Berry Tramel

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Oklahoma football: Emails in on loss to Baylor, and it's not pretty

by Berry Tramel Modified: November 13, 2013 at 6:05 pm •  Published: November 13, 2013

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, left, talks to quarterback Blake Bell (10) after Oklahoma was topped short of the end zone on a fourth-and-goal play by Baylor in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, left, talks to quarterback Blake Bell (10) after Oklahoma was topped short of the end zone on a fourth-and-goal play by Baylor in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

I’ve been sitting on my emails from OU-Baylor and just now have gotten around to digging through them. Actually, digging out of them is more like it. I received hundreds. So I thought I would share some, and group them by subject.

I will say this. The rancor for Bob Stoops, Josh Heupel and Blake Bell is quite the horse race. I don’t know who’s in the biggest doghouse. Decide for yourself.

BOB STOOPS POSSE

Larry: “Stoops is hunkered down in denial mode because 1) Stoops thinks that Sooner fans and the media, representing us fans, have unrealistic expectations. He believes the program is in great shape at 7-2 right now. 2) He doesn’t understand that OU fans are mad about Baylor, not because we lost, but because we were beat every which way but loose and generally looked pathetic. 3) Stoops is just as happy with beating Kansas as Baylor. For Stoops, all wins are equal. And all losses are also equal, regardless of who we’re playing and whether we get beat by three points in OT or a half a hundred. And finally 4) Sooner fans better not expect any program changes, because Stoops is a ‘grinder’ and he’s pretty well set in his ways, which to be honest have proven to be successful over time. In short we all need to be happy with 10-3 seasons, and satisfied with 9-4 seasons.”

Sorry, can’t agree. I think Stoops knows the program has slipped. He’s just not in any mood to admit it. He’s not content just being 10-3. And I absolutely would expect some program changes. Heck, he’s fired four coaches in the last two years and demoted another.

John: “Time for Stoops to climb out of denial or I give him two more years tops and a mess which will take three or four years for the next coach to clean up. The fan base is restless at best. More accurately, it is tipping into just being pissed. We aren’t Belichicks, but we are not totally stupid, either, despite what Boren thinks.”

Hey, it’s not Boren that thinks we don’t know anything about football. It’s Stoops who thinks that. But he’s not exactly wrong. OU football is not in disarray. It is not reeling toward mediocrity. It’s slipped from its top perch. You want a crazy stat? OU’s record the last four years is 39-10. LSU’s record the last four years is 41-9. The Sooners need some staff tinkering, either with new blood or new ideas. The Sooners need a talent upgrade. But OU football does not need an overhaul. Overhaul Sooner football, and the chances are much greater than the resulting product will be worse, not better, than what you see now.

Terrill: “Let’s see to it the regents all get together and make it possible for the Sooner coaching staff all get their gigantic cost of living raises. Of course, I’m being sarcastic. His salary and lack of proper coaching, makes a raise seem unrealistic to me. I hear entirely too much grumbling. Like I’ve said before, we can’t control the regents. We can allow ourselves to be heard in print. We reached the Stoops’ pinnacle a dozen years ago.”

This was actually a very useful email. There’s a general discontent with OU football right now, and it goes far beyond just the losses. It has a lot to do with the price tag of it all. Starting with the coaching salaries. When football coaches made $200,000 and teachers made $20,000, the coaches were in a different stratosphere. But they didn’t live vastly different lives than their constituents. But now teachers make $40,000, and head coaches aren’t making $400,000. They’re making $4 million. So when everything goes great, it’s all good. But when there are troubled times, resentment builds quickly. And Terrill is right. The huge annual raises for coaches are a sore point for the common guy.

Jeff: “If Bob decides to move on (he acts disengaged most of the time anyway) or it’s decided that Bob needs to move on, who would be an ideal successor? The bill would be best filled by someone who can recruit — especially in Texas. Someone who likes to deal with alums and the media and someone who is good at it. Someone who is decisive and can make tough decisions. Someone who still likes to coach and who enthusiastically embraces all of the trappings of being a coach at a big time school. I got it! How about Mack Brown?”

