Wow. Talk about a shot to the old pride...
I'm still not sure which end is up, but I know one thing; I'm not at all fond of the direction this program is going. This, sadly, is not the first time we've seen this side of our beloved Sooners. These performances have come in nearly clockwork fashion since the NC season of 2000. Every year at this time (so it seems) Bobby's Boys hit the skids...and boy do they hit em hard! Not only does the season take a nasty turn around this time of year (almost annually), it seems to happen against the same teams; A&M, Tech and Missouri. What it is about this level of competition, I don't know, but OU always seems to struggle with these teams...home or away. Granted, the home games have traditionally been a given, even if OU plays poorly, but now that is not even a gimme. Something is amiss in Soonerland, ladies and gentlemen.
Over the course of this...well, I guess it classifies as a rant, as I am not a certified columnist or anyone whose opinion actually matters, I shall provide several insights (of which I am certain many, if not all, of you are aware) to shed some light on why OU has seemingly flushed another legit shot at immortality down the toilet. I know many of you will see what I see, but undoubtedly there will be some detractors to my point of view. I am interested to hear all of your thoughts, but quite frankly I don't see any opposing argument carrying much merit or heft at this point. Things have been too ugly around this program for the past two weeks to turn any more blind eyes to the problems. Yes, Virginia, there are problems...PLURAL.
There were a number of posters here at CCM that were roundly chastised for daring to display the unmitigated gall to question the performance of Bobby's Boys after a 30-point victory over a punchless Kansas team two weeks back. All of them, and I was in this number, stated that the performance, while it had a desirable outcome, was indicative of a larger problem within the program. Many others of the CCM community declared that this view was not appropriate and the game was only a mirage; a bad dream. Well kids, the bad dream is now recurrent and has evolved into a nightmare worthy of Stephen King's pen.
We have seen, over the years and especially the course of the past two weeks, the repeated failure of the secondary, and front seven. There is no pressure on the QB in passing situations, lack of solid tackling (from all members of the defense), failure to produce turnovers, and lastly the abject failure to cover ANYONE down the field (deep routes or short). The failures and issues are not limited to the defense, not by any stretch.
The offense has failed to create space in the passing game and the WRs seem disinterested and slow in their routes. Ball control has become a thing of the past, especially on the fumble front (even Ryan Broyles, Mr. Reliability, has been puking the ball like a bulimic after after a binge session). Landry Jones has looked like a freshman for two weeks. The offensive line has been as bad as I can remember, missing blocks and assignments frequently and flat out getting whipped far too often. This isn't only in the run game, as was evident at KU and most of OU's recent football history. No, now these cancers have manifested themselves in the once impregnable wall of the pass protection. Yet, all these failings pale in comparison to this team's impotence in the Red Zone; not just the RZ, but inside the FIVE YARD LINE.
I haven't forgotten the not-so-Special Teams units or the coaching staff...I'm getting there. OU's kick coverage has been shaky of late. Coach Stoops likes to attribute the busts to the fact that the Sooners kick off more often than most other teams. This may be true, but it feels like the staff is grasping at straws to explain a way a much more deeply rooted issue than the numbers could possibly support; the fact that these issues are not being corrected but rather allowed to continue. The kickers have been poor (putting it nicely) too. Place-kicking was relatively solid two weeks ago, but utterly failed this past weekend. These kickers (how can you have five of them and have NOTHING to show for it?) have also played a giant role in the failures of the kick coverage team. Why Patrick O'Hara continues to NOT kick out the endzone, is beyond me (besides the fact that they continually employ that ridiculous three-step approach to the ball). Short kicks lead to better starting position for the opponent. Call me crazy, but I thought the purpose of the kicking game (no, Tress, I haven't forgotten you) was to pin the opponent as deep as possible.
Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of this team's recent performances is the opposition. OU just got done with arguably the worst FBS defense in Kansas and a conference bottom-dweller in TTU. These two teams stuffed the Oklahoma RZ run-game (which everyone now seems to do), created pressure consistently on the passer, forced turnovers and generally whipped our highly-touted players' collective hindparts. This can't be allowed to happen.
All of this brings me to the coaching staff. All of these failures don't just happen. It's not like there is an evil fairy on the loose in Norman just trying to ruin people's days or an entire season for Sooner Nation. There are big issues with the coaching staff. From what I can see they are either teaching things very badly or allowing very bad habits to take root. Either of which is inexcusable. I just don't see the LSUs and Alabamas of the world repeating the same mistakes that seem to come to the forefront in nearly every Oklahoma game.
Point the finger at whichever coach you like, and I think you likely find a problem. Offensive line, DC, Secondary, Defensive line, Linebackers, Wide Receivers, Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Special Teams...the list goes on. I feel it continues all the way to Strength and Conditioning as well. This program seems to have become content to win only the Big XII title (I know that sounds spoiled and ridiculous, but I feel it is true; there are no larger aspirations). They've become entitled and worst of all, they are bored with games that don't resonate as nationally important.
All of the things that I've mentioned fall back into the laps of the coaches. None of them are new problems. Some of them are problems that have existed since this staff came to Norman. I used to be a non-wavering supporter of Coach Stoops and what he was doing here. After all, who wouldn't be after a NC in only his second season? Lately the idea that he is only winning because of edges in recruiting and talent, seems to be growing legs. Kansas State is a perfect example of this idea. Those guys play with heart and hustle, spill their guts and sacrifice their bodies in every game. They don't always win pretty, but you know what you are going to get...every Saturday.
That Kansas State team has very few players that would start anywhere else in the nation, let alone the Big XII. They are a bunch of no-names, really. Kansas State's roster is made up of small town Kansas kids and junior college transfers (give me a bit of leeway here, K-State fans, I know I'm not 100% accurate). Their coaches put them in the best position to win...and guess what....they do. All of this without the "talent" at OU. This weekend should be very scary. If the problems and vexations which plague this team are not cured, Saturday could be a very long day. That long day could evolve into a very long season.
All around, the program is in a tight spot. The teams sits squarely on the razor's edge and this season hangs in the balance.