Yesterday, we witnessed the worst performance in history by a Sooner defense in the annual grudge match versus Texas. Texas is a talented team, clearly on the up and up, but their offense is far from the juggernauts that put up 45 on the Sooners during the Vince Young and Colt McCoy eras. No, this Texas team is average on offense
Still, they scored every possession with ease, save for a couple in the 4th quarter, when they were trying to run out the clock. The Sooners' LBs were out of position, routinely taking poor angles on QB draw plays. The secondary was out muscled by taller WR's in one on one coverage. The DB's never went underneath in coverage in short passing plays, making slant routes like playing pitch and catch in practice for Texas. The tackling was again shoddy, and the physicality was lacking the entire game. Texas scored 48, and could have scored much more if they'd thought they needed to in the 4th.
As has been the case the last several years, the offense was prolific as ever. They staged an epic comeback that nearly won them the game, despite the worst defense ever played by the Sooners in the RRR. Lincoln Riley's play calling, save for a play or two, was creative and balanced. The running game was finally clicking. Murray, despite a couple of TO's, was actually brilliant. The Sooners put up 45 points on a really talented defense.
I was reminded of a game two years ago. Another record was set that will probably stand for a long time. Patrick Mahomes put up 819 individual all purpose yards against a hapless Sooner defense on October 22, 2016, the most for any player in NCAA history in a single game. The clearly more talented Sooner team managed to win that game on the back of Baker Mayfield and some now NFL play makers.
That game marked the beginning of choruses of "it's time for Mike Stoops to go," chants among even normally "glass is half" full Sooner fans. The Sooner defense had shown flashes of respectability in 2013 and 2015, but it was headed quickly in the wrong direction, and it has only accelerated since. The few fleeting moments of hope have consistently given way to performances that would keep even a Kansas DC up at night. These performances come more and more frequently. From 30 point under dogs coming into Norman and blowing the defense off the field for entire games, to now yesterdays soul crushing defeat, there is no longer any question about where the defense is. It's in the toilet, and wont change until changes are made. As Einstein warned, we'd be insane to keep repeating the same experiment over and over and expect a different result.
Meanwhile, the Sooner offense under the young, brilliant new HC has flourished, reaching new heights year after year. As a bittersweet byproduct, it has masked the glaring failures of the defense enough to maintain a thin veneer of success.
After all, how could we complain right? Three straight big 12 titles and 2 out of 3 playoff births is nothing to sneeze at right? We're spoiled, sure..Oklahoma Sooners football is one of the greatest traditions of excellence in all of sports. We expect to win em all, as Bob used to say, and that can't always be the case. But what if you know there are games you CAN win, and feats you CAN achieve, if you simply make objective professional decisions? After all, we haven't won the whole thing in a comparatively long time. This year ties the longest drought between titles since the Sooners won their first in 1950. Regardless of the successes of the offense, and the appearance of overall success, most Sooner fans can see that it's been a paper tiger to a certain degree. We all hold our breaths every game, knowing that our offense is great, but fearful that it might be stifled by our porous defense
Why are we at this point? Year after year, accepting abject failure from the defense. It's not as though OU can't recruit at least reasonably talented defensive players. There is a proud tradition of great defenses here. It's not as though we can't attract a respectable DC that will at least point the defense in the right direction. It's a school that's in the discussion for conference championships and beyond each year.
The simple answer is "blood is thicker than water." I loved Bob Stoops as our coach and as a man. He is a beacon of class. He resurrected this program from its worst point. He's loyal to a fault. That fault came in the form of his brother. He simply couldn't fire him even when he knew things were slipping past the point of no return. Even when the standards for other coaches' dismissal had long been exceeded. I believe based on pure speculation that, whether or not he admitted it to anyone, his unwillingness to fire his brother played at least some part in his resignation. Lincoln Riley was also a big reason Stoops new he could leave on good terms. Lincoln is a genius, and Bob did the school right when he kept him in the fold and allowed him to takeover. However Lincoln, like Bob, is loyal to the horse that got him there. Mike isn't his family, but he undoubtedly feels a debt of gratitude to Bob for handing him the keys to one of the best (and most lucrative) coaching jobs in the country.
I believe Mike continues to coach defense at OU, not on his own merit, but because of personal relationships. He's had a respectable career, and coached some good defenses 15+ years ago or so, but the game at this level, in this environment has long passed him by. There's no longer a debate about the need for a change. Mid season changes are rare, but in cases of abject disaster they do happen.
Despite how we feel today, the season isn't lost. Texas could lose to WVU or OSU, the Sooners could beat both, and a rematch in the big 12 title game could decide the conference. The Sooners offense is THAT good. It's the best single unit in the conference. Despite how bad the defense is, the offense is capable of winning A LOT of games by itself. If the Sooners run the table, beating Texas in the CCG, and win the conference with one loss, and other things elsewhere break just right, it isn't totally out of the realm of possibility that the Sooners could find themselves ranked 4 in the CFP rankings at seasons end.
To me, that possibility is worth taking a chance. The defense cannot get any worse if Stoops is let go tomorrow and Ruffin or someone else, takes over the rest of the year. There is, however, a small chance that the defense could take that extremely personally- that some of the bad energy surrounding Mike, his temper, and the WTF? performances of the defense could be lifted off the shoulders of the team, giving the team a rejuvenating energy. It's not impossible.. It is impossible if we don't take that chance. Sure, at seasons end, Mike will almost certainly be gone. I believe Riley knows it, and Mike himself probably knows it. I believe his contract is up, and I just don't see any way that with Bob gone, that they'd renew it. Maybe that's the dignified thing to do for Riley, and I can understand that. In my opinion, if you know somethings broken, you start trying to fix it as soon as possible. That time is now, and Riley should show fans, pundits and recruits alike that defense is important, and that what we've seen from Mike Stoops' defense is just flat out unacceptable at OU.