It almost seems like Sooner Nation is talking more about the fact that linebacker Ronnell Lewis wasn't on the field with the defense last Saturday against Air Force than they are the actual game itself. Of course there's lots to discuss regarding the team's performance in a tight game that preserved the nation's longest home winning streak but more than anything else, Sooner Nation wanted to know where The Hammer was? Bob Stoops provided us an answer to that question on Tuesday.
"Ronnell is a very good talent. I think it's just continuing to gain the trust. What isn't talked about a lot is that Ronnell has missed a lot, due to academic reasons in the spring and the summer and two-a-days and due to an ankle injury,"
To his credit, Coach Stoops didn't throw Lewis under the bus and has taken a ton of heat over the last week for no getting The Hammer on the field more.
He also made sure to point out that it is the coaches' responsibility to make sure that Ronnell Lewis develops and works his way onto the field of play.
"That's our job to bring him along, and I believe we will. Ronnell works hard. Got a great attitude. Again, it's finding what works best for him and where we can have the most trust in him as well. Sometimes, when you haven't been on the field a lot or you have missed an extended period of time, middle backer is hard to handle."
Then there was the near miss against the Air Force Falcons, where the Sooners came out ahead by a field goal. While a novice football fan may look at this game and wonder what in the world was going on, Stoops sees it for what it is.
"Going back through and reviewing last week's Air Force game, as I said, I thought after the game and said it to the team again on Monday, I think the real positive is a good team win. I thought both offense and defense complemented each other in each half. In the first half, the defense played a little bit better than the offense but we go in with the 10-3 lead. Then in the second half, the offense picks it up while the defense got worked a little bit, wasn't quite as sharp. We're still able to finish the game with the offense running the clock out in the last three and a half minutes when (Air Force) has three timeouts as well. So very physical running the ball and finishing the game that way.
Some guys that played well: Stacy McGee, Daniel Noble, Travis Lewis, Jonathan Nelson and Corey Nelson when he was in there. Offensively, again, DeMarco Murray and Ryan Broyles. Ryan, again, for a third straight game (this season) had over 100 yards receiving. DeMarco had about 190 all-purpose yards. Landry (Jones) played well. When you look at his statistics with four clear drops, he has a nice day. A couple of throws at the end that he'd like to have back there in the fourth quarter, but other than that he had pretty good day. I talked about Jimmy Stevens. It's positive for him to hit the ball so well. Tress Way, all those guys, really solid."
The other thing that stood out after Saturday's game was the 350 rushing yards of offense that the Faclons placed on the Sooners. It begs the question as to whether the defense is making progress as the season moves?
"Well some parts have been really good and other parts haven't, I think that's obvious to everybody. I think it's still a work in progress and I think it will benefit us to work more traditional coverages and defenses that we work through the year as opposed to some we had to employ because of the option styles that we've seen."
How about how the team has met Coach Stoops' own expectations?
"We've been solid in some areas and we've been a little inconsistent but what's been positive is you've seen positives in a lot of areas and through three games. We're working on some of the inconsistencies, there are some parts where we didn't play quite as well as we thought we could've. Part of that is being early in the year and having to iron some things out. I thought, for instance, the discipline we played with last week with the few penalties, the execution at the end of the game, particularly with our offense. I think it's fair to say a year ago we wouldn't have done that. I think it was obvious that we did it in a very solid way the other day and that's a positive."
The good news is that there isn't another triple option offense left on Oklahoma's schedule and in their one game against a conventional offense the Sooner defense did extremely well. What can we expect to see from Cincinnati's offense?
"They run it, but they're a spread attack. They'll give you three and four wide receivers, one-back sets, motion back into two-back sets, a lot of what you see from a spread team. Zone, zone read, some of that, some quarterback run game. Zach Collaros, their quarterback, is a pretty good runner. They try and get him the ball some that way. He's also good throwing the football."
"You really have to go in with a dominant mentality and a killer mentality to establish itself on the run. I'm kind of excited to finally get a road experience under our belt because we know that's really what makes great teams; going on the road and performing well." - Safety Quintin Carter on Oklahoma's first road game of the season
"There's a lot to learn. From the beginning, just the speed of the game is something I've had to pick up on. The defense is a lot faster and there's a guy always there touching you or grabbing you or trying to put his hands on you. That's a lot different from high school, where you're running wide open and making those easy catches for touchdowns. I have to just improve on getting experience out there and everyday at practice and at each game just continuing to help." - Receiver Kenny Stills on the jump from high school to college