I’ll go you one better. Why not just trade coaches? Texas would love to have Stoops. Just trade coaches straight up. Mack does fit what OU needs (I’m being a little silly). Stoops does fit what UT needs (I’m being less silly).

Sydney: “Why has Bob Stoops become larger than the university? He is killing the Sooners’ football program, but it’s acceptable to the university, where as Barry Switzer produced winning seasons that included some of the greatest college football games in the history of the program and college football, yet he was axed. If Stoops is allowed to stay, it will destroy one of the winningest football programs in the history of college football. Do politics rule in this situation?

Does everyone forget that Switzer went 7-4-1, 8-4 and 8-4 for three straight years? And that Switzer wasn’t fired for on-field performance, but for off-field problems? Let’s settle down. Everyone will be better off. OU’s record the last four years: 12-2, 10-3, 10-3, 7-2. Not great. But not ruinous.

David: “Jeez, Stoops has an uncanny ability to bury his head in the sand. Bell is not the answer for the future. I feel like Stoops has conceded to mediocrity, especially since he keeps defending Bell, who clearly is never going to be a premier quarterback. But then again, who needs a premier quarterback when mediocrity is the standard. His Big Game Bob days are long, long gone. The fan and booster base has one simple question to answer: What does OU want to be? Champions on a national level? They sure don’t seem to act like they want to be champions anymore, settling for garbage like what has been on the field for the last several years.”

OU has not settled. What’s interesting is that anyone would think that OU has settled. Have a slump, and the answer is, what exactly? Fire the coach? Fire a coach that you and almost everyone else knows is not just a quality coach, but an elite coach? That’s the definition of madness. Deciding that rather than working through a problem, you’ll just blow up everything and start over.

Mike: “Leading 5-3 with the offense struggling so much, punt the ball midway through second quarter instead of going for a long field goal and try to pin Baylor deep. That’s what the other Barry used to do. Kicking game and defense.”

Well, the other Barry coached in another century. But I’ll defend Stoops on this one. Yes, he had Michael Hunnicut try a 48-yard field goal that missed. But on the next possession, Stoops punted Baylor deep. Pinned the Bears on the 7-yard line. And Baylor went 93 yards for a touchdown. You get a chance to score with this offense, you take the chance to score.

Doug: “I do not see the problem as being all Josh Heupel. Stoops has more to do with the game plan that the media seems to say. I am tired of Stoops, the fifth or sixth-best coach in the Big 12. I do not think that Brent Venables should have been demoted just to make room for The Second Greatest Stoops. I am tired of the whole family. It seems to me that the real problem is the talent level. In this recruiting class, OU is getting commitments from players who had offers from Louisiana Monroe and Houston. Many of our three-star recruits were no star, one star or two star until they commit to OU but then all of a sudden, they are better prospects. I know Stoops does not pay any attention to the ratings of players. But most coaches seem to do exactly that. Alabama does not fight it out with Louisiana Monroe, Houston, New Mexico, North Texas, etc. for players. Neither did OU at one time. Now OU is reduced to the lower level of recruits and this is shown by the play on the field. We simply do not have the quality players that we used to. We also do not recruit, or cannot recruit Texas like we used to. We have to go all over the U.S. to get players, when there are enough in Texas and Oklahoma to supply most of our needs.”

Hey, how did Mike Stoops get lumped into this? He didn’t have a bad night. I do not advocate paying attention to any recruiting rankings. However, clearly, recruiting is the fundamental problem.

QUARTERBACK SWITCHEROOS

Wayne: “What have you heard of the freshman Cody Thomas? We seem to be better going forward, other than the most important position on the field.”

Haven’t heard anything one way or another about Thomas. I have no idea.

