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Agonizing, Awful Game

"Hey Sooner fans! I was <em>riiiiiiiiight</em>!" -Andre Ware
"Hey Sooner fans! I was riiiiiiiiight!" -Andre Ware

Edited for a correction to the "two more losses" section. Should have read the "9th worst season" rather than "7th worst".

Before we get into the game, there's something to hammer out. Andre "Prophet of Doom" Ware was right. He predicted the Sooners would be 8-4 this year. Actually, it could easily wind up being worse than what Dr. Ware predicted. So here's a summary of the different benchmarks we're playing for this year (including a bowl game):

  • Win Out: We finish a respectable 9-4. The four losses will equal the worst mark since the 2005 season, and the winning percentage will qualify as Stoops' third worst season at OU. The four losses will be a mark that was only equaled by 11 Sooner teams in the last 30 years. However, we will finish with a bowl victory for the first time in 4 years as well.
  • One More Loss: We finish at 8-5. Five losses would equal the worst mark in Stoops' tenure, or since 1999. It would be the second worst winning percentage of any Stoops coached team. It would rank as the 14th worst winning percentage of any Sooners team since 1946. If the one loss isn't in a bowl game, we would manage to win our first bowl game in 4 years. Otherwise, we would be stuck with four consecutive bowl defeats.
  • Two More Losses: We finish at 7-6. Six losses would make this Stoops' worst season in Norman. Even if the loss was in the bowl game (regular season record of 6-6), we would still be bowl eligible for the 11th straight season. I doubt we would get turned down by a bowl game if we had 6 wins, given our history and fan base. The 0.538 winning percentage would be the worst since 1998, or the end of the Blake Era. It would also mark the 9th worst season since 1946, and the 22nd worst season since 1896.
  • Three More Losses To Close The Season: We finish at 5-7. Again, this would be the worst season for Stoops at OU. We would miss being bowl eligible for the first time since 1998. The 0.416 winning percentage would be the worst since 1997. It would also mark the 5th worst season since 1946, and the 9th worst season since 1896. It would be an abysmal blemish on the long record of success the Sooners football program has had.
There's no denying that this football team has talent. Which is why it's extremely annoying to see them floating barely above .500 at 5-4. They are nine games into the season and are not yet bowl eligible. Contrast that with teams like Kansas State, Texas Tech, Northwestern, Rutgers, Notre Dame, Ohio, Temple, Northern Illinois, Stanford, Middle Tennessee State, Troy, Idaho, and Fresno State that are all bowl eligible. Even Bob's brother Mike Stoops has piloted Arizona to bowl eligibility (and a share of the Pac 10 lead).

What is wrong with this picture?

It's really difficult to find a place to start breaking down this game. It was atrocious in just about every way possible. Let's start with the defense, though, that played admirably. For everyone getting on Brent Venables' case last season, he sure has game planned well this season. It seems like in all four losses, you can't blame the loss on the defense (or at least the defense deserves a very small share of the blame). The one touchdown they gave up was following a return of a Landry Jones interception down close to the goal line.

Landry Jones came crashing back down to earth. He threw 5 interceptions, which was a school record. The Sooners had a slim chance at the end of the game that ended when Jones threw a "hail mary" pass that didn't need to be a hail mary pass. I'd hate to say it, but a big share of the loss falls on his shoulders. The Sooner offense out gained the Husker offense by about 180 percent (325-180). The Sooners converted 5 third downs, and the Huskers only converted 1. Nebraska even accumulated 40 more penalty yards than OU!

The only major difference was that the Sooners were -4 in the turnover department. And all of their turnovers were interceptions at the hands of Landry Jones. Landry seemed to underthrow the short passes. They got tipped often, or barely got to their receivers. These "forward lateral passes" are often telegraphed. There's no deception and the defense can often read them like a book. On the deep passes, or even intermediate slant/post routes, Landry frequently threw the ball about 2-4 yards behind the receiver and a good 2 yards high.

vs Nebraska / 11.7.09 Passing Rushing
Comp Att Pct Yds TD Rush Yds Avg TD
Landry Jones 26 58 40.0 245 0 3 -17 -5.7 0

He only completed 40 percent of his passes and it was really the first time that he looked like a freshman out there.

Some of the play calls continued to baffle me. I don't understand on a critical 4th down and 1 how they could do a toss play to Murray while only having Kenney out ahead of him to block. Not surprisingly, Murray was tackled for a loss with about 3 Nebraska players bearing down on him.

On the "hail mary" play in question, part of it was Landry's fault. However, all of the routes called on that play were deep routes. Three of the four receivers were running go routes, and they appeared to be "timing" routes set for about 15-20 yards down field so the QB can hit the receiver in the seam. The only player running a shorter route was Broyles who was running a 15-20 yard down-and-out sideline pattern, a difficult and long throw (and he was well covered). In a way, I think the play call set the final drive up to fail.

Kevin Wilson may have had a good season last year, but 2008 does not equal 2009. I think he fell in love with everything he could do with a much more talented offense in '08, and he is trying to make mediocre play calls work again with this group. And, at some point, you have to start questioning the no-huddle offense. When Sam ran it, the offense just seemed to click. When Landry runs it, there seems to be frequent hiccups. You even notice some difference in its effectiveness between this offensive line and last year's.

But all of that aside, I think it's time for these Sooner players and coaches to realize what they're on the brink of doing and start to play with a fire. Right now, it really looks like they could care less. We have a winnable game next week against Texas A&M, although they've shown they can cause problems. However, we follow that up with two very loseable regular season games - on the road against Texas Tech, and at home against Oklahoma State. Obviously, we've had problems on the road this year, and we typically have problems at Tech no matter what. Bedlam will be interesting as Oklahoma State is probably the better team right now, but they will be playing in Norman. Follow that up with a bowl game (if we qualify) against a quality opponent.

Just two more losses and this will be one of the worst teams in OU's storied history, especially in the modern era. To think, it began with the team being ranked at #3 in the country. Wake up Sooners! You guys have talent. Start playing like it, unless you'd really like to go down in the record books like that.