NORMAN — Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops refused to say anything about revenge when asked about tonight’s game against Missouri. In fact, he was determined to make sure the word couldn’t be attached to him.
“I haven’t emphasized that. Those words have never come out of my mouth. You’re saying that, not me,” he said.
Stoops may not want to say the word, but the desire to obtain retribution has been one of sport’s greatest motivating factors since games were first played. It’s been around as long as winners have been declared and scoring systems were devised.
It comes into play tonight because the last time OU and Missouri met, it ended with a 36-27 Tiger victory and fans storming Faurot Field.
“That feeling isn’t going to leave us,” OU center Ben Habern said. “Seeing their crowd run on the field … it was a defeating moment.”
What Habern still feels is what Stoops has focused on this week. The emotions that defeat and embarrassment elicit is what he’s brought up over and over again.
Doesn’t matter what you call it, but those seem to hit the sweet spot in terms of getting Sooner teams ready to play. Some of their best performances over the last decade have come against teams they lost to the previous year.
In 2003, the Sooners’ best performances of the season were a 52-9 romp over Oklahoma State and a 77-0 thrashing of Texas A&M. OU had lost to both teams the previous year. Remember the 65-21 thrashing of then-second ranked Texas Tech in 2008? That win came a year after Texas Tech knocked OU out of the 2007 national title race with a 34-24 victory in Lubbock.
“You remember your losses,” said quarterback Landry Jones, who threw two interceptions and didn’t have a fourth-quarter completion against the Tigers last season. “Missouri beat us and you remember that. I don’t know if that gives us any extra motivation.”
Stoops doesn’t bring up revenge because thinking that anger alone will make things right shortchanges the process. Blind rage is nothing compared to razor sharp focus.
The current focus has been on what got the Sooners beat last time around. The inability to run the ball throughout the game and Missouri’s dominance in every phase in the fourth quarter contributed to that loss.
The Tigers don’t have Blaine Gabbert at quarterback anymore, but James Franklin has thrown six touchdowns against one interception through the first three games. Running back Henry Josey leads the Big 12 in rushing. The Tiger defense is one of only two Big 12 teams that’s played a team from a BCS conference and is still giving up fewer than 300 yards per game.
“They’re an excellent team, we were No. 1 a year ago when they beat us — all these things,” Stoops said. “There’s a lot of respect there and we’ve got a lot of work to do to have a chance to win.”
The work has to be the focus, because revenge isn’t everything. OU is coming off a 23-13 victory over Florida State. The Seminoles had revenge painted all over the place after the Sooners beat them 44-17 last season.
It’s nothing but motivation. How you use it is the factor that matters. The Sooners feel they have something to prove Saturday night.
“I don’t know if it’s revenge or payback, but we just want to get out there more than anything and show them we’re a much better football team than last year,” safety/linebacker Tony Jefferson said. “We’re ready to play.”
John Shinn 366-3536 firstname.lastname@example.org