Stoops finds much to like about Oklahoma opener

Sunday, September 12th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- To be sure, Bob Stoops and his coaches
aren't ready to declare Oklahoma's problems solved on the basis of
one victory over a Division I-AA opponent.

But regardless of the level of competition, there was much
Stoops liked about the Sooners' 49-0 victory Saturday night.

"I felt great about the discipline of our players, their
execution through the day," he said.

"I felt great about the preparation and attitude going into the
game. Even though you're playing a I-AA team, they still were
focused and ready to play. That's important."

That focus translated into just one penalty, a nice change from
recent years. The Sooners did lose three fumbles and Josh Heupel
was intercepted once, but the interception resulted from two
receivers colliding and wasn't Heupel's fault.

And Heupel more than made up for that one blip with a
record-setting debut. A junior-college transfer, Heupel set school
records with 31 completions and five touchdown passes. He tied the
school mark of 341 passing yards.

"Josh Heupel I thought did an excellent job directing the
day," Stoops said. "We never had a delay of game, he got us in
and out of plays very well, checked a good number of plays which
were good selections. He really was solid throughout the day."

Oklahoma's new ball-control passing game worked superbly against
the Sycamores, who have been outscored 82-7 in their first two
games. Heupel distributed his passes among 12 receivers and he
found a different player on each of his TD throws.

The Sooners went to the ground only occasionally, but Michael
Thornton (85 yards on 19 carries) ran well.

The defense also performed well. Indiana State's option offense
gained 41 yards on the first drive, but did little else after that
and never really threatened to reach the end zone. Oklahoma
recovered three fumbles and intercepted two passes.

Stoops bragged about his offensive line, which has been hurt by
injuries and defections but didn't allow a sack and played well
enough for the Sooners to compile 507 yards of offense.

"Contrary to what everyone wants to write, I've been very
positive about their play, their practice, and believe we can have
a strong and solid offensive line throughout the year," he said.

Stoops was hired in December to resurrect a program that hasn't
had a winning season since 1993 and went through its worst
three-year stretch, 12-22, under John Blake.

Stoops' theme from the start has been discipline, preparation
and smarts -- avoiding mental breakdowns that can be so costly. He
noted that his team won't be able to win in the Big 12 if it
commits four turnovers, as the Sooners did against Indiana State.
But the crispness with which Oklahoma carried out its game plan
left Stoops to answer a question that hasn't been asked in Norman
for a long while.

It dealt with keeping his starting quarterback in the game,
still winging the football all over the field, in the fourth
quarter when the game was well in hand.

"We weren't out there to embarrass anybody," he said, "just
trying to finish the game strong and give our guys a chance to play
and compete