The Norman Transcript

October 3, 2012

Stoops struggling to speak to fans’ concerns

By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Here’s the problem. Bob Stoops wants to keep the conversation micro.

He wants to talk about execution and not turning the ball over and correcting errors and grinding everything down to how close this Sooner football team really is to being very good, because, really, if this little thing gets corrected and this turnover doesn’t happen and this incorrect read doesn’t get read incorrectly, well, it’s an entirely different game.

A great swath of the Sooner Nation, even though unable to fight its way out of the head coach’s logic, wants to take the conversation macro.

Why does the quarterback make the same mistakes he’s always made, and worse, all these years later? Why has Oklahoma come out less than sharp in all three of its games?

Why does there seem to be no rhyme nor reason to who gets to run the ball and how often, when the offense chooses to go into hurry-up mode and what’s happened the last couple of years with so many players bugging out of the program or getting into trouble within it?

What gives?

There must be a bigger and better answer than you try beating Kansas State with a 3-0 turnover disadvantage. There must be something below the surface, capable of shedding light on these issues. There must be something bigger going on than you take two plays out of the last game and Kansas State’s a win, not a loss.

Both are right.

Yet, for public viewing, anyway, Stoops is also wrong. The rumblers are not. They acknowledge the play-by-play breakdowns. They simply, and rightly, want more.

Stoops is right when he delves into the minutiae of execution and the fans are right when they go looking for a bigger explanation, for many of the Sooners’ ills have become patterns (mistakes at QB, a so-so running game, bad behavior and suspensions, even all the bad plays Stoops wants back are a pattern of bad plays; at least OU finally has a kicker it believes in).

Stoops’ challenge, of course, is to fix the breakdowns. But he sure would help himself if he could acknowledge the patterns and make it clear he’s trying to do something about them.

Thus far, he hasn’t.

Also, what’s taken place between the lines hasn’t made all the sense in the world, either.

Against Kansas State, everybody figured they’d see more Damien Williams. Instead, Dom Whaley started at tailback. Then, the craziest thing happened. Whaley was really good and was benched.

Here we are again, and everybody wants to see more of Williams. Many are convinced Stoops does, too. It’s unclear, because here’s how Stoops said Williams would get more carries.

“Execution,” he said. “That’s what keeps you on the field. You pick up a blitz, you’ve got a little extra time to throw the ball or extra time for a receiver to work his way open … All of those things. It wraps up in staying on the field, picking up first downs, picking up yards.”

Maybe Williams starts and it’s clear they’re favoring him. But Stoops’ words are an endorsement of the status quo rather than featuring the newcomer running back.

Everybody wants Sterling Shepard on the field more. Here’s how Stoops answered that one this week.

“Sterling’s going to be in there to a degree,” he said. “He’ll be in there some. How much more, we’ll see.”

Talk about ringing endorsement.

Everybody thinks OU’s better sped up. What about that?

“You have your tempo to a degree, and we do,” Stoops said. “And when you’re not able to, you get up there to the line and roll as quick as you can.”

But he says it like that’s what OU’s been doing through three games, when the Sooners clearly haven’t. Maybe they’re just not able. Maybe Josh Heupel just can’t stay that far in front of the game.

Well, nobody’s saying that.

It’s either false nostalgia for a simpler time when he wasn’t so filtered or Stoops really once offered something approaching authenticity with his answers back when he was young in the job and his passion for perfection, or something close to it, seemed to come through every time he opened his mouth.

Now, it’s like Bill Clinton’s White House deposition: truthful, perhaps, but not very helpful.

People believe he gets it.

But it sure would be nice to see him get it.

Clay HorningFollow me @clayhorningcfhorning@normantranscript.com

For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.