Jason: “Your article (about Stoops loving stability) was great in the sense you kind of answered a lot of my and the fans’ questions. Why does Stoops not try Trevor or Kendall more? My own question was presented to friends at halftime of the OU-Baylor game. Should Stoops sit Blake the second half? This game is over. Let’s see if we have a future QB in Trevor or Kendall. We need to know now because we are not winning the Big 12 (which Stoops claims is the ONLY thing they care about at OU. Which I think you forgot to mention in your article. If that is ALL he cares about, then who cares if they lose to Baylor worse if Trevor/Kendall play). So I loved your article because it makes sense on Stoops’ paranoia and his stubbornness. I think he is in right now worse than ever and to me is an issue with this program. But what if Kendall (or Trevor) meant OU would have a BETTER chance to win THIS year, to beat K-State, OSU because Bell is NOT a playmaker, can NOT throw the football, has become in my opinion scared to run because he doesn’t want to get hurt and lose his job. OU has less of a chance to win with HIM at QB because the offense stinks. I know it is not all him, but his non-playmaking ability just adds to the bad offense. A Trevor or Kendall’s ability to get away from bad blocking or run outside or throw ball downfield on run, etc., just might be the difference in winning a game because Bell has made very few BIG plays. What if Kendall is a Manziel like QB? Not saying he is him, but what if he made plays to spark the offense, overcome offense weaknesses and his athletic ability makes a difference? And I didn’t think Trevor was that bad. Heck, he only had two games. Bell has had what, 6-7 games to prove he isn’t very good?”

I think Stoops believe he is playing the best quarterback. Who knows how Thompson will play. But Stoops isn’t trying to lose games. He’s playing the guy he believes is the best.

Larry: “Give (Kendal) Thompson a shot at it. It can’t get much worse.”

Are you kidding me? It can’t get worse? It could get a ton worse. It could get way worse. Bob Stoops is not going to tank games.

Kermit: “With Bell and Knight struggling, what is the status of Kendal Thompson? Has he not recovered 100 percent or is his play less stellar than the other QB?”

Less stellar. That’s the truth. That’s what Bob Stoops can’t say. He thinks Blake Bell is not just better, but way better, than Thompson. If they were close, Thompson would have been given a chance. But Stoops doesn’t believe they are close. Doesn’t mean Stoops is right. But there’s no doubt that that’s what he believes.

Greg: “In a maudlin way, OU is really ‘close’, but ever so far. Lost was the fabulous performance by the defense and special teams to put the team in a position to give Baylor a chance to choke and wilt. The game should have been 21-3 or 0 and a figurative haymaker delivered. But when OU failed to score ahead 5-3, you could see the defensive players knew what was coming. They were dejected because they were equally confident the offense could not supplement their performance. Aside from specifics, this team has now completed a near year-long descent to one with no ‘identity.’ Three factors: 1. The Peter principle; just because a whiz kid coach is a great position coach he might not have been ready for the next step to be a coordinator. Now the person responsible for putting him there is faced with a decision he either can’t or, worse, won’t make. 2. Stoops has been told repeatedly he needs a dual threat QB offense but he really never believed in it. My take is he was relieved to see Bell initially succeed and it took the pressure off him to continue the change. Now he has no identity. Bell has exposed himself as barely average and this year is toast because Bell does not know what is expected of him. He can’t even do what he did in the past as Belldozer because he is trying to be Sam or Landry and he knows he isn’t. Problems compound. Other key players see it. They don’t know to be supportive or take a contrary view. Mediocrity is the order of the night and you absorb another humiliating loss. Losing is bad, looking bad while doing is worse. 3. If Stoops wants to be a dual threat team, try Kendal and put his heart in it for ISU, a perfect team for the ‘experiment’. If it works, you are brilliant. If not, you at least know next year, the future is Cody Thomas or someone new doing what White, Bradford or Jones did. But if that is what he really wanted all along because that is what his staff can master with coaching, go ahead and pull Thomas’ redshirt.”

