NORMAN – If Oklahoma is to hold on to its No. 1 ranking, it will not be because of what happened Saturday night here at Memorial Stadium.
The Sooners moved to 3-0 with a 38-28 victory against Missouri, sure, but the uneven energy level throughout for OU left questions for the weeks ahead – all right, the weeks beyond Ball State.
LSU was dominant on the road, defeating ranked West Virginia. Some votes will surely go the Tigers' way in the polls, released later today. The Sooners' heart, soul and mouth, Travis Lewis, did not sound as if he'd currently vote for his own team.
“We played like the 25th-, 30th-ranked team in the country,” said Lewis, the OU senior linebacker and captain. “We're not the No. 1 right now.”
But it was a win. It was a win, right?
“We're fortunate that we won,” Lewis said. “We shouldn't have won that game.”
Oklahoma's defense was particularly suspect against Mizzou's spread offense, failing early and late in allowing the Tigers to roll up 532 total yards, including 263 rushing yards.
“I thought it was terrible,” OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “I'm embarrassed to be associated with this.”
Prior to Lewis and Venables' arrival in the postgame media scrum, coach Bob Stoops and some other players provided a more sunny synopsis of the evening – an overcast overview, at least. Stoops credited Missouri, saying it would put up points and yards on a bunch of other teams.
Even Stoops recognized something was amiss in the opening minutes. Missouri led 14-3 nine minutes in, before a lot of rears found seats at Owen Field.
“For whatever reason, yeah, there was not quite as much energy and emotion,” Stoops said. “That's disappointing. I thought we were more mature and better than that.”
The offense did have its moments, to help OU claw from the initial hole and get enough points to create distance from the Tigers. But it was as if Landry Jones and the offense had an on-off switch for which it had no power to control.
Down those 11 points with six minutes to go in the first quarter, the switch magically flipped to on.
“It was just time to answer,” said Jones, who threw for 448 yards but, with two interceptions, still felt out of rhythm and looked that way to Stoops. “We're a good offense. … We had to get it together and put some drives together.”
A six-play and a 10-play drive – both capped by Ryan Broyles touchdown catches from Jones – allowed OU to claim the lead for good by the midway point of the second quarter.
Broyles had scores of 24, 4 and 4 yards, catching 12 passes for 146 yards to serve as the safety blanket for a unit that missed its deep threat, Kenny Stills. Stills missed the game as a result of having residual effects from a concussion sustained last week at Florida State.
From the looks of it, the defense appeared to have been bonked at FSU, as well. Venables was not quite sure how to explain why his players played the way they did. He just knew he saw it coming.
Lewis and Venables said practices this past week were sluggish. He said he had several “talks” with his players in the days leading up to the game, to no avail.
The Tigers scored on a 45-yard pass in the first quarter. They scored on a 48-yard run in the fourth. OU often had answers in the middle quarters, but it was vulnerable in the early and late portions of the game.
Mizzou had two sophomores finish with more than 100 rushing yards, quarterback James Franklin and running back Henry Josey.
“That doesn't happen here,” Venables said. “It's not acceptable.”
Lewis tried to look at the game as a positive, since it happened in September.
“This is a reality check,” he said.
Still, the effort didn't make much sense to him – especially considering the loss last year in Columbia.
“They killed us last year, knocked us off the mountain when we were No. 1,” Lewis said. “I don't know why players wouldn't prepare. I'm disappointed in myself as a captain and leader of this defense. I'm disappointed in the guys.
“We played good for two quarters. The first and fourth, we looked like … I don't know.”
Like a team that could not get away with that in the future?