By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Well, Trevor Knight was no good at all until he was really quite good, busting the century mark on the ground and delivering a trio of touchdown tosses.
Dang if Roy Finch wasn’t the best ball-carrier on the field for all of his four chances. And sure, one of these days when they say they’re going to get Trey Millard the ball, they’ll actually mean it.
Only none of that was the big takeaway of Oklahoma’s 34-0 Saturday night victory over Louisiana-Monroe. In fact, it wasn’t even the shutout Mike Stoops’ defense pitched. Instead, it was Mike Stoops, himself.
To call it “redemption” would be to give the concept short shrift, because it’s just one game even if the last time the other side scored no points was 35 opening kicks ago.
But if OU’s defensive coordinator is going to get his good name back, the one he was so clearly seeking on media day last season when the way his run ended at Arizona hadn’t even begun loosening from his craw, well, the process clearly improved Saturday in the heat of opening night.
The Sooners allowed no points, just 166 yards of total offense, only 38 on the ground, nine first downs and 2 of 16 third-down conversions.
It seemed like a pretty dramatic turnaround against a team without much of a name, but, all agree, a fine offense.
Bob Stoops didn’t bite.
“We haven’t done anything dramatic,” he said. “You guys were bragging on ’em and bragging on ’em and then you wanted to throw them under the bus (last season). It’s what have you done for me lately and lately it’s been pretty good.”
When brother Mike made it to the lectern, he tried to say the same thing.
“No,” he said, it wasn’t dramatic.
Then, God bless him, he couldn’t help himself. For the next 90 seconds or so, without calling it “dramatic,” he made it clear it had been without the word ever exiting his lips.
“I’m glad we got off to a good start. It gives us confidence. We’re going to be challenged by a much more diverse offense in West Virginia,” Mike Stoops said. “But I just liked the way we covered. I thought our pressure was excellent all day, and our ability to stop the run.
“I mean, that’s really a perfect day in a defensive coach’s mind if you can be successful on third down. I mean, there’s not much else. In every phase of the game that we wanted to improve, we certainly improved tonight.”
He actually said a lot more than that. He said they were “stubborn” last season and “slow to adjust” and “kind of stuck in a system.”
“We tried to make some adjustments in the Oklahoma State game to try to defend the run better,” he said, “but it still just wasn’t conceptually solid in some elements of the game.”
Maybe somebody should tell Bob Stoops he doesn’t need the media to throw last year’s defense under the bus when his younger brother is happy to do it for him, just as long as he’s first on the spike.
“If we can do that 11 straight times, I’d be happy,” Mike Stoops said.
That’s a good one and clearly true. Embarrassed a year ago, one good night isn’t near enough for the Picasso who painted OU’s 13-2 2000 national championship victory over Florida State.
Yet, what’s clear after one game is that guy, Mike Stoops, once commonly accused of being a defensive savant, has figured something out.
“We’re trying to be more multiple, to come from different angles, put more of a decision in the quarterback’s mind and play the run better,” he said. “You have to stop the run and that the was key for us tonight.”
Remember 2009, when line coach Kevin Wilson talked up his group like a madman only to be sent reeling after an opening-day loss to BYU. He spent the rest of the season assembling on the fly.
That won’t be Mike Stoops’ story. He’s on to something. Something very good. The season just got a lot more interesting.
Follow me @clayhorning