Interesting ideas, I’ll grant you. But you can’t pull Thomas’ redshirt. What’s the point in that? He’s barely been practicing. That’s a recipe for disaster. The lack of commitment to an identity or an offense? I would tend to agree. The OU offense is a total mess.

Jay: “Stack the box and take the middle away from Bell. Make him beat you with a lateral run or throwing down the field against man coverage; he can’t do either. It isn’t rocket science and that’s just what Baylor did. Why should we be surprised? You (or someone) reported last year that Barry Switzer said Kendal Thompson was the best quarterback out there (presumably at the time including Landry Jones) but that Heupel/Stoops wouldn’t play him so he should transfer. It’s a bit frustrating that OU’s best quarterback is finishing his third year without seeing (or any prospect of seeing) live action.”

It wasn’t me. And it wasn’t anyone else that I know of. The myth of Kendal Thompson grows by the second. Now he’s better than Landry Jones. You know who was mythologized last year? Blake Bell. Everyone always wants the guy who hasn’t played, to play. But the truth is, the coaches don’t believe Thompson is as good as Blake Bell. There’s no conspiracy. That’s just what they believe. They might be wrong. They’re probably right.

Stephen: “I was born and raised in Oklahoma and have been a Sooner fan since I was a little toddler. Now retired in Sacramento, I have experienced a lot of frustration this season and especially last night watching OU play. Every time OU attempted to duplicate last year’s success with the Belldozer, everyone in the stadium, especially the Baylor defense, knew who was going to be carrying the ball. OU has developed no options like a pitchout or a quick pass to keep the defense guessing. This particular play call is my pet peeve, but like your article stated, the whole offensive game plan was a big question mark. When OU was behind 24-5 at halftime and it was obvious Blake Bell wasn’t going lead the team back in the second half, why not give Trevor Knight a chance at some big game experience? He might not have as good an arm as Blake, but his legs more than make up for it. After all, Trevor had a bad second game and was yanked for Blake. How many bad games does Blake have to have until Trevor gets another chance?”

I actually like the suggestion. I think halftime would have been a good idea to switch, just to give Knight some time. See how he’s progressed since Sept. 7. And clearly, it’s time to scrap the Belldozer. No question about that. At least in its present form.

OH MY JOSH

Richard: “Sure our players can take responsibility for mistakes or missed assignments or fess up to fans, but what I want to hear is statements from the offense coordinator that the game plan was a zero for the Texas & Baylor games. Sure he won a national championship as a quarterback, but that doesn’t make him a wizard to be a offense coordinator. Move Bell to tight end and play Knight or Thompson, give Finch and Ford more game time, be creative with the offense. Contact Mike at WashingtonState for ideas. Something outside the box.”

You know what I hate? I hate mixed-bag emails. Emails that have a great idea, something really rock solid, then go off on some crazy tangent. Like this episode of L.A. Law I saw years ago, where a brilliant attorney, played by Kevin Spacey, would suddenly just go coo-coo in the courtroom. One of the Mackenzie Brackman lawyers, Ann, I think, walked in on the guy one time and he was on a office chair, riding it like a horse, pretending he was in a race. She leveled the bad news that she was going to have to have him committed to be disbarred, though if it was up to her personally, she’d enter him in the Preakness. Richard has a great point. I’m ready to hear Josh Heupel stand up and say, we didn’t have a clue. But then Richard starts thinking he’s in the Preakness and wants Blake Bell moved to tight end. There is 100 percent clarity that OU coaches think Bell is their best thrower. And there is no reason to think they’re wrong, other than wishfulness.

Mitch: “In your opinion, if not for playing here, would Josh be the offensive coordinator? If the answer is no, then OU is doing itself a disservice. I find it difficult to believe he is the best qualified.”

It’s a flawed question. Of course Heupel wouldn’t be the coordinator if he had played at Utah State or South Dakota. There’s a chance, a good chance, that Stoops never would have heard of Heupel. Absolutely Heupel being a star OU quarterback is a major reason why Heupel currently is the OU coordinator. You can’t separate the two.

