By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — What Bob Stoops won’t do has been thoroughly documented.
He won’t go too deep with a question. He won’t just talk psychology, but preparation and execution, because it’s about fixing the play on the field, not fixing noggins.
There’s room for confidence, maybe, but not much momentum.
Monday, he actually said Oklahoma’s recent Red River Rivalry success will have almost nothing to do with what happens Saturday, which is absolute bunk on its face, because every keen observer knows the best indicator of who’ll win the game in the Cotton Bowl this year is who won it last year, because the series is streakier than Russell Westbrook from long range and has been streakier than ever since Stoops came along in 1999.
In so many ways, the Sooners coach simply won’t give in. If his football world is bigger than the one he shares with everybody, don’t expect to hear about it from him.
Also, don’t expect OU to slip. Or slip much. And, if it slips, expect it to bounce back quickly.
Beginning with the 2000 national championship season, OU has dropped four in a season only twice. After the first one, 2005, OU came back with three straight conference championships and a trip to the national title game. After the second, 2010, OU claimed at least a share of the Big 12 crown in two of the next three seasons.
Yes, it’s been 13 seasons since the program achieved immortality, yet going 37-8 beginning with the 2009 Sun Bowl is no small thing.
The Sooners, with Stoops at the helm, right the ship.
Mack Brown lost five games in 1999, yet still won the Big 12’s South Division and still went to the Cotton Bowl.
From that point, though the Longhorns clearly lost some games they shouldn’t have, whoppers that sent them to three Holiday Bowls in four seasons between 2000 and 2003, they nonetheless captured the 2005 national championship, played for another one in 2009 and didn’t lose four games in a season again until 2010.
Only Texas didn’t lose four that season. It lost seven. Then five in 2011, then three last season, though it took surviving the lowly Oregon State, 31-27, in the Alamo Bowl to make it happen. This season, the Longhorns are 3-2 with embarrassing losses to two very mortal teams: BYU and Mississippi.
In a classic overreaction, Brown fired about everybody but the head coach after 2010.
It’s been tough sledding since.
This season, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was bounced after BYU ran for 550 yards against the Longhorns. Still, the only thing more shocking than his mid-season firing might have been Diaz’s original hire, when, with a one-year stop at Mississippi State, he went from coordinating Middle Tennessee’s defense to Texas’ in the space of two seasons.
Also, this preseason, Brown announced his offense would adopt the up-tempo style in vogue in the conference despite not possessing a proven quarterback. He thought it would aid the Longhorn defense, which would now get to practice against an up-tempo offense. But that was 142 opponent points ago, and it’s not like the Longhorns have been facing Dan Fouts’ Chargers.
Indeed, almost every big decision Brown has made since the bottom dropped out of the 2010 season has turned to … well, it hasn’t turned into anything much good at all.
Why doesn’t OU slip? Or when it does, why does it come right back?
And why doesn’t Texas bounce back, even with all its money, facilities, a television network and every other conceivable recruiting advantage?
Brown’s decision-making, in real time and in retrospect, reeks of being reactionary.
Stoops’ track record remains one of calm consideration. Not that he’s particularly good at explaining it.
Monday, an attempt was made to get him to reflect on his decision-making process, put into play whether it was time to make a coaching change or time to change the offense.
“I’ve never said one way or the other on any coach changes,” he said, misunderstanding the question, maybe on purpose, and playing defense with his answer.
Good thing he has others to speak for him.
Co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said he doesn’t think Stoops has ever made a light decision. Then he got deep in a way his boss never does.
“There’s two parts to (making a decision). You have to think things through thoroughly and not make snap decisions,” he said. “But the other part of that is once a decision is made, you have to make it the right decision and you have to follow it through with conviction and I think that has definitely happened here … You can’t make a decision and know it’s right. You have to make a decision and make it right.”
Stoops went up-tempo in 2008 and OU scored prolifically, like no team has since, though Oregon may pass those Sooners this season. Stoops bounced Rhett Bomar from the team prior to the 2006 season and ran off three straight conference crowns. He brought his brother, Mike Stoops, back into the fold, endured a melodrama that was bound to happen as Brent Venables departed for Clemson and though the Sooners suffered defensively for a season, they’re playing more defense this year than they have in a long, long time.
Running back Brennan Clay’s one of the most thoughtful players on the roster and knows a kindred spirit when he sees one.
“He’s pretty even all the time,” he said. “In the heat of two-a-days he’ll get on the DBs, but he’s always real level-headed. He always does a great job.”
Via results and observation, Bob Stoops’ way is not Mack Brown’s way.
One more example?
Monday, Stoops was asked if the near-life-size photo portrait he sees of himself every time he gets off the elevator high above Owen Field looks like him or a much younger version of him.
He said it looked like a quite-a-bit younger version, yet in so many ways, the time has flown and, but for his own source of fitness — once a runner, he now bikes and swims — he feels he’s hardly changed.
“You know, I can’t wait to go to practice today, I can’t wait to see the players, I look forward to critiquing our last game and getting the scouting report for Texas,” he said. “Monday’s a fun day.”
Brown doesn’t look like he’s had any fun since Colt McCoy got knocked out of the 2009 BCS title game.
They are the Big 12’s longest tenured coaches and have enjoyed wild success and, for years and years, will be measured against one another and inextricably linked, kind of like Barry Switzer and Tom Osborne.
They are not the same.
Not even close.
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