The Norman Transcript

November 24, 2013

What can we believe about this Sooner team?

By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — With apologies to Al Pacino, or Michael Corleone, or the screenwriter who came up with the words … Just when you thought they were out, they pull you back in.

Today, there is room for every kind of emotion from the Sooner Nation.

Today, really, there’s more reason to believe Bob Stoops hasn’t lost his old edge, and more reason to believe that he has. There’s more reason to believe Josh Heupel really knows what he’s doing as offensive coordinator, but also more reason to believe that he doesn’t.

Frankly, there’s more reason to believe in the greatness of the Sooner running game, but also more reason to believe that all the good things Bob Stoops has said about his players’ intangibles are simply off base, at least when it comes to OU’s offensive line.

Because even in seasons in which no national or conference title may be won, we have still come to understand that Bob Stoops-coached Sooner teams get better in the end. But Saturday, whether you were inside the stadium or watching on television, was ridiculous.

That improvement, over the years, has been a gradual thing. It may have taken a while for OU to straighten things out, but its late-season ascents have been one-foot-in-front-of-the-other stuff.

Only that’s not what’s happened since with the second half of last week’s victory over Iowa State and the entirety of OU’s 41-31 victory over Kansas State, which just happens to be Bob Stoops’ 158th win as Sooner coach, something you surely knew already unless you’re a time traveler and arrived in Norman this morning.

Mike Stoops’ offense may have struggled against the Wildcats. Certainly, it did trying to corral Tyler Lockett in the second quarter. Yet defense hasn’t been the problem this season, so it gets a pass today.

The offense?

Go figure.

Saturday, through the miracle of HD television, you saw Trevor Knight not look like the best quarterback ever, but certainly look like a better quarterback than Blake Bell has in every game but his first one.

You saw the offensive line make Brennan Clay look like a superstar, yet as well as OU’s run the ball this season, Saturday was the first time it ran the ball like that.You saw an offense that very clearly knew what it wanted to do, and that was control the line of scrimmage and match it with a very effective, even if not in a leading role, passing game.

The Sooners made it look so easy that among many very right responses, one of them has to be a question, like where the heck has that been all season?

You might wonder if they pulled Knight out of the starting lineup too soon, but it’s the wrong question. The right one asks why were they so late to bring him back. Nobody roots for an injury, but it’s hard to believe Stoops and Heupel would have figured it out for themselves had Bell not been concussed against Iowa State.

Recall, this is a team that looked like it couldn’t play with Kansas for a quarter, and then it was a team that looked like it couldn’t play with Iowa State for most of two quarters.

And now this?

You bet, it’s a crazy game.

If you’re of the belief that the bigger Oklahoma State beats Baylor, the better it is for OU, then you have to like the Sooners’ chances to pull two upsets to end the regular season.

And if OU, which has already turned two good quarters into six good quarters, can turn six into 10, well, then, the Sooners, for maybe the first time in the history of the Bedlam Series, might well be the victors nobody saw coming.

And, if you’d been told this team only had to beat OSU to go 10-2 before the season began, you’d have been smart to take it. Even though you’d never have believed the trip could be so maddening.

Maybe it should simply be enjoyed. Maybe the reckoning should come later.

You hope it will, anyway, for Stoops, most of all, because he’s going to have some decisions to make. And, if you haven’t noticed, this season is making no sense at all.