The Norman Transcript

September 28, 2012

For Sooners to grow, leaders have to set example

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — It’s been a long week for Oklahoma. Last Saturday’s loss to Kansas State showed that problems exist. The days since have been a probe to see what can be fixed and what can’t.

It’s not something any team wants to go through.

“Hopefully, this weekend’s loss was like a slap in the face to wake everybody up. To say, ‘Hey, we’re not as good as everyone said we were,’” defensive lineman David King said. “We need to pick our level of play or we’re gonna get beat.”

This isn’t the first time the Sooners have felt that sting from that kind of smack. Dating back to last season, they’ve lost four of their last 10 games.

OU coach Bob Stoops started making some serious changes after the 2011 regular season ended because he questioned the character of some of the players.

Thus far, he hasn’t hinted that character is an issue with this team.

“I thought our team played hard. I thought they prepared well. They worked hard through the two weeks leading up to it,” he said. “We have to take what’s positive, continue to build on it and have a good attitude. Our guys will.”

But they didn’t last season. The Sooners started to splinter once they lost to Texas Tech in the season’s seventh game. A lot of fingers were pointed, and the Sooners never really came back from it. They were a fractured team when the season ended.

It happens at most places. You never really know what kind of character a team has until the trials and tribulations of the season start rolling in. Some teams close ranks around each other. The majority spread into factions, and some literally implode.

Quarterback Landry Jones hasn’t dodged any of the blame from the Kansas State loss. He’s freely owned up to his part — a fumble, an interception and a wild night throwing the ball — in the loss. Jones went so far as to say he’s “underachieved” in the first three games.

Accountability was a big word for OU going into the season, and honesty is an essential of meeting those expectations. Fans and media certainly will look to see how Jones responds from the Kansas State game.

They won’t be alone. Teammates will be paying attention, too.

“It starts with this week in practice. It’s coming in and demanding the best from us,” fullback Trey Millard said of what he expects from Jones. “It’s just moving on and focusing on some mistakes first and correcting them and continuing to correct things, just improve.”

Millard is one of the Sooners’ leaders, too. He’ll be under a microscope. So will King. The guys who’ve played the most must lead because they will be followed, whether they know it or not.

The Sooners don’t play Saturday. They have four days of practice to try to fix what was broken against Kansas State and prepare for Texas Tech. Getting any of that accomplished is positive. The one thing it can’t do is sit around and sulk.

Players talked about the path to a Big 12 championship still being navigable. A couple even mentioned a national championship. That may be a stretch.

OU needs to focus on one thing: growing tighter. A long season remains, and it can still go in any direction. The path that leads to winning the way OU’s accustomed to means buckling down when it faces adversity.

“This isn’t foreign territory for us,” Jones said. “We’ve been in this situation before, and we’re going to bounce back and we’re going to play some good football in the future.”

Saying it’s one thing. The harder part is doing it.

John ShinnFollow me

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