No. 16 Sooners seek strong finish

Tuesday, November 14th 2006, 3:08 pm
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) On the rebound with a 5-game winning streak, #16 Oklahoma is focused on keeping its momentum and preventing a late season letdown.

Much like last season, the Sooners (8-2, 5-1) have bounced back from a loss to Texas by putting together a string of wins. But last season, the Sooners' streak ended in their next to last regular season game on a disputed last-second touchdown at Texas Tech.

The Sooners want to avoid a similar fate this week at Baylor (4-7, 3-4)

``What'll matter is can we keep the progress going? Can we keep improving this week? That's what kind of our measuring stick has been with ourself is getting ourself better,'' coach Bob Stoops said Tuesday. ``We've got areas that we're still working on that we feel we can improve, and the players see it plain as day.''

The most disappointing area for Stoops was turnovers. The Sooners lost three fumbles against Texas Tech last week, and quarterback Paul Thompson's lone interception was returned for a touchdown. He was pleased, however, that Thompson bounced back to throw for a career high 309 yards and restore balance to Oklahoma's offense after a run dependent outing at Texas A&M.

``We still have to show that we're peaking or that we're playing as good as we can, and that's what we're pushing for,'' Stoops said. ``It is a factor. We need to be strong late, and that's what we're trying to do.''

There are some potential distractions. The Bedlam game against Oklahoma State looms next week, and there's a possibility that 2004 Heisman runner-up Adrian Peterson could return from a broken collarbone in time to play. The Sooners are also still alive in the race for the Big 12 title, although it will take a second straight loss by 1st place Texas for that to happen.

``We've got to take care of our stuff. What happens after that, happens,'' Thompson said. ``We're definitely aware of that, but we can't really look forward to things that aren't in our full control.''

Answering a question about Peterson's probable return, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said the Sooners should be focused on their goals instead.

``I think that's the key for this week is keeping these young guys honed on this team and honed on us and finishing,'' Wilson said. ``Most of these guys have never played this much and played this hard. (We need) to be strong enough and tough enough to finish out as we go down the stretch.''

Oklahoma is particularly young on offense, where there are only three players that were starting at their current position at this time last season.

``We've got a young group, and my concern with a young group is young guys that have never played this much at the end of the year, they kind of hit that wall,'' Wilson said.

The Sooners' final 2 regular season games provide little opportunity to make a statement and move up in the BCS standings. Oklahoma remains at #17 this week, although five teams ahead of the Sooners were upset last week.

``It is unfortunate that there are some teams ahead of us that I definitely don't think should be, but again we can't do much about that,'' Thompson said. ``Hopefully in the end if we take care of what we need to take care of, people will recognize that and put us where we need to be.''