NORMAN — Bob Stoops says he doesn’t slam the door behind him and commence to screaming. Doesn’t kick holes in the wall. Doesn’t take out his frustrations on the family pooch. "Not my style,” Stoops said. Not even in this most frustrating of football seasons, when the Sooners are a field goal here, a catch there, from being unbeaten instead of on a collision course with the Sun Bowl. But Stoops’ upper lip doesn’t always stay stiff. He got all fired up Tuesday when asked about blaming his players instead of his staff for the 5-4 start. "Don’t ask us questions if you don’t want the right answer,” Stoops said. "Everything’s our fault? If a guy (jumps offside), something’s our fault?” Stoops came off looking bad, even though he was right. Flozell Adams has been false-starting since he joined the Dallas Cowboys a dozen years ago; does that make Chan Gailey, Dave Campo, Bill Parcells and Wade Phillips all guilty of malpractice? A coach who accepts all the responsibility is disingenuous and not honoring his covenant with fans. But a coach who throws his ballplayers under the bus never looks good. "Here’s the problem,” Stoops said. "Don’t ask us questions then. If you want to ask me what went wrong, I’m supposed to say, ‘everything’s our fault?’ "Then I can’t answer questions if you want me to answer truthfully. There are some things players gotta handle, too. It’s always going to be both of us. "So don’t ask the question if you don’t want the right answer. And don’t go criticizing if we give you the right answer and it is on them.” Here’s the problem with the whole discussion. Coaches rarely get blamed for the things they should shoulder and always get blamed for the things that don’t matter that much. Like play-calling. Tons of fans still believe OU lost 10-3 at Nebraska because Kevin Wilson didn’t call the right plays. Let’s see. The Sooners couldn’t block the Nebraska interior and were playing with a rookie quarterback throwing to overmatched receivers behind a Swiss-cheese offensive line. The question is not why the Sooners couldn’t crack the Husker 20-yard line. The question is: how in the world did OU ever get close to begin with? Football is not a chess match. Not a guessing game. Not rock-paper-scissors. The coaching fallacies of this star-crossed 2009 season occurred not on headsets, but on the recruiting trail and the practice field. This coaching staff whiffed on evaluating receivers. OU’s pass-catching corps is Ryan Broyles and a bunch of guys. Some might still develop, but others are veterans who have proven they can’t produce on the Oklahoma stage. And since budding star Broyles was a last-minute signee, unwanted by OU until the midnight hour, it makes you wonder what in the heck they look for when eyeballing receivers. And player development on the offensive line has been atrocious. These blockers weren’t ready for the start of the season and haven’t progressed over the last two months. Still jumping before the snap. Still popping opponents after the whistle. Still getting whipped up front. Maybe it’s on Cory Brandon and Trent Williams to stay onside, but it’s on the coaches to make sure they’re better linemen in September than they were in March, and better in November than they were in September. "You’re only as good as your last play or your last game,” Stoops admitted. "That’s how it goes. All of us in this profession are very aware of that.” His offensive coaches — who now are missing Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham, Brody Eldridge, Brian Simmons and Jarvis Jones — have been cursed by injury. "They’ve had a lot to juggle through the year,” Stoops said. "Certain parts of the year, they’ve managed it well. Other times we haven’t. "Some of the discipline issues ... our players need to make improvements. "Ultimately, we gotta get them to do it right. In the end, it’s always the two of you. End of story. It’ll be that way till they quit playing football.” The press conference continued, and soon enough, Stoops was back in Gary Cooper mode. Straight back, stiff lip, still trying to figure out how to turn his 11th OU football team into something he can stand to live with. Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.
Texas A&M at OU→When: 6 p.m. Saturday →Where: Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman →TV: FSN (Cox 37) →Radio: KRXO-FM 107.7