By John Shinn
Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton is coming off an 18-tackle performance with a fumble return for a touchdown against Missouri. The first-year starter is averaging 11.7 tackles per game and also has an interception for a touchdown.
Stoops, who coached 2001 Butkus Award-winning linebacker Rocky Calmus (2001) and Teddy Lehman (2003), said Tuesday Lofton could be the best linebacker he’s had at Oklahoma.
I think, in the end, he has a chance to be better,” Stoops said. “I didn’t say he’s better than all those guys, (but) he has a chance to be if he continues to improve the way he has, mature and really figure it out.”
The guy is a great player. I’ve been saying before the season that we had a chance to be better in those positions, and I feel strongly that that’s happening to this point.”
Lofton has led the Sooners in tackles in five of seven games. In addition to his 18 against Missouri, he made 14 tackles against Tulsa and 16 against Colorado.
Among the handouts OU players received Monday was a list of the ranked teams that have lost through the first seven weeks of the season.
In all, 31 ranked teams have been beaten this season by teams that were ranked lower or unranked.
The Sooners should be familiar with the string of upsets across the country. They fell to unranked Colorado in Week 5.
“You look at all those teams that were ranked that got beat by unranked teams, including ourselves, it is definitely eye-opening,” running back Jacob Gutierrez said. “It is a great lesson to learn, to know going into a game that it is not a ranked team but the way things are going and the way football is these days you can lose to anyone. It is definitely a wake-up call.”
No. 4 OU faces unranked Iowa State this week.
More work for Franks
Stoops said redshirt freshman Dominique Franks will get more opportunities to return punts against the Cyclones.
Franks and Reggie Smith were both back deep against Missouri. Stoops said that was due to the high winds that night.
“(Smith) and Dominique Franks will interchange — sometimes one back,” Stoops said. We’re going to continue to get Dominique some more.”
Franks had one punt return for minus-1 yard against Missouri. Smith had one punt return for 9 yards, but it was a punt he fielded over his shoulder at OU’s 2-yard-line.
Race to the QB
The Sooners have 25 sacks this season and 19 have come from defensive linemen.
Defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger said there’s a healthy amount of competition going on among the defensive line.
“The mentality of the defensive line is to create havoc,” said Granger, who has 31⁄2 sacks. “If it’s third and 12, we look at each other and say ‘Let’s race to the quarterback, whoever gets there first wins.’ We are out there having fun together. We are focused but we are having fun.”
DeMarco Murray entered the Missouri game as OU’s leading rusher, but only had four carries for 2 yards. He spent most of the night at slot receiver, which limited his opportunities for carries.
Stoops said another reason for the limited work was an ankle injury.
“It’s nothing serious at all,” Stoops said. “He practiced all week, but I don’t know that he was as up to speed as he normally is.”
The OU Athletics Ticket Office has a limited number of tickets available for the Sooners’ game at Texas Tech on Nov. 17.
Tickets are available online at www.soonersports.com, by calling the Athletics Ticket Office at 800-456-4668 or 325-2424 during regular business hours Monday-Friday between 8 a.m.– 5 p.m., or in person at the ticket on the west side of Owen Field.
Cost of the tickets is $65 each and they are available on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last.