It was around 40 degrees by kickoff Saturday night, but the heat coming from the frustrations of sooner fans could be felt throughout the stadium. A dominant shutout is the only thing that could possibly please the fan base; otherwise, Mike Stoops would have to go.
Football to Sooner fans and thousands of other Oklahomans is as essential as air conditioning. It is what an Oklahoman grows up with, feeds on, worships, follows, plays and very often, dies with. So for the beloved team to step foot on historic Owen field, where the Oklahoma drill was invented, and not play dominant defense is frustration. What’s more concerning is the fact that trying to fix the problems on defense, seems to be an arduous problem. So the nerves and the frustration kept the fans warm while Texas Tech took the field on offense and the protracted matchup of 4 quarters began.
With Tre King getting loose for 61 yards on 11 carries, the Red Raiders marched down the field on their opening possession and Nic Shimonek would find former OKPreps star Cameron Batson for a touchdown. Batson would go off for 105 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns that helped set up quarterback Nic Shimonek’s passing game. Early on, Shimonek went 7-of-7 for 139 yards with three touchdowns. 20 points, and 211 yards allowed…In the first quarter. This quickly took the wind out of the sails of the crowd and you could hear the groans from every direction. It was a hard reality to sit through. It brought back similar feelings to last year’s 66-59 shootout victory in which the defense gave up 800+ yards. Mike Stoops, however, wasn’t done yet.
The Sooners had a lot of athletes on the field but it was a simple adjustment that finally got things going. Stoops switched from a 3 man front to a 4 man front. That simple adjustment that Stoops made paid huge dividends for the remainder of the game. “We tried to protect our corners today in some of that umbrella, and we couldn’t control the run,” Stoops said. “So now it puts you into this (four-man front) and now they’re back out there on an island a little bit. You know, gotta make some plays. Gotta contest things. And at times, I thought our coverage was tighter. We made (Shimonek) put it in some windows. He missed some throws.” Tech missed some throws, and the defense made some plays. In the final three quarters, the Red Raiders managed just 226 yards, 1 touchdown and averaged just 4.6 yards per play.
The Sooners played a more complete game, and Mike Stoops survives another week. The game didn’t end in sighs of relief and the team was able to leave the field with their minds firmly set on the big rivalry game to come. This is the part of the schedule that is a physical and mental gauntlet. The Sooners are 7-1 which makes them bowl eligible but the remaining schedule could make their postseason go from a championship opportunity to a participation trophy. However, head coach Lincoln Riley seems optimistic about his team’s chances.
“You know, it’s getting ready to be Championship November, and that’s our favorite time of year around here,” Riley said. “We’re excited about it. The conference is really darn good. It’s the best conference in football right now, and top to bottom, you see it. There’s a lot of great teams in this league. So it’s gonna be a lot of fun. A lot of eyes in the country are gonna be on it, and we’re looking forward to being a part of it.”
If all goes well the rest of the way, the playoff committee will have a hard decision to make in whether leaving OU out of the playoffs or letting the Norman boys come to play. First in the Gauntlet is Bedlam. See you Saturday