NORMAN — A long plane ride over the plains gave Jalen Hurts plenty of time to think. Then, his Oklahoma teammates gave him the floor to speak.
The quarterback addressed players following their Oct. 26 loss at Kansas State in the only publicized team meeting the ninth-ranked Sooners have held since their surprising loss to the Wildcats.
“Jalen ran the whole thing,” OU defensive end Ronnie Perkins said. “He talked the whole time and everybody listened. That’s what a quarterback should do.”
The goal of that speech? To not dwell further on the loss, which many outside the program are still sorting through. It’s particularly damaging to the Sooners’ College Football Playoff standing, which will be unveiled in the first ranking released Tuesday.
“We just put it behind us then,” Perkins said. “We just make a pact to each other: we’re going to do everything for each other, we’re going to play for each other and give it all we got.”
Hurts offers few words with reporters. After sitting on the loss to K-State for a week, he wasn’t any more talkative Monday. OU would like to be 1-0 after this week, the quarterback said six different times during a 7-minute, 12-second exchange with media.
He was asked how fast the season goes: “It goes by fast, but what's done is done. We're focused on being 1-0 this week.”
The idea was brought to Hurts that OU’s fate is in the CFP committee’s hands now: “What's crazy is what matters to me is being 1-0 this week,” he said.
“I sure do want to be 1-0 this week,” he added again, jumping in front of a question.
Hurts’ showmanship is easier to see on the field than in the spotlight of cameras. He has a captivating smile and a way about his leadership that few understand unless they’re directly in his corner.
Some people might not understand him. But the Sooners say they do.
“I think I have a good read on who he is, but I learn things each week, too,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said of Hurts. “I mean, I don’t feel like walking into situations unknown with him now. But yeah, there’s little nuances about how he’s feeling or how he practices or what he likes in the game plan or what he doesn’t like that just, not really personality nuances, but I would say more just as a player, kind of little things each week that I’ve been able to pick up. I think that’s been able to help me help him, I would say.
“I would say personality-wise — now, he’s not the easiest guy to figure out in the beginning. I’ll give you that. But I think we’ve gotten to the point where we understand each other pretty well.”
How well the public understands Hurts’ personality is of no importance to his teammates, who are hoping to turn around OU’s season against Iowa State at Owen Field on Saturday (7 p.m., FOX).
They were all ears during as Hurts held court.
“Just the way he pulled everybody to the side and told us all our dreams were still – everything we wanted to accomplish as a team is still in front of us,” Perkins recounted. “One loss is not going to ruin this whole season and we shouldn’t be down or nothing. We had to focus on our next opponent and focus on getting better for the next week.”
Hurts’ sometimes-awkward public exchanges with media have been chalked up to focus — that’s how Perkins sees it.
“It’s kind of funny,” Perkins said, “but at the same time I definitely I understand where he’s coming from. We can’t look over Iowa State and say we’ve got to play undefeated Baylor next week. We’ve still got to show up and play Iowa State this week. I definitely think guys fall in line with everything he says because we definitely can see the point he’s trying to make.”
Now and then, Hurts is direct and to the point.
Such as, how bad does he want to be 1-0 this week?
“Pretty damn bad,” Hurts said.
Iowa State at OU
When: 7 p.m., Saturday
Place: Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
Records: AP No. 9/Coaches No. 8 OU (7-1, 4-1 Big 12); ISU (5-3, 3-2)
Line: OU (-13.5)
Radio: KRXO-FM 107.7