Stoops tries positive reinforcement for turnover problem

Tuesday, November 21st 2006, 2:35 pm
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops tried harping on his team to try to end a plague of turnovers.

On Tuesday, he tried a different approach.

"I'm not a psychologist, but I know sometimes you can focus on something so much you perpetuate it or can make it worse," Stoops said. "I know our guys are capable of doing it, and hopefully we'll start doing it. I'm going to start talking on the positive side. Maybe they're listening."

Oklahoma and Illinois are tied for last place in Division I with 21 fumbles lost this season. Add in 7 interceptions, and the #13 Sooners (9-2, 6-1 Big 12) are in a tie for 105th place out of 119 top-tier teams with 28 turnovers this season.

But despite all those mistakes, Oklahoma still has an outside chance at the Big 12 title and even an at-large BCS berth. The Sooners have won five games this season when they committed more turnovers than their opponent and have overcome a total of 9 turnovers in back to back wins against Texas Tech and Baylor.

"To still have the record that we have, it shows where we could be as far as scores in close games if we eliminated those turnovers," quarterback Paul Thompson said. "We definitely feel that we can't win turning over the ball that much, but the way we have in the past shows a lot about this team and how good we can be."

A sturdy defense has helped. The Sooners, with the #10 ranked defense in the country, have allowed opponents to score only 51 points off those 28 turnovers. And the defense has actually yielded only 30 of those points, with the remaining 21 coming on opponents
returning 2 fumbles and 1 interception for touchdowns.

By comparison, Oklahoma has scored 85 points off opponents' 23 turnovers.

When Stoops finds himself yelling for the defense to suddenly get on the field, he has generally been pleased with the result.

"I don't know whether it matters suddenly or not. You need to go out and play good defense. We have gotten in a strong habit for a long period of time of playing good defense," Stoops said. "Fortunately, we've been able to -- whether it's sacks, turnovers -- change it and play in a good way coming right off the bench in a surprise situation. Our guys have reacted to it well."

Stoops said he thinks one factor in the rising number of turnovers is that players are trying too hard to make a big play. He said he has told players that no big play should come at the expense of the football.

"I'd rather have 5 or 10 fewer yards and the football than you trying to make it go all the way to whatever and end up losing it. Hopefully, they're understanding that," Stoops said. "Sometimes they're trying to make a big play instead of being secure with the ball. If that means you don't get quite as big a play, so be it."

However, Stoops said the Sooners won't change their approach just to cut down on turnovers in this week's Bedlam rivalry game at Oklahoma State (6-5, 3-4).

"We're going to play and we're going to try to make big plays and do what we always do," Stoops said. "Hopefully, though, we'll finish with the football when we do it."