NORMAN — During interviews over the past several months, questions about Oklahoma's disastrous pass defense in losses last year have been answered with polite and concise — but often repetitive — replies.
“The past is the past,” or, “We all know what happened last year,” or “This is a new team and a new season.”
Monday, many similar responses were given to questions regarding last season's secondary struggles.
But on the same day, Mike Stoops ordered his defensive backs to relive one of those forgettable games — a 45-38 loss at Baylor, during which quarterback Robert Griffin III and his offense abused OU's secondary to the tune of 616 total yards and four touchdowns.
The Bears and Sooners meet again Saturday on Owen Field at 2:30 p.m.
“(Stoops) told us, ‘Go watch the game,'” said senior safety Javon Harris, who has already re-watched the film more times than he can remember.
“Man, back in two-a-days, I used to watch the Baylor game every day. ... It's nothing new to me. I can tell you front and back, left, right, every call that happened in that game.
“I lost my spot after this game.”
He shouldered the vast majority of blame for the loss, which knocked the Sooners from the national-title hunt and effectively won Griffin the Heisman Trophy.
Harris was continually beat deep by Baylor receivers, then yelled at mercilessly on the sideline by coaches.
He subsequently became one of the fans' favorite targets for criticism and got benched for Oklahoma's final three contests.
So why would he repeatedly — and voluntarily — dredge up painful memories by watching the game tape?
“For me, it was about knowing what happened last year,” Harris said. “I use it to just work on getting better.
“It's about going out here and proving people wrong — what their perceptions of me are — and building on this year.”
When Mike Stoops returned as defensive coordinator to Oklahoma — where from 1999-2003 he coached a secondary that rarely played as poorly as the 2011 unit — he moved Harris from free to strong safety.
“I thought that would be the best suited for him,” Stoops said.
“What I really like and admire about the guy ... he comes back and has really played well all year. I'm really pleased with his attitude, his effort. It shows a lot of character, and I'm really happy he's been able to get out there and play winning football for us.”
Harris leads Oklahoma with four interceptions this season and is the team's second-leading tackler.
But another change this season has been an improved ability to limit — for the most part — the kind of big plays that cost it in losses last year.
In the Baylor game last November, Griffin hit receivers for touchdowns of 69 and 87 yards.
“We've been complicated enough, but simple enough that we're not having breakdowns ourselves and giving up big plays because of our actions,” coach Bob Stoops said of the changes his brother has made this season. “We've really reduced that.
“(Opponents are) bound to have their plays, but they haven't been easy. And even the ones they're making, you see they're all pretty well contested, forcing them to make plays.”
Two days after the Baylor loss, Harris was requested or post-practice media availability. He not only showed up, but stayed, answering every question. He said fans deserved to know what went wrong, and that his father taught him that part of being a man is owning up to your mistakes.
“All the great competitors own up to their mistakes, and they keep moving forward,” said junior cornerback Aaron Colvin. “That's exactly what he did last year.”
Monday, Harris again walked into the interview room and answered every question about the performance that has largely defined him for nearly a full year.
“Definitely,” he said when asked if he's been waiting for this game.
“About a year's worth of waiting. For a player like me, you can't help but to look back, but at the same time, I know I'm just going to try to take what I've been doing this year, and go into this game and try to do the same things.”