The No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners boast a perfect record at 8-0 (5-0 in Big 12 play), but after coming as close as they did to suffering the ultimate upset in Lawrence, Kansas, not to mention the other five close games this season, OU is a team that desperately needs to find some definitive answers to its rapidly growing list of questions before a daunting November stretch.
Lincoln Riley, winner of the last 16 games he’s coached, addressed many of those questions on Tuesday in his weekly presser. When asked to assess the issues that have continued to plague his team this fall, he went on to say that “I’ve been around here long enough that if you keep winning, things tend to work themselves out. We have eight wins. We have the longest winning streak in the country. The sky is not falling. Don’t write us off yet.”
Not to look too far ahead, the Crimson & Cream are set to host Texas Tech (who recently fired head coach Matt Wells on Monday) this weekend before closing out the month of October and entering an off-week that’s been long overdue. On Tuesday, Riley met with the media for his regularly scheduled Week Nine Press Conference (full presser link here).
Riley on the status of injured players
It’s no secret that OU has lost a high number of players to injury over the course of this season, but Riley shared some relatively positive news on that front regarding a couple key wide receivers (Mario Williams and Mike Woods) and one very talented defensive lineman in Jalen Redmond.
“Receiver-wise, I think we’ll have to see. I think Mario and Mike both have a chance, but they’re still a little limited right now. Neither one of them were very close to being able to play the other day. I hope to have them available this week.”
Regarding Redmond: “We do anticipate having him available this week.”
Riley on the lack of defensive pressure up front
Oklahoma’s highly-touted defensive front has been borderline ineffective in generating pressure or forcing stops over the last few weeks. Riley spoke about what the reason could be for the unit’s recent lack of production.
“I thought we were a little bit better (against Kansas) than we were against TCU. Some of it comes with just kind of the nature of that game and the way that it played out. It was a much different game than TCU against so much run game, kind of controlling the clock, play-action. Could we be better on the front? Yes. Are there some things we can do better schematically to try to help that? Yes. [...] I think the answer is nobody’s way off. We just need everybody to be a little bit better.”
Riley on his level of concern for the defense
When Kansas is moving the ball at will for four quarters, there are some serious defensive issues that need to be addressed. It’s not only the yards and points that OU is giving up in bunches as of late, it’s the methodical, time-consuming drives that are wearing down the Sooners from the very beginning of the game. Riley talked about his current level of concern for his defense on Tuesday.
“I think we know over the last two weeks we haven’t played up to our capability. You turn on the tape, and I think as a coach you look at it and you say ‘Alright, what’s the cause of this? Why is this happening? Is it capability? Is it guys schematically? What’s causing it?’ The biggest issue I see with us, and it’s certainly not to take anything away from Kansas, but the majority of breakdowns that we have, we’re causing. [...] My confidence level is still very high. There are things, obviously, that we have to correct with the guys that have been playing.”
Riley on if he was shocked by the team’s flatness
Ask anybody who watched Oklahoma’s first half performance against the Jayhawks and they’ll tell you that was a team that looked completely flat with no energy or sense of urgency. Riley was asked about seeing his team look almost lifeless for a half on both sides of the ball.
“Was I shocked? I don’t know, I don’t get shocked at football games very often. I mean, anything can happen. [...] You know, I had to learn this being (at OU), and I would compare it to you guys or our fan base, you take how we feel, and I’m talking as a fan base, people that watch the program, this that, how do we feel about going to play Texas? That week to everybody here feels different. Okay, understand that everybody that plays us, that’s how they feel about playing us. That’s the world we live in every single week, so when you ask me about my shock factor, no, because I know nine times out of ten the team that we see on tape against somebody is not going to be the same opponent we’re going to play. It’s just the nature of the beast, and that’s fine.”
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