David: “Do you thing Bob Stoop would consider bringing back Mark Mangino to help right the ship? He is hard working, he can get the most of what we have. But may have too much baggage? Stoops and you must understand doing nothing is only going to make it worse.”

No. I don’t think Stoops will bring back Mangino. He’s brought in Bill Bedenbaugh as O-line coach. The Sooners need offensive innovation. If Stoops makes a change at coordinator, he will look elsewhere.

Joe: “After OSU wins the OU game and the Sooners are 9-3 going into a minor bowl, maybe Stoops won’t be so stubborn about dismissing some of his coaches, namely Heupel. Atrocious play-calling in the Baylor game! I’m just a fan, but without slobs like us, sports teams and writers would not exist. I realize players must execute the plays called, but any moron could have called up-the-gut runs into the middle of the line, which Heupel did time after time without any success, regardless of field position, time remaining and the score.”

Actually, Stoops has shown he will fire coaches. He’s fired four in the last two years. I nicknamed him Robespierre, for crying out loud. Reign of Terror. Anyway, I agree, Heupel’s job is on the line. But there’s no way anybody can blame him on play-calling against Baylor. Nothing worked. If nothing works, what in the heck do you want him to call? The gameplan is what stunk.

Dallas: “Josh Heupel has been OU’s QB coach for a long time, and what we’re now seeing with Blake Bell (or happy feet Landry before him), this is the end result of his coaching talents. Of course, the game plans also leave a lot to be desired from one week to the next. But again, that falls into Heupel’s bailiwick too.”

First off, I thought we were past bashing Landry. But I will say, Bell’s happy feet are warp speed compared to Landry. Landry did a little dancing. Bell’s going Fred Astaire back there. I thought that was very unnerving, especially early in the game.

Johnny: “It appears that Baylor has better people at every position than OU — particularly QB, O-line, wide receiver and DB. They also appeared tougher and much more disciplined. Those things plus poor offensive schemes, blocking and Bell’s inability to scamper (he’s fast in a dash but is not quick in traffic; quick is better) did not give OU a chance to win. Baylor was hungry from the get-go. Do you think Bob will retool in the waning weeks to try to find somebody that can play, or will he be satisfied with the effort he’s getting?”

I think Stoops will try to find out who can play, but in many ways, other than quarterback, he’s playing about everybody, isn’t he? Who’s not playing that you’d like to see? But you’re right in general. Baylor was much better. Which is scary for the Sooners.

Scott: “I don’t see Heupel going anywhere as long as Andrea Boren (formerly Andrea Heupel) is married to David’s son (Dan). Leave it to David Boren to take down the Pride of Oklahoma and the OU offense.”

I knew we would get back to the band at some point.

Gene: “Bob has two choices to make. His first option is to scrap this style of offense. Blake is not suited to run this offense. He is strictly a play action passer. Run an offense like Alabama runs, which is power running and play action passing. We have the personnel to run that style. His other option is to remove Heupel from his play calling duties. In the Baylor game we have the ball on the half-yard line and what does he call? He goes with the Belldozer package. Predictably, Blake goes down the line, waits for the hole and runs into the waiting defense. Blake is 6-5, 265 pounds and you don’t feel like we can run a QB sneak behind the best center in nation (Ikard) and get a TD? C’mon, I just about threw something through my TV after that horrible play. He called nothing that would back up the eight or nine guys that Baylor had in the box. Let’s revisit history for a second. Over Bob’s time at OU, we had prolific offenses with the following playcallers: Leach, Mangino, Long and Wilson. Since Heupel has been calling the plays, has our offense even closely resemble those teams? No. I don’t want to hear the excuse about the talent may have been better on those teams. It comes down to imaginative play calling and being to adjust on the fly when your gameplan is not working. Jay Norvell should be given a shot at play calling. He has a strong resume and has called plays before. Time for a change.”

