I skipped writing a recap of the Oklahoma Sooners’ 48-45 loss to the Texas Longhorns because I didn’t think anyone needed me to expound on what happened. OU’s defense played pitiful football, which has been a recurring theme far too often in the Sooners’ defeats of late.
I knew it would be the final nail in defensive coordinator Mike Stoops’ coffin. I figured the upcoming open date meant Stoops could be out immediately, although I admit I expected he’d last until the end of the year.
That part is all academic, though. Stoops was fortunate to make it past January, and I think everyone suspected at the start of the year that he would most likely be moving on at the end of 2018 no matter what.
In terms of the rest of this year, I never truly viewed this team as a national championship contender. (Frankly, there’s only one of those in the entire country this year.) So let’s talk about this season with respect to the Big 12 race.
Think about what happened over the weekend first. For as poorly as OU’s defense played, Texas needed a last-second field goal to beat the Sooners in a game in which a fluky fumble gifted the Longhorns a touchdown on a possession that started with the ball on OU’s 23 yard line.
The Sooners pumped out more than nine yards per snap against what was billed as the best defense in the Big 12, or 2.5 yards more per play on average than UT. Frankly, with an offense like that, OU could win six shootouts the rest of the way and earn a spot in the Big 12 title game, defense be damned.
Of course, that assumes OU would continue operating at its current baseline for the rest of the year. If Stoops had stayed on and the rumblings about deteriorating relationships with players are true, how likely would that be?
Put another way, it appears as though Lincoln Riley took the temperature of the locker room and decided it was time to cut out the infection. Better to do that if keeping Stoops on the staff would have risked the team checking out.
Unfortunately, I wouldn’t bet the mortgage that the defense will vastly improve overnight thanks to this move. Sustainable fixes don’t happen in the span of two weeks. Similarly, if you think the D can’t get worse, keep in mind that most efficiency metrics suggest that OU is actually fielding a better unit than a year ago.
The best news in all of this, though, is that it’s finally over. Stoops probably took heat for more of the program’s missteps than he deserved. It doesn’t change the reality that after seven years of frustrations with OU’s D, his presence – and the resulting animosity in the fan base – was hanging over everything. Fans and boosters may not take the field every Saturday, but that kind of negative energy can grind a program down.
Mercifully, we can all move on.