, Muskogee, OK


September 23, 2012

COLUMN: It's time for a reboot of Sooners

NORMAN — The thing is, we’ve seen this movie before. We really have. Everything would have been different but for … fill in the blank.

Two years ago when OU found itself atop the original BCS standings, the Sooners couldn’t get in from the goal line. It cost them at Missouri and Texas A&M, and the Sooner Nation was left to ask what if?

Last season, it was the big breakdown. The defensive woes were more memorable at Baylor and Oklahoma State, but the stop-start-stop-start nature of the offense was also well established; for even as OU gave up a bunch of yards to a bad Texas Tech team, it all started with a bushel of three-and-outs.

Saturday night against Kansas State, a how-could-they-be-this-bad-and-this-careless-and-this-imprecise-after-having-two-weeks-to-get-ready 24-19 loss, it was on the offense again.

Landry Jones threw an interception and could have easily thrown two more and, maybe trying to feature his new nifty footwork as he scrambled near his own end zone, lost all awareness of time and pressure and allowed a sack that became a fumble that became a Kansas State touchdown for Jarell Childs.

Depending how the season goes for the Wildcats, the play might one day be half as famous in Manhattan as Roy Williams’ Cotton Bowl leap of faith has become in Norman.

Also, the “Belldozer” broke down from a self-inflicted wound when Blake Bell never had hold of the ball and dropped it and lost it, wasting second-and-goal at the 1.

“To me, that’s the whole game,” OU coach Bob Stoops said.

He’s right of course.

Sort of.

He’s right because each fumble cost OU seven points in a game it lost by five. But he’s wrong in the way he’s putting it out there, because he’s putting it out there like turnovers are happening to his team, not like his team’s committing them.

It’s semantic but meaningful, because OU’s problem is not that turnovers happen, but that it has a quarterback who’s never been able to fully shake a careless streak that is now years old and as bad as ever.

Even as it’s not all Jones’ fault. Because this is an offense that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do.

Dom Whaley finished with nine carries. Four came on OU’s first seven snaps in which he gained 27 yards. Three came on OU’s first four snaps of the second half in which he gained 20. The rest of the game? Two carries.

Make sense of that.

Roy Finch carried once for 11 yards, also on OU’s first series, and never carried again.

OU might need three or four running backs. A true No. 1 may be overrated. But what’s happening is as random and strange as the way offensive coordinator Josh Heupel called for a pass on 16 of 17 snaps to begin last year’s Bedlam game against an Oklahoma State defense that couldn’t stop the run.

Then there are these moments where it all looks great. When OU goes right down the field. The Sooners did it twice Saturday.

Once it led to Bell’s fumble and once it led to a Bell touchdown. On the first one Jones completed three of four passes along the march. On the second, he completed six straight. Otherwise, until the desperate end, he wasn’t sharp.

How does this happen?

“It’s just execution and precision and making plays when you have the opportunity,” Stoops said.

All very simple.

But we’ve seen this movie before.

Is it time for a sequel?

Over his last eight games, Jones has more interceptions than touchdowns. Of those eight, Saturday was his biggest night through the air — 298 yards — in all but last year’s loss at Baylor.

He is prolific, has been a numbers machine and he’s so loyal, but maybe it’s time to see what Bell can do in something beyond short yardage or when it’s time to mop the floor.

“We played really dumb football, me especially,” Jones said. “The fumble, the pick, missed Moose [Brannon Green] on the tight end pop-up play.”

If he were a kicker, he’d sit.

The rest of the offense?

Who are the playmakers?

Who are the best guys?

Play them.

Or, play them as long as they’re playing well, because if anybody has the right to be upset this morning, it’s Whaley with his nine carries for 51 yards, who was put in park by his coaches in the middle of a terrific night. Because the object isn’t to spread it out, but to win. Spreading it out is a luxurious option, hardly a commandment.

Do all of that and maybe the defense doesn’t spend 10 more minutes on the field than K-State’s defense. In the end, sure, Mike Stoops’ crew fell down. But it didn’t fall down first.

It’s time for a reboot.

Whatever that means.

Because we’ve seen this movie before.

Clay HorningFollow me


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