MANHATTAN, Kan. — Bob Stoops has a stiff upper lip.
Probably always will.
Part of it is upbringing. Growing up in a blue-collar, hardscrabble town like Youngstown, Ohio, teaches you how to be strong when times get tough.
Part of it is coaching pedigree. Learning from square-jawed men like Hayden Fry and Bill Snyder shows you how to act when adversity comes.
As injuries mounted and quarterbacks changed and struggles brewed this season, the Oklahoma coach's resolve has been a huge plus. It's buoyed his players. It's stabilized his program.
“Excuses aren't acceptable to him,” Sooner center Gabe Ikard said, “and that's one of the reasons why this program is the way it is.”
Of course, it might not save Stoops and the Sooners on Saturday at Kansas State.
That's because no one does resolve better than Snyder. When he took over K-State in 1989, the program was the worst in college football history. The Wildcats had won 130 games in the prior 51 seasons.
But Snyder preached process, then stuck to it like wet skin on frozen metal.
The results were dramatic.
Still are. The Wildcats lost to North Dakota State earlier this season, and while I understand that the Bison are a good FCS team, they are still an FCS team. But because Snyder puts his head down and goes to work and teaches his players to do the same thing, the Wildcats have improved to the point that Baylor and Oklahoma State have to be thanking their lucky stars that they played K-State early in the season.
Much like his mentor, Stoops usually produces teams that improve as the season progresses.
Not so much this season.
That is a rarity in the Stoops Era. Even in seasons that have been rough, the Sooners have showed continued signs of improvement, but this season has been a struggle. Injuries and suspensions have exacerbated an already inconsistent bunch of players.
But Stoops has remained steadfast.
He still preaches process. He still harps on attention to detail. He still insists on good preparation.
“Everything is about what you put into it with Coach Stoops,” Sooner safety Gabe Lynn said. “He's done a good job showing that to us and preaching that to us.
“He stays steady.”
Some Sooner fans would prefer Stoops go all Howard Beale, get up out of his chair, go to the window, stick his head out and yell, “I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore.” And there are probably times Stoops probably feels like the TV newsman from the movie “Network”.
But burning everything to the ground?
That's not the way you run a multi-million corporation, and that's what OU football is. And it just happens to be built on the back of 18- to 22-year-olds.
Those guys are watching their coach, following his lead, and Stoops knows it.
“I've never really seen stress out of him,” Lynn said. “Being a college football coach is very stressful, but he's pretty much level headed at all times.
“That's one of the main reasons why he's had great success here.”
Stoops will break Barry Switzer's school record of 157 wins with a victory on Saturday. It will be a tall order with Trevor Knight making his first road start, Damien Williams and Lacoltan Bester being left home and the Wildcats playing some solid ball.
Not that Stoops acknowledged any of that.
Heck, when asked if it would be special to break Switzer's record by beating Snyder's team, Stoops didn't miss a beat.
“No,” he said in that curt, clipped cadence familiar to Sooners far and wide.
Stiff upper lip, indeed.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.