Prior to yesterday’s game against Texas Tech, I made a pretty stark proclamation about the Bob Stoops administration at Oklahoma:
The past couple years at OU have felt like watching a British prime minister whose parliament is constantly on the verge of turning against him. Much as Mack Brown has found himself in a protracted death spiral at Texas for the last four years, I honestly believe Stoops and his staff were inching precariously close to that kind of tipping point with OU’s fan base yesterday.
Is that unfair? Absolutely. But such is life in the big city.
Once the game kicked off, it had all the makings of Stoops’ Last Stand, too. Under its young whippersnapper of a head coach, Tech played – pardon my French – balls out. Kliff Kingsbury had an aggressive game plan that included some resourceful chicanery on special teams, and what appeared to be teetering on the edge of an Oklahoma blowout early in the second half turned on a dime back in favor of the Red Raiders.
In their eighth game of the season, however, the Sooners finally found an offensive identity. OU pounded away at the Tech defense with a downhill running game that churned out 277 yards and kept the ball away from the Red Raiders’ high-octane O. The success on the ground created opportunities down the field in the passing game for embattled quarterback Blake Bell (14-of-22, 249 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs), who kept his composure after a horrendous start.
That all creates a nice story today. Going forward, though, OU needs for this to be a true turning point for Bell and the offense. The loss of fullback Trey Millard to a season-ending knee injury will force the coaching staff to be even more resourceful in designing and executing an offensive game plan. That will undoubtedly place even more pressure on Bell to throw the ball well and operate the offense as efficiently as he did yesterday. Seeing as the D has been rocked by injuries at key positions, the margin for error on offense looks awfully slim.
Make no mistake, Tech is a good team, but it’s far from an elite one. The same can be said for OU. This win shouldn’t be taken as a sign that all is right in Sooner Land or that OU has returned to being some kind of perennial top five team. OU has some huge tests left this season, starting with a gnarly Thursday night game against a scorching Baylor squad in two weeks. Three more losses between now and the end of the year definitely isn’t out of the question.
Still, yesterday’s win revealed some of the good work being done behind the scenes in Norman by Stoops, his coaches and his players. The defense continues to muddle through despite the attrition, while offense is adapting to its personnel. OU may have slacked in recruiting the last couple years, but it’s tough to argue that the teaching aspect has fallen off.
If you were ready to cast a vote for change, yesterday should have offered plenty of reason to reconsider.