Actually, yes. Heupel’s offenses have resembled those of yesteryear. Like last season, when OU scored at least 50 points on West Virginia, OSU and Texas. But what’s funny is the lionization of Mangino, Long and Wilson. Leach wasn’t here long enough for anybody to get tired of him, but the natives were restless on all the others.

Mark: “I don’t wish ill will on anyone and I’m not a knee jerk fan, but you have to perform at your job. You do, I do, so it’s no different for anyone. Josh has been protected for a long time, but last night, like UT, he was exposed again and it was an embarrassment to OU. Play calling aside, it’s the worthless penalties due to his lack of organization. Delay of game, wrong packages which leads to frantic timeouts, predictability and no rhythm. What stings is most of these penalties come after a timeout or commercial timeout. You know Stoops isn’t happy as he about lost it after a delay of game penalty when he grabbed his mouthpiece of his head set. He was about to blow a gasket. Are you a fan of a QB coach who is not on the sidelines? What style of offense are we trying to run, because the players and fans would like to know.”

I think the QB coach (or the coordinator) can excel on the field or in the booth. I don’t think there’s a right answer. But the lack of offensive identity is clear. I don’t know the answer to your question.

STATE OF THE SOONERS

Sean: “You probably don’t watch GameDay, but this morning Paul Finebaum, when asked about Baylor’s BCS chances, responded that their win Thursday didn’t mean anything, adding, ‘Who hasn’t beaten Bob Stoops badly the last couple of years?’ That’s where we are right now.”

Well, yes. So the question becomes, what do you do about it? Some say start over. Some say barrel through. I vote for the barrel through plan.

Don: “Is it just me, or does Baylor look and play the way OU used to look and play? With an edge.”

It’s not just you. But I think it’s a fraud. Baylor plays with speed and precision. Baylor has better players and had a better plan. That’s where the edge was. They weren’t playing with an edge. They had an edge.

Don: “I am baffled by Gabe Ikard’s comment that Baylor brought a safety down to play like a linebacker. He said they did not anticipate that. Seriously? Most teams in America would love for you to play defense like that. Ought to be able to throw it over there head so fast their eyes would swim. Do we have no ability to adjust? I am growing tired of the coaches screaming at the players, how about coaching them instead of acting like they are stupid and should know better. That game painfully reminded me of the undisciplined ‘90s era. Our evaluation of talent is severely lacking Very few playmakers and NO high quality D-linemen. It seems all we recruit is DBs and receivers and they must be the leftovers. Yes I am sadly very pessimistic about the future of this program, and I am not a fair weather fan. I have been a season ticket holder since 1988.”

It’s clear that OU doesn’t trust its quarterbacking, else it would just throw over the line, just as Don suggested. And I agree. The screaming at players, followed by not a ton of accountability from the coaches, is disconcerting.

Ron: “Everyone can see we are down in the offensive and defensive lines and quarterbacks, but have you looked at the video of our receivers? They cannot get open against one-on-one defensive backs. The quarterback can’t find open receivers because there rarely are any. The routes they are running may be a big part of the problem, and you have to question the talent of the guys too. “

I think this is a great point. OU has two quality receivers in Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard. But past that? The Sooners are still messing around with Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks, two guys who have proven to be just so-so players and frequently in trouble. Because they’re needed.

Johnny: “It appears that Baylor has better people at every position than OU — particularly QB, O-line, wide receiver and DB. They also appeared tougher and much more disciplined. Those things plus poor offensive schemes, blocking and Bell’s inability to scamper (he’s fast in a dash but is not quick in traffic; quick is better) did not give OU a chance to win. Baylor was hungry from the get-go. Do you think Bob will retool in the waning weeks to try to find somebody that can play, or will he be satisfied with the effort he’s getting?”

I think Stoops will try to find out who can play, but in many ways, other than quarterback, he’s playing about everybody, isn’t he? Who’s not playing that you’d like to see? But you’re right in general. Baylor was much better. Which is scary for the Sooners.

