OU traveled to South Bend, Ind., and took a 23-7 lead into halftime. But Notre Dame came from behind to win 34-30. It was Stoops' first loss as a head coach.
“We were up 17 points, and I look around and see a bunch of guys laughing and giggling, and knew, ‘they have no idea,'” Stoops said. “We still have a half to go here, and sure enough, we didn't know how to keep (the lead).
“With the staff, I said, ‘We've got to teach them how to do it.'”
The Sooners had gone 12-22 over the previous three seasons under former coach John Blake, but started Stoops' first season 3-0 and were even ranked in top-25 polls.
“It was a beat-down program,” Stoops said of the squad he inherited.
The Sooners finished 7-5 that season, losing 27-25 to Ole Miss in the Independence Bowl. The next season, of course, Oklahoma went 13-0 and won the national championship.
STOOPS RESPONDS TO EARLY SEASON QUESTIONS
Days after OU lost to Kansas State at home, there developed a popular explanation for the Sooners' struggles: “They just don't have the talent they once did.”
Even former coach Barry Switzer chimed in, telling the Tulsa World, “They just don't have the talent,” and “I'd rather have Tommie Harris as a freshman than a bunch of fifth-year seniors that are average.”
Oklahoma, now ranked No. 8 in the BCS standings and on an impressive three-game win streak, has quieted questions about the talent level since then, though.
The Sooners won at Texas Tech 41-20, and then routed Texas in the Cotton Bowl 63-21 and whipped Kansas 52-7 at home last weekend.
Stoops was asked about some of those early season sentiments.
“I don't buy that,” Stoops said. “Just because Adrian Peterson isn't here, or you don't have a first-round draft pick.
“We don't have Sam Bradford, we've got Landry Jones. Is he going to be the first guy taken in the draft? Maybe not. But he'll be a first-round guy.
“Every year, from year to year, we're not always going to have the first three guys taken in the draft or three of the first four or five. That isn't going to happen every year. We're as talented as about anybody we'll play, overall.”
*Jones named as semifinalist for Davey O'Brien award given to the nation's best quarterback.
*Stoops said that neither wide receiver Trey Metoyer or running back Dom Whaley are injured or in trouble, despite a significant decrease in playing time. “We love them both,” Stoops said.