NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — The fact No. 4 Oklahoma wasn't as impressive as expected in its season opener at Texas-El Paso doesn't greatly concern coach Bob Stoops, who said Monday there was nothing the Sooners did wrong that can't be corrected.
With the Sooners set to face Football Championship Series opponent Florida A&M on Saturday, the talk during Stoops' weekly news conference focused more on Oklahoma's 24-7 win over UTEP. The Sooners couldn't put away the pesky Miners until scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
UTEP returned a blocked punt for a first-quarter touchdown and trailed only 10-7 entering the fourth quarter after a series of Oklahoma errors. On offense, a chop-block penalty wiped out a long pass play, another pass play was nullified because the receiver was barely out of bounds and an offensive line with several new faces surrendered three sacks.
The Sooners' defense didn't surrender a point but struggled to stop UTEP running back Nathan Jeffery, who rushed for 177 yards. Jeffery reeled off a 71-yard third-quarter run from his own 3-yard line and only a touchdown-saving tackle by cornerback Aaron Colvin kept the Miners from taking the lead.
Stoops complained about the tendency of critics to "judge the whole season on one game," pointing out the Sooners looked impressive in last season's opener (a 47-14 win over Tulsa) before finishing 10-3 and not winning the Big 12 Conference title. Oklahoma started in less-than-stellar fashion in 2004 (a 40-24 win over Bowling Green), 2006 (a 24-17 win over Alabama-Birmingham) and 2010 (a 31-24 win over Utah State) but went on to win Big 12 titles each of those years.
"My concern is that we get better, make improvement, learn from some of the things we weren't quite as efficient at," Stoops said. "That's our job as coaches to point out and for the players to take notice of it, be aware of it and improve it . moving forward as we go. It's one game and we've got a long year in front of us. How you start doesn't always have anything to do with how you finish."
While the Sooners averaged more than five yards per carry against UTEP, Stoops said that number could have been higher if not for busted assignments. Stoops said on two of the sacks, quarterback Landry Jones had time to throw the ball away.
"Everywhere it was just a little off," Jones said. "When everyone is a little off, it looks pretty bad out there. We'll get better and move on down the road.
"I thought we actually practiced pretty decently. We were just not on the same page. One of those things."