Stan: “The Sooners will never compete for a NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP with Josh Heupel as offensive coordinator. His play calling is CRAP! They will also never even compete for a Big 12 championship with the quarterbacks we have on the roster. The Sooners use to be in the top five in recruiting every year but the last few years they haven’t even been in the top 10 and that goes back to Stoops. The Sooners are about NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS.”

You know, there are some people I’m awfully glad I don’t have to watch a game with.

Damon: “Is it just me, or did it look like OU quit last night? Not the first time seeing this either. It got me thinking more about the attitude and nastiness of the players from 1999-2003. If I’m not mistaken, weren’t most of those awesome players (Tommie Harris, Rocky Calmus, Jimmy Wilkerson, Torrance Marshall, et.) all John Blake’s recruits? Don’t know if there’s something to this or not. I could never imagine seeing those players back then, going half speed or appearing to look defeated.”

I think it’s just you. The defense didn’t quit. It held up as long as it could. The offense never got going. Where’s the quit in that. As for Blake’s recruits, we’re back to the wilderness. Calmus was a Blake recruit. The others were Stoops.

Eddie: “The most disturbing part for me as an OU football fan is not the perceived under-achieving of the program, it’s the fact we are actually achieving. In the last decade (nine years, actually) we’ve become a solid three-loss program. Nine years is much more than a random sampling and is solid evidence we’re doing about what we should. And all the injuries that have contributed over the years that have been part of the reason are like the ill-timed penalties we can’t avoid, they’re just going to happen and aren’t an aberration. Also, I’ve felt for years everything changed when Mark Bradley touched the punt against USC. Haven’t felt the same moxie from the teams or the fans since. Look at the Stoops era up to that exact moment, and look at what’s happened since. If you want to find a turning point in the program, that one play may be it. “

Now we’re into cosmic stuff. I sort of like it. Did the Sooners get knocked off their axis by Mark Bradley in the Orange Bowl?

Bill: “I think it could be a miss-in-recruiting problem. I think they find themselves without a QB that can play at this level regardless of scheme. I think this all started with the ‘national approach’ to recruiting that we have seen over the past five years. I think the Sooners must return to the ‘get the ones who can play in Oklahoma and then go to Texas approach.’ Kids who come to OU from Florida, California and other far off places are a risk. Why does a kid come to OU from far off? The really good ones stay in those areas.”

Is that true? I don’t know if that’s true. We were talking about the Cali Trio the other day. Lots of hype. Lots of California cool stuff. But you know what? All three guys could play. Kenny Stills was a ballplayer. Tony Jefferson was a ballplayer. Brennan Clay proved to be nothing but a tough ballplayer. Seems to me OU needs more guys like that. Not less.

Aaron: “I think Stoops has gotten stale, he doesn’t have anymore oomph on the recruiting trail or the field. Bob has two losses in the Big 12, and all the Big 12 is is a glorified Conference USA. It stinks. If Bob sticks around much longer, he will be the equivalent to what Bowden was at FloridaState his last 5-6 years. OU is in decline and slipping into mediocrity. We can no longer recruit well and we can no longer win the big games. Ten years ago this would have been a victory. On the recruiting angle, unless you are Texas, no one wants to really come to the Big 12. The lack of big games and the mediocrity, with the exception of Baylor and now maybe Texas, everyone wants to play in the SEC or Pac. Look at the Big 10, they’re streak of mediocrity is hurting them too. Time for OU to add some pizzazz. Change up the unis, stir up the fan base, do something special with the team to remind TV viewers and the nation how special this program is. Maybe do the 47 on the field like one of your readers suggested, the small things, to embrace the greatness, to remind living rooms and recruits about the giant that is OU, and as a last resort bolt for the SEC. They wanted OU once before, leave OSU behind if that is what it takes, but try to get back in their good graces. If something isn’t done to combat this new world order of college football (the Oregons, Baylors, OSUs) then maybe Joe C. and Boren have gotten just as stale and mediocre as the OU program has.”

