By John Shinn
CNHI News Service
NORMAN – Oklahoma has put itself on an upward trend. The doubt that surrounded it following the Sept. 22 loss to Kansas State has been erased and replaced with the confidence that comes from convincing victories over Texas Tech and Texas.
So, what caused the transformation other than simply winning?
“I think it’s more we’re cutting it loose and we’re playing ball,” OU quarterback Landry Jones said. “Not thinking, not worrying about if we don’t score this many points we’re not going to be No. 1 anymore, or things along those lines. I think this year we’re just out there to win games. And however the game is going … we’re going to cut it loose and have fun.”
The 10th-ranked Sooners (4-1, 2-1 Big 12) can let the good times roll again today when they face Kansas (1-5, 0-3) at 6 p.m. on homecoming at Owen Field.
However, this game offers a different internal challenge than the previous two. This is a game OU should win. The Sooners are a 35-point favorite for a reason, and it goes well beyond home-field advantage. The Jayhawks have lost five straight and still haven’t beaten an FBS team this season.
The Sooners have to use this game to continue adding to the foundation they’ve laid the last two weeks. They’ve become a tougher and more disciplined team since the loss to the Wildcats. There isn’t a phase of the game that hasn’t made vast improvement.
But the season will only reach its midway point tonight. There’s a lot of time for that infrastructure to get stronger or crumble.
“It’s only our sixth game. I keep saying it, but it’s true. We’ve still got a long way to go,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “I still feel we’ve got a high ceiling. We’ve got to keep pushing to make improvement. Hopefully, now, when you’re playing week to week, we can get into a rhythm of doing that. We’re going to need to do that. That’s what we’ll focus on this week with Kansas coming in.”
The teams that win championships never seem to level off. They continue to get better every week. Stoops knows it, but getting his players to understand is an entirely different challenge.
They’re saying the right things.
“We’re a humble team,” defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland said. “We’re a team that wants more. Everyone wants to score again. Everyone wants to make another tackle. I don’t feel we’ve reached our peak yet.”
The Sooners hope they don’t tonight, either. They need to win – and they should. They need to get better as well. That’s harder to do.
Rare is the team that’s actually able to progress game to game to game. Some years, injuries knocked a team off course. Other years, complacency becomes entrenched. More often, it is a mixture of both.
Tonight should be a good test of OU’s character. There’s no revenge, rivalry or national intrigue adding to the game. It’s on the Sooners to create their own momentum.
“We want to keep going; we want to keep getting better. It’s something that’s unexplainable sometimes, just to be like, man, it’s a lot different,” safety Javon Harris said. “Guys are going out … we’re going to continue to play hard. We’re going to take the Texas game and build off of it. It was good, but we want to be great.” 㭱