It was far from pretty, but the No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners survived yet another late-game scare — this time against West Virginia — in the form of a 16-13 victory to open Big 12 play. With an unblemished record of 4-0 (1-0), OU now embarks on its first road trip of the season, and there are plenty of questions to be answered as the team sets its sights on Chris Klieman and his well-coached Kansas State Wildcats (3-1, 0-1) squad.
Speaking of Klieman, since taking over the job in Manhattan in 2019, K-State is 2-0 against Oklahoma. Both losses were sizable upsets, and once again, the Sooners find themselves in a similar position of being double-digit favorites this time around. With so many other issues needing to be addressed, this could either be the perfect opportunity for OU to finally put it all together, or it could be the stone that finally sends this program tumbling out of contention.
Nevertheless, the Crimson & Cream will need all hands on deck this week, and that starts on Tuesday with Lincoln Riley’s Week Five Press Conference (full presser link here).
Riley on the fans’ negative reaction on Saturday
As the night wore on, the fans’ patience grew thin with the offense’s continued struggles to sustain drives and score points against WVU. Much of that displeasure was directed at Spencer Rattler, who was booed multiple times throughout the game. Additionally, there were a number of moments when a portion of the crowd was heard chanting ‘We want Caleb’, meaning they were asking for Rattler to be benched in favor of backup true freshman Caleb Williams.
Riley was asked about his thoughts on the booing and chanting from the fans on Saturday night.
“We have a passionate fan base, and I think it’s always important for us to remember that, for all of us, ninety percent of the people in there are die-hard Sooners, and they’re just like us. They’re going to fight and kind of be with us no matter what’s happening. I don’t think any fan wants us, if something’s not going well, to just quit or stop, so we would hope the fans would take the same attitude.”
Riley on how he counsels Spencer Rattler amid his play
On the season, Spencer Rattler has totaled 1,017 passing yards and eight passing touchdowns to three interceptions on 100-135 (74.1%) attempts. He’s also added 71 yards and another pair of TDs on the ground.
Without context, those numbers aren’t particularly bad by any measure, but for those who have watched the product on the field, and it’s clear that Rattler has left a lot to be desired. He’s also been rather fortunate to not have more turnovers up to this point with some questionable decision making. Of course, the O-line in front of him and the skill players around him haven’t exactly been perfect, either, and Riley himself should shoulder a portion of the blame with his play calling.
On Tuesday, Riley was asked about how he would counsel his starting QB through the mounting negative outside response as well as his inconsistent play through four games.
“The same way I would counsel somebody about going and playing on the road or playing at home when they cheer or playing at home when they boo or playing on the road when they boo. I mean, we don’t pay attention to that stuff. It’s kind of like how we were after the Tulane game. If we’re going to worry about all these things outside that have nothing to do with football, then we’re not listening to our message here. Our message is our expectations. We are the only expectations and opinions that counts. Absolutely we appreciate fans being in the stands and cheering. I’m definitely not saying that, but as far as playing the game, we answer to one standard, and that’s our own.
So whatever’s said in the heat of the game, that’s irrelevant. And then I would say this regarding the quarterback position. If I’ve got guys in there that have thin skin or can’t handle that, then I’ve got the wrong guys in the room, and I have the right guys in the room.”
Riley on what he can do to improve the offense
There is a lot of blame going around when it comes to the offense’s woes, and Lincoln Riley has tasked himself with doing a better job of preparing and managing the side of the ball that he has famously led in Norman for the past seven seasons. On Tuesday, he was asked about what he can do to improve the offensive production.
“I think there’s some things overall with the group, schematically, that I can do better. I think our mentality as a group is growing, but it’s going to need to continue to grow. [...] We’ve had a couple of unique games in a row; we’re closer than what people think. Whether people on the outside believe it or not, that’s up to them, but we watch the tape, and I know what we have in that room, and we all have to do better, myself included.”
Riley on his assessment of the defense
On the season, Oklahoma’s defense ranks first in the Big 12 in sacks (14), second in points allowed per game (16), and third in total yards allowed per game (301.3). Although the group has adopted a bit of a bend-don’t-break mentality, it’s been enough to get the job done despite the offense’s struggles to pull away from teams.
Riley was asked about how he would assess the defense’s play through four games.
“I would say the thing I’ve been the most impressed with our defense has been our ability to... we’ve probably bended a little bit more than we want to, but we haven’t broken. We haven’t had an extreme number of three-and-outs, not as many as we would expect or strive to have, but have done a tremendous job when people get a drive going of being able to put a lid on it. And that is a lot about the mindset. Again, I think our front, having the ability to wear on people as games and drives go on, especially with how we’re able to rotate guys and keep guys fresh. [...] In large part, we have played well, but I still feel very similar with the whole football team that there’s a lot more in the tank there.”
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