Well, OU is contractually committed to the Big 12 for another 11 years. So forget that. But the uniforms? I think it’s going to happen. Not just at OU, but lots of places. That’s what the players want. It’s like in hoops, when the long shorts came in 25 years ago. Some of the bluebloods – Indiana, Carolina, whoever – didn’t fully embrace them. But they got on board.

 FOR WHOM THE BLAKE BELL TOLLS

Craig: “I kept thinking the entire game we were playing at 3/4 speed except for Finch. I think everyone has the Belldozer figured out. Blake doesn’t have good footwork in the pocket and his passing is below average.”

Hey, why don’t they pass more out of the ‘Dozer? Bell could take the snap, fake a run, drop back and have one-on-one coverage with whoever it wanted. You want to relieve some pressure on the Belldozer? Do that.

John: The ineptitude of the offense is becoming eerily similar to John Blake’s offenses. Let’s call for Blake Bell becoming a tight end. He’s NOT the quarterback of the future, or even for the present. That still gives them four quarterbacks from whom to choose next year, plus Blake might have a chance of playing in the NFL as a tight end.”

Yep, time for my annual Children of Israel wandering in the wilderness analogy. The Israelites forgot what it was really like in Egypt. Sooner fans have forgotten what it was like in the ‘90s.

Mark: “This is what you get when you leave the starters, quarterback in particular, in the game until the middle of the fourth quarter even though the score is out of hand. I have complained about this for many years. Bell is a fourth-year junior and until this year had no significant experience running the offense or passing. Knight kept throwing behind or short of the receivers. Bell can at least throw it in front of the receiver when they are off to the side. He overthrows them otherwise. If I were a defensive coordinator, I would stack the box and play man-to-man on the receivers and dare OU to try to complete a pass. OU can barely complete a pass more then 10-15 yards past the line of scrimmage. I would be surprised if the completion percentage is more than 25 percent when the ball is thrown more than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage.”

I don’t buy the garbage-time theory. I don’t think a QB learns much in garbage time. It’s almost like practice. No pressure. Often going against tired starters or backups. I don’t think Bell would be appreciably better. In fact, look at it this way. What you’re saying is that a guy gets better with more experience. But is that true of Bell, who is playing extensively NOT in garbage time?

Royce: “It’s not the coordinator’s fault, but it is a lack of talent at the quarterback position. Bell is a good player but not a talent to return OU to the past glory days. In today’s game, you have to have a more mobile (speed) quarterback than Bell. Is there a problem in attracting minority quarterback high school talent or is that not what the alumni wants at OU.”

You mean like Johnny Manziel and Bryce Petty?

Pat: “I am old, been an OU fan forever and will remain. What a bad team we have I hope Bell is not the best QB on campus. Feel we need a lot more changes, players and coaching.”

Bad team? This is a bad team? A team that won at Notre Dame A team that beat a team ranked in the top-10? This is not a great team. But this is not a bad team. You want bad teams? Florida’s got a bad team. The Gators might not make a bowl.

Randy: “It may be a bit unfair to blame the OU coaches or Heupel for the offense’s failure. It’s not fair that the other team gets to play with an extra defender the guy that never ever ever ever has to be concerned with covering the tight end. It is not right that a defensive end, but probably safety or linebacker, is freed up to commit to the box and cover the run. Then when we throw one time to the tight end, it is fairly deep and out where the deep safety and corner is likely to be anyway. Same with no passes over the middle to running backs. Although we often overcome this, it still seems so unfair.”

Hey, I have an idea. Move Blake Bell to tight end.

Gene: “Sorry, Blake is not our passing QB. Only looks at primaries and cannot ever look for and find a secondary receiver — plus cannot throw the deep ball.”

Who do you suggest? LaColtan Bester?


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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