: They flat out got outplayed.
Bob Stoops’ ability to win bowl game. Football coaches have it tough. They get judged on 12 games — 13 if they are good — a year. So the good, like Bob Stoops, get judged on 13 total hours of game time. Then we looking into every statistic. Every angle. Every play of those 13 hours to determine what kind of coach they are – year in and year out.
One thing, though, is clear. Bob Stoops wins 80 percent of his regular season games. However, in 14 seasons, Stoops now holds a 7-7 post-season record. Fifty percent.
Yes, they won a bowl game last year. No, they didn’t win a bowl game this year. That’s how the chips fall. However, only 50 percent of the time do the chips fall Stoops’ way. In Arlington, Bob Stoops got outcoached by a former assistant coach.
I don’t gamble, but I know enough that if the chips only fell my way 50 percent of the time at the table I would either change my strategy, learn some new lessons or, eventually, walk away from the table.