By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Trying to pin down Bob Stoops is more art than science. Monday, I failed on both counts.
Perhaps I elicited an interesting response concerning quarterback mindset, but that’s as far as I got.
About that, Blake Bell couldn’t have approached the Tulsa game any better and if he approaches Saturday in South Bend the the same way it will be a very good sign.
Of course, playing in South Bend is kind of like moving from your home court to Wimbledon’s grass, your home course to Augusta National or your home track to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
You don’t know how you’ll respond, do you?
But that was just a prelude to what Stoops must have thought but couldn’t say or refuses to think about because it does him no good to think about it.
Recalling last season against Notre Dame, when a 13-13 tie became a 30-13 loss, he offered this nugget.
“They made every play after that,” Stoops said.
So, would he like another shot like last year? Another fourth-quarter tie, the Sooners with a chance to win in the end?
“You want to play all (four) quarters,” Stoops said. “But at the end of the day, you want to be the one making the plays down the stretch that win the game.”
To an arguably artful question Stoops made an artful dodge, refusing to take or give back last season’s scenario.
Over time, OU has lost 9 of 10 to Notre Dame. It’s an albatross around the Sooner Nation’s neck. Does it wear on Stoops?
“No,” he said. “I’ve only been a part of a couple of them and those don’t really have any weight on what happens in this one,” he said. “So, whether you’ve won them or lost them, you treat them each as their own. It’s its own opportunity and we’re anxious about this one.”
Both questions and answers, though it may take some deciphering, push OU toward the same place.
Saturday is no game the Sooners want to squeak out. It is no game they merely want an even shot come the fourth quarter.
Rout the Irish and victory’s in the bag. Also, that way, let’s face it, may be the only way.
Stoops chose not to answer the first of the two questions because he wants no part of a tie game in the fourth quarter at Notre Dame, but saying he’s planning or expecting to be up three touchdowns after three quarters would be bulletin board material of the first order.
So he didn’t.
A year ago, the Sooners dominated everywhere but the scoreboard. They drove 71 yards in the first quarter, but settled for three points after stalling at the Irish 11. They drove 66 yards in the second quarter before stalling at the 13 and settling for three more. They drove 44 yards in the third quarter only to punt from the Irish 36.
What was six points could have been 21.
In the second half against Louisiana-Monroe and for four quarters against Tulsa OU proved it could be explosive.
The Irish, as usual, have proven to have just enough to win three of four times: beating Temple soundly, losing to a Michigan team that barely beat Akron and topping Purdue and Michigan State by a combined 10 points.
Only that’s just the thing about the Irish. Rarely scary, against OU, they’ve been impossibly hard to beat.
In front of Touchdown Jesus, in 1999, the Irish scored the last 21 points of the game to beat OU 34-30. Last season, they scored the last 17.
Stoops can talk about how the past isn’t prologue, yet his own experience against Notre Dame is proof it can be. But what good is it to think about? So he doesn’t.
Maybe he should.
Look at the questions OU’s already answered this season. Consider the confidence and momentum the Sooners must be riding. Maybe it’s time to leverage it all, finally dashing Irish demons.
Because Notre Dame beats OU. It’s what it does. No program should have a 90-percent win rate against the the Sooners, but the Irish do.
In seasons the Sooners are 70-19 against everybody else — 1952, ‘53, ‘57, ‘61, ‘62, ‘66, ‘68, ‘99, 2012 — they are 0-9 against the Irish.
Stoops wants all four quarters because he knows what his team can do. He says he’s not haunted by history but he should be because it’s his history, too.
It’s no time to beat the Irish. It’s time to bury them.
Follow me @clayhorning