Sooners Get Two Big Wins, But Stoops Seeking Faster Progress

Monday, October 15th 2007, 7:21 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Back-to-back wins over two of the Big 12's top contenders have helped Oklahoma move back up the national rankings. Coach Bob Stoops wants to see that kind of progress on the field.

The Sooners (6-1, 2-1 Big 12) climbed another two spots to No. 4 in The Associated Press Top 25 and were in fifth place in the BCS standings Sunday after a 41-31 win against Missouri on Saturday.

Following a disappointing loss at Colorado, Oklahoma has bounced back with consecutive wins over Texas and Missouri -- the preseason favorites in the conference's North and South divisions.

That's not enough for Stoops, though.

"We're after more," Stoops said. "At this time of the year, there's still some areas I know we can improve on. We've got to do a better job coaching, they've got to do a better job listening and executing, and we'll go back at it on Monday to try and do that."

Among the Sooners' mistakes Saturday were a pair of fumbles by receiver Juaquin Iglesias that each led to Missouri touchdowns, Garrett Hartley's fourth missed extra point of the season and Reggie Smith's decision to backtrack and make an over-the-shoulder catch on a punt at the goal line.

The Sooners also gave up more than 300 yards passing for the third time in the past four games. Although all three of those games resulted in wins, Oklahoma isn't accustomed to giving up that kind of yardage. Oregon was the only opponent last year that went over 300 yards passing.

"I think sometimes they listen to too many people tell them how good they are, and we're really not where we should be," Stoops said. "It's up to us to get to that point and keep pushing to make improvement. We're just used to making more improvement at this point in the year than I think we have."

Stoops would know. He led Oklahoma to the national title in 2000 and two of the last four BCS title games. With so many top 10 teams joining the Sooners with one loss, the door to the national title is creeping open more and more each week. In the first BCS standings Sunday, Oklahoma was behind Ohio State, South Florida, Boston College and LSU.

"Especially coming after the loss at Colorado, I think we've really rebounded. We've shown the heart that this team has," quarterback Sam Bradford said. "We can't be satisfied with what we've done so far. We've got to come out Monday and get better."

After averaging 216.2 yards rushing in its first six games, Oklahoma was held to 30 yards on the ground through three quarters against the Tigers. That left the Sooners heavily reliant on the pass until tailback Chris Brown was able to come through with two fourth-quarter TDs.

"We've got to be able to establish the run game and get things going. We can't turn the ball over," Bradford said. "There's a lot of things that we've got to improve on each week if we want to be where we want to end up."

The Sooners entered the season with the unproven Bradford as the team's main question mark. Now that the redshirt freshman quarterback has emerged as the nation's top-rated passer, it's all about reaching those lofty expectations.

"That is the frustrating part because I don't really feel we're playing to our potential yet, so that's disappointing to me as a coach," Stoops said. "I feel we should be playing better than we are."

Still, Oklahoma has managed to come away with tight victories the past two weeks in spots that have sent other national powers toppling. The Sooners came up with two fourth-quarter takeaways and converted them into points to send another budding national title contender to its first loss.

"It says we're gaining ground. I think so much of the time -- whether its media or fans -- want to already place you in this great place, and we're not there yet," Stoops said. "We have got to get better in a lot of areas."