Sooners searching for answers and Cowboys talking championships

Monday, October 13th 2008, 1:05 pm
By: News 9

OU lost the Texas game because the defense gave up 38 points and kickoff coverage gave up seven. Predictably, most Sooner fans complained after the game that OC Kevin Wilson should have done this and should have done that.

But this crippling loss should not be pinned on the offense. They should have run the ball more and run it better. However, if any Oklahoma teams scores 35 points it should win every game.

I don't care if you are playing John Elway in today's flag-football fast-break offenses. Times have changed. But the 45 points Texas registered is unacceptable.

Everyone who ever played or coached in Norman is amazed and appreciative at the job the staff has done in transforming the program from a laughingstock into a perennial national power.

However, those same people are still dumbstruck at the notion of giving up 45 points and have no running game at all. Fact: OU's three running backs carried the balls seven, seven and two times-just 16 totes. The longest run was 13 yards.

Granted, Sam Bradford racked up Heisman passing yards and five touchdowns. But when the defense was sucking air in the second half the offense could not run the ball and make first downs.

OU liked its match-ups with three wides, a tight end and one running back. But even when they had the lead and weren't in a catch up mode, they effectively abandoned the run.

There didn't seem to be a significant attempt to go with the offense that has given teams fits, using all-star tight-end/fullback tough guy Brody Eldridge to find the much-needed run yards. Aren't Monday morning QBs great? But back to the much-bigger problem that must somehow be overcome-easier said than done. This is not the first time that in a big game the defense gave up big numbers. Fact: The Sooners have given up an average of 40 points in their past five losses. Repeating: The Sooners have given up an average of 40 points in their last five losses.

Someone explain that to me.

My simple answer for Saturday's meltdown was that there is no depth at MLB. The worst fears of the staff were realized when star MLB Ryan Reynolds's year ended after the defensive leader sustained his third major knee injury with OU in control in the early third.

Frankly, insiders realize there were four or five plays that a Reynolds would have made that were game changers, including the killer 62-yard run in the mid-fourth that helped extend the UT lead to ten. A 37-yard pass to the one led to a score and a third down touchdown pass stand out as well.

But no complaints from Norman. The coaches know it is their job to have quality depth. They have addressed the problem and have four or five quality LB recruits headed this way next season.

The killer surprise for them was when Curtis Lofton left a year early for the NFL. Lofton would have allowed depth and made the LBs the strength of the defense.

How good was Lofton? He's starting in the NFL and was the 2007 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

Could OU have had a better plan and player ready in the middle? Probably, since the philosophy is always to put your best players on the field. Obviously, that didn't happen. Is it wise to just put the back-up in because he's had more reps or to have a contingency plan allowing a better player to move over and adjust accordingly? Again, Monday morning QB'ing is easy. I expect to see future star WLB Travis Lewis to wind up in the middle and Enid RS frosh Austin Box to get most of the playing time at Will. However, the round-the-clock brainstorming of defensive whiz Bob Stoops and DC Brent Venables will surely give them options of looking for other solutions.

Maybe that is a few days late. But maybe it's more a matter of losing Lofton to the NFL, leaving inadequate depth.

Either way, you can bet the superb mind and tactician in Mark Mangino, will attack the weakness of OU's defense. OU had better not listen to locals who assume the ridiculous 17-point line is accurate and assume victory. Because if they do, they'll be staring at going from the national championship favorite to 5-2 real fast.

I'm convinced this staff and this roster of thoroughbreds will find an answer.

Bigger challenges have been met. There's a reason about 114 college Ads would trade their coach for Stoops in a heartbeat. There's a reason he's making all that money (best hope the annuity payoff the potential for a lesser team in '09 doesn't bring threatening NFL or college suitors to his doorstep).

Here's betting these guys figure it out...that the defense will patch things together and fight back...that the offense will run better and continue to post big numbers...that more starters will be put on kickoff coverage to avoid more return disasters...and that the remainder of the season could bode very well, in a super conference where it is not an upset when any of the top nine teams beats the other.

Even though the sun didn't come up in OKC today, it will come up. And it shone brightly in the eyes of OSU fans who find themselves wearing orange and on the phones and at the water coolers talking "championships." There's a long ways to go before '08 is in the books.

Twill be interesting in the Land of T-Boone and the Land of High Expectations.