Unfortunately, after only 14 seconds, you could tell this was going to be an uphill battle. Missouri took the opening kickoff for an 86 yard touchdown, and rolled to a victory over BCS #1 Oklahoma.
I think that all Sooner fans knew this team really wasn't playing like a #1 team this year. Other than games against Florida State and Iowa State, we had struggled to put away a lot of average teams. This game in Columbia was to be only our 2nd true road game, and it was actually the first road game that we played on the visiting team's campus.
Despite that, this is Oklahoma. We play to win national titles. Unfortunately, with Boise State and TCU highly ranked this year and playing easier schedules than the majority of title contenders, I don't think a 1 loss Oklahoma can make the big game like they did in 2008. And so, our national title hopes are dashed in one fell swoop. Perhaps it was never meant to be, but it still hurts.
And so, we play for a conference championship now. The good news here is that we control our destiny. The only other teams in the Big 12 South that have 1 conference loss are Baylor (not joking) and Oklahoma State. We still have to play both of those teams. Texas and Texas A&M both have 2 conference losses, and Texas Tech has 3 conference losses.
If OU runs the table in its conference schedule, it will be headed to Dallas for the Big 12 championship game. And if they win that game, in all likelihood, they would be headed to the Fiesta Bowl barring a really crazy finish to the college football season. In order to do that, we need to make some improvements. My thoughts on the game after the jump.
This game really boils down to getting dominated at the point of attack, and stupid mistakes. While we only lost the turnover battle by 1, I would argue that the opening kickoff return for TD acted like another turnover. And some of the turnovers were incredibly costly. Landry threw one interception in the shadow of his own end zone that set up the nail in the coffin. He also threw one earlier in the game on a drive that looked like it was going to be headed for a touchdown. You consider that Missouri converted both of those interceptions into touchdowns, that we probably would have scored a touchdown on one of those drives, the opening kickoff return, and the missed FG that didn't capitalize on Jonathan Nelson's strip, and by my count we easily had a 31 point swing on just those plays. Not good.
But even if you disregard the turnovers, just look at the effort from the big men upfront. Does Missouri have an NFL caliber offensive line or something? I could be wrong, but I don't think we registered a quarterback sack, and Blaine Gabbert was rarely even hurried or hit. He had plenty of time to survey the field. As I look at the Missouri depth chart on their website, their starters are all 295-315 pounds, and they have 4 juniors and 1 senior. That explains a lot.
On the flip side, Missouri's defensive line seemed to constantly get penetration, beat guys off the ball, and limit the push of the offensive line. Landry gradually got less comfortable as the game wore on.
A lot of people like to look at the skilled positions and point fingers, but I think that you can lay a lot of the blame for this loss on the lines of the Sooners, and the mistakes that I just discussed. Landry looked bad and Gabbert looked good. Why? Because Landry had guys in his face constantly, and Gabbert could have set up a recliner back there. Missouri running backs were getting tackled by safeties a lot. Why? Because our defensive line got pushed around and there were huge lanes there to run through.
Where do the Sooners go from here? Well, I think that they will improve next year, especially on defense. On their latest depth chart they have 5 guys listed as starters who are sophomores or freshmen, and there are a lot of other guys who get a ton of playing time who are sophomores or freshmen. Oklahoma has a pretty young team, and you can tell that our freshman class has talent. They will improve, but they are a little green.
Next week the Sooners play Colorado at home on national TV again (ESPN 2). Missouri has to play at Nebraska in an afternoon game on ABC. Nebraska only has one conference loss, and will be playing to take over the lead spot in the Big 12 North. That will be no easy task for the Tigers, and perhaps they will have a hangover from beating the #1 team.
The Sooners need to regroup and figure out what went wrong. They easily have the talent to win the rest of their games and take the Big 12 South. If they do that, and pull off a win in a conference championship game, they can at least hang their hat on that.