So yeah, we're 4-0, and that's great. How many of us expected to have a better record than Texas at this point of the season? (I say this as a person who predicted on my personal blog prior to the season that OU would beat Texas this year. I stand behind that prediction, by the way.) Landry Jones has had a few issues here and there, but for the most part he has shown real improvement. For example, he's always had problems with his pocket awareness, and it's continued into this year. However, last night especially, there were points where he showed excellent pocket awareness, in spite of a couple of sacks (heck, even Sam Bradford was sacked a few times behind one of OU's best offensive lines). The freshmen are really stepping up, ande especially on defense, just like Bob predicted they would before the season. Ryan and Demarco are doing exactly what we all knew they would do. In fact, the Jones-Broyles-Murray trio could be our most powerful and consistent playmaking-skill triple threat since White-Clayton-Peterson in 2004. So why am I (and most of you) still so unhappy?
There are definite things that, only 4 games into the season, I am tired of seeing, a few patterns that just keep happening in every game we play. It doesn't seem to matter who the opponent is or what kind of plan we put together beforehand or how well we practice; they just keep creeping up. The things I don't want to see any more are as follows...and I hope the Sooners and their coaches (and in one case, God Himself) are listening.
1. Seeing passes hit our receivers in the hands, only to fall to the ground. OU has some great receivers this year. But I don't recall another season where we had as many bad drops at so many crucial times as we've seemed to have this year. And our greatest receivers (Clayton? Gresham? Woolfolk? Savage? Trent Smith?) almost never dropped a ball that hit the mitts, ESPECIALLY in the clutch. What will it take for these guys to haul those in? More tennis-ball drills? Concentration improvement seminars? Whatever we have to do, DO IT. We can't have sure dead-on-the-money first-down and touchdown passes to wide-open receivers hit the turf.
2. Watching the team noticeably take the foot off the gas once we get up 2-3 touchdowns. Every game...EVERY GAME this has happened. It was a lot less noticeable against Florida State, but it was still there. I don't know if it's the players, or poor preparation by the coaches, or the coaches' attitude, or play calls, or whatever. But you can't take your foot off the the gas, especially before the fourth quarter...because in so doing, you're usually taking your foot of the throat of your opponent. Letting them think they're still in the game, letting them maintain hope...that causes trouble. EVERY TIME. Beat the tar out of them, like you used to, fellas...the fans love it more, the pundits (and pollsters) appreciate it more...really, it's win-win.
3. Coaches going into the ultra-plain-vanilla shell on offense with a lead. I've watched a lot of college football in my lifetime. I love it. In the fall, I eat, sleep, and breathe it. So I get that when you have a lead, you want to minimize risk and eat up clock. BUT...the best way to do this is to keep moving the chains. A visibly-exhausted Demarco Murray throwing himself into the middle of the line to get 2 yards on three straight plays every series doesn't get the job done. The same bubble screens and swing passes you've already run 7-8 times in the game. You still have a playbook that is bigger than a single page. And while I get that we need to "hold stuff back" (a philosophy I don't necessarily agree with), we still need to WIN in such a way as to remove all doubt that we're winning. We led most of the game last night, and it still felt terrible. Ditto the game against Utah State. This is somewhat related to Item 2 above, but as the old cliche goes, a good offense really is the best defense.
4. Seeing crappy teams suddenly turn into All-World, Ready-To-Play-For-The-National-Championship teams when they see us on the field. I don't know if no one takes us seriously since we lost to Boise State...or if it's our tendency to let teams hang around much longer than we used to (see above)...or if our coaches are missing something in the game plan or not preparing our guys right...or if we just seem more vulnerable than the Floridas, Texases, and USC's of the world. But while Utah State might be much improved over previous seasons, we made their quarterback look like a Heisman candidate...yet they've promptly lost to Fresno State and San Jose State the last two weeks by a combined score of 82-31, and their lone win was at home against Idaho State in Week 2. Last night, Cincinnati's Collaros, Pead, and Woods looked as good our our own Jones-Murray-Broyles trio...in spite of the fact that the Bearcats were thumped by Fresno State in Week 1 and North Carolina State last week, and that they looked pretty marginal in both games. This particular pattern might also be a direct consequence of OU's record with Items 2 and 3 above...letting teams stay in games so long only encourages them to believe that THEY will be the team that breaks through and beats us, and that encourages them to play so much harder than they might if they simply understood that they are just fresh meat on the schedule.
I believe all of the above are mental issues. OU's players and coaches can keep these things from happening, but it's going to take a real change of attitude and state-of-mind for them to make it so.