It began Saturday, when something that had never happened to one of Bob Stoops’ Oklahoma football teams happened.

Not only did the Sooners appear overmatched against a team that couldn’t possibly be their talent equivalent, but they lost on opening day.

That led to Tuesday, at Stoops’ weekly media luncheon, when something else that had never happened happened. Basically, 20 minutes into the coach’s standup, almost every question was still about Saturday.

Here’s the way it works for us media types: We get the coach, the assistants and almost any player we want beginning about 15 minutes after the game. Everybody gets their questions in. Sunday, the coaching staff is available again, via conference call. A few questions are repeated, but most beg new answers, everybody having had a day to think it over and a belly full of game tape. Monday, you can get just about anybody you want after practice. Tuesday, everybody moves on.

But nobody was moving on.

What happened to the toughness?

What about the playcalling?

Who fell down on the offensive line?

Was the defense all right?

Some media are there Tuesday but not Saturday. Sunday’s conversations tend to be limited to those who cover the Sooners daily. The newspapers are at practice and sometimes that’s about it. Tuesday, there’s always a question or two about the last game.

But nothing like this. Ever.

More than mere observation, it’s an indicator of the brave new world that is Sooner football, one with an entirely new set of questions and only two assumptions: 1) Adrian Peterson, given space, is still the nation’s best running back and 2) All the old assumptions are wrong.

It would be different if OU had roasted TCU and lost this week. Then, everybody would know the Sooners capable of whipping a decent Mountain West team. This way, nobody knows anything.

Stoops, who even in his 7-5 debut season of 1999 watched his Sooners open with victories over Indiana State, Baylor and Louisville by a combined score of 132-31, understands.

“I think it’s important that we address the issues that are there. I think it’s important that, as a team, we stay together,” he said. “Players and coaches, the worst thing you can do is start pointing fingers. I’ve been very aware that I have criticized us as coaches every bit as much as I have criticized the players.”

It can’t be very pleasant.

Stoops and his staff have recruited as well as anybody. Barring Southern Cal, no program has been as dominant the last five seasons. And all it takes is one day for everything to become uncertain.

Stoops has no experience dealing with something like this. He coached some fair-at-best teams at Kansas State, but those teams carried no expectations.

What now?

“We’re all in it together. We, as a team, will either improve or we won’t,” Stoops said. “And so, as critical as we are of all of our performances, we have to do something about it. That, or stick our head in the sand and get our rear kicked the rest of the year.”

Chances are the Sooners will do something about it and not get their rears kicked the rest of the season. But there are no guarantees. Perhaps this is the Sooner team that not only can’t handle adversity, but can’t create any for its opponents.

Hard to believe? Yes, but no harder than what’s happened already.

Three days later, it was all anybody was talking about.

Now, for all the wrong reasons, the season couldn’t be more interesting.

Tulsa has never loomed so large.


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