The Norman Transcript

October 7, 2012

Better late than not, Sooners figure things out

By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript

LUBBOCK, Texas — Oklahoma got it. Bob Stoops got it. That meant Josh Heupel got it and Landry Jones found it. Mike Stoops probably already had it.

Strangely, in the midst of OU’s 41-20 victory over Texas Tech, Stoops and Heupel appeared to want more. Up 28 points late in the fourth quarter, Jones was not only in the game, but still throwing the ball. Heupel said Tech was stacking the line. That’s a reason, but not a great one. But Texas is next. Maybe they needed the work.

Anyway, a day late and one ungained victory over Kansas State short, the Sooners started being what they needed to be and quit being some version of themselves only the sideline braintrust was late to understand they couldn’t and shouldn’t be.

That meant Damien Williams not only started for the first time, but became the first Sooner tailback this season to get the carries associated with being a No. 1 guy. He carried 14 times, 12 more times than Dom Whaley and 14 more times than Brennan Clay.

That meant OU came out playing hurry-up and kept playing hurry-up, much more than it had the first three games of the season; not really slowing down until the game was put away, and even then not really slowing down, because Jones wasn’t just throwing in the fourth quarter, but he was throwing without huddling.

“That package of plays, we’re starting to get it closer to who and what we want to be,” Heupel said.

So maybe it took a while, but a late identity is better than no identity.

And, for all the rhetoric we’ve heard in the name of fullback Trey Millard’s greatness for so long, finally it looked like somebody put their foot down to get him more involved, even if Heupel tried to say it was more situational than anything.

Millard carried four times for 19 yards, caught two passes for 26 yards and was on the field a lot more than that.

It’s almost like the coaches heard the screaming from their bunker and decided everybody had a point.

Also, Jones was really good, making several terrific throws, like his first touchdown pass to Justin Brown and his second to Kenny Stills and a little recognition-improvisation hook-up with Williams for 35 yards that set up another score.

Even better, he can get better, because his 62.5 percent (25 of 40) completion rate is oddly less than the rate he entered the game with and his 259 yards was all the Sooners needed but still more than 50 yards off his career game average.

It’s just that he looked so much better along the way. No awful interceptions. No how-did-he-do-that-pull-you-hair-out decisions.

“You have to realize what kind of player you are and realize what you’re capable of and kind of silence the outside and not really listen to what’s going on around you,” he said.

It would be more reassuring to hear how it all clicked. Like maybe Jones and Heupel were on the same page in a way they hadn’t been, or maybe he just played without fear, leaving the panic behind.

It would feel more permanent if Jones could describe a light-bulb moment, but the Sooner Nation has to like what it saw from its until-now much maligned quarterback.

There’s probably some retroactive anger out there. It’s still hard to make a lot of sense of it. How could they be so bad against the Wildcats and so good against the Red Raiders?

More important is the fact it happened going forward, even if Stoops, so proud, wanted to play that one down, too.

“For you out there, yeah,” he said, asked if the Sooners’ confidence had been restored. “For us, we recognize that we played a good Kansas State team and we did a lot of good things in the game. It all goes out the window when you drop the ball on the 1-yard line going into score … That’s not going to happen every week.”

Right, but OU was so much better, crisper and more certain of itself, even on a day it changed up its game plan, running the ball 29 times, featuring a No. 1 running back, getting its fullback involved. (Oh yeah, the defense was plenty good, too; but isn’t the best defense the defense you don’t notice so much, even on a day it gets three turnovers?)

It was a better effort. It was a different and new effort, too.

It’s not important the Sooners see it that way. Only that they keep it going.

Clay HorningFollow me @clayhorningcfhorning@normantranscript.com

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