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Sooners showing they can gut it out in a close game

by Berry Tramel Modified: September 26, 2010 at 8:59 pm •  Published: September 26, 2010

Can't stop the run and can't stand prosperity and can't free DeMarco Murray.

If these Sooners are driving you batty, don't fret. You're in a big club.

But as we count down to the Texodus this weekend, take heart in something other than the Longhorns' apparent impotence.

The Sooners, perhaps by necessity or perhaps by experience or perhaps by sheer sick and tiredness, suddenly can navigate their way through a close game.

OU beat Cincinnati 31-29 Saturday night on the Ohio River in a rousing game with a familiar script. For the third time in September, the Sooners played well early, jumped to a solid lead and held on through a hairy fourth quarter.

And that's not all bad. Maybe Bob Stoops' team is learning how to gut out games.

The Sooners now have won six straight games, starting with Bedlam last November, and the margin of victory of those half dozen were 27, 4, 7, 30, 7 and 2.

"Last year, we lost how many games by one point?" Stoops asked Saturday night in Paul Brown Stadium. "We kept saying, one or two plays would have changed the complexion of our season. We've made 'em this year."

The '09 Sooners finished 8-5 with losses of 14-13 to BYU, 21-20 to Miami and 16-13 to Texas. Stoops left the Cotton Bowl last October with a record of 6-11 in games decided by four points or less.

Just for grins, John Blake's record in such games was 7-5, so let's not yet declare that coaching determines close games.

A close-game record as bad as Stoops' can be achieved only through bad luck and bad performance at crunchtime. Maybe this newfound prowess in close games is a sign that fortune and guile has changed.

"We always talk about winning tight games," said unlikely OU hero Pryce Macon. "To be a championship team, you have to win these tight games and actually close 'em out."

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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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