The Norman Transcript

November 16, 2013

Hope is not lost, but worry is far from over

By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Because Blake Bell got dinged up running the ball and maybe, too, because Jalen Saunders picked a heck of a time to bring a punt back 91 yards, there’s now reason to believe Bob Stoops might pass Barry Switzer after all on Oklahoma’s all-time victory list before the Sooners play their bowl game.

How did it come to this?

Well, Stoops has had a good long run for starters and Saturday made it 157 victories, same as the King. Yet, where future Saturdays are concerned, given the Baylor debacle, many had come to believe OU stands little to no chance to prevail at Kansas State or, two weeks later, in Stillwater for Bedlam.

Some of that is sure to be rethought after a 48-10 drubbing of Iowa State. 

Once again, a new quarterback to rally around, Trevor Knight and not Bell, appears to have the Sooners worthy of hopes and dreams all over again.

The Sooners can still win 10 games and 11 once they go bowling. They can still finish very strong and three more wins would be very heady stuff given who they would come against, the Wildcats, Cowboys and a postseason opponent to be named later. 

Still, for all of that, what it seems like most is a mess.

Stoops was asked about the roller coaster his offense has been riding and his answer was a good one on its face, and still more telling than anybody seemed to realize.

“I don’t ride the roller coaster with everybody … That’s what everybody thinks now, is that everything’s OK, right?,” he said. “It’s never OK. We have to go do it again next week … We’ve got some tough road games to finish the year. If we can perform like this, or close to it, it’s going to give us a chance.”

You want to salute Stoops for saying it’s never OK, because it isn’t. It’s not that you’re only as good as your last performance, but that you’re only as good as you’re next one. Also, you want to ask him if he’s even hearing himself.

Because while OU scored 45 unanswered points and ran the ball for more than 400 yards and picked up more than 500, almost all of it came after the half. 

If the Sooners “perform like this,” again, as Stoops said, they will lose to Kansas State and Bedlam, too, because if they repeat Saturday’s first half on future Saturdays against any worthwhile opponent, they’ll have dug too deep a hole to escape.

The coaches may have been on the recruiting trail during the open week before the Baylor game and again after it before preparing for Iowa State in earnest. But whether OU’s offensive braintrust had extra time to prepare or not, what’s undeniable is the fact this Sooner offense has played two consecutive games in which it has scored a grand total of three points before the half.

Further, it must be pointed out, nothing Josh Heupel, Jay Norvell, Cale Gundy, Bill Bedenbaugh nor Jay Boulware said or did Saturday managed to get the offense turned around until Jalen Saunders brought the punt back that made it 10-10 heading into the half.

Try as any offensive coach might have tried, or Stoops himself, nothing was working as long as Blake Bell played quarterback and it was only working a little better under Knight, until Saunders broke free. Had the senior receiver not, the Sooners might well have lost to the one-win Cyclones.

Even Heupel seemed to agree.

“The last week and a half hasn’t been easy around here when you go and play the way we played at Baylor,” he said. “Things didn’t go great early. I think (Saunders’) play ignited us.”

Whether Bell is cleared to play or not before the Sooners walk into Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium, it has to be Knight’s show now. 

Stoops said continuity was a factor in sticking with Bell as long as he did, but he doesn’t have to worry about that any more. Not to mention, the idea that Bell’s the better thrower has been debunked. Before getting hurt, he’d completed 2 of 5 passes for 10 yards.

So OU might have found something Saturday against the Cyclones. Hope may reign where before it only waned.

Just don’t think this team has figured it out. All it’s really earned is separation from the bad mojo it brought with it back from Waco. It’s still a very long way away.

Clay Horning

Follow me @clayhorning


Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.