No. 19 Sooners seeking first road win

Tuesday, October 24th 2006, 11:15 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ The last two times Oklahoma has hit the road to play at opponents' stadiums, the Sooners have had two unwanted travel partners: controversy and defeat.

Approaching a difficult stretch away from home, the 19th-ranked Sooners could do without either one. Four of Oklahoma's next five games will be on the road in Big 12 play, with the first one coming Saturday at No. 23 Missouri.

It's the first true road game for the Sooners (5-2, 2-1) since they lost 34-33 at Oregon in September. That defeat came only after an erroneous call on an onside kick awarded possession to Oregon and led to a last-minute score.

Before that, Oklahoma's last road trip was a 23-21 defeat at Texas Tech last November, when Taurean Henderson scored on a 2-yard run on the final play. Instant replay reviews to determine whether Henderson indeed crossed the goal line were inconclusive.

Indeed, it's been a rough stretch away from home for the Sooners. Including those two controversial defeats, Oklahoma is 3-6 in its last nine games away from Norman. Before that, the Sooners had won six in a row away from home.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Tuesday he doesn't alter his approach to games just because they're not at Owen Field, where the Sooners are 5-0 this season. He believes the keys to victory are still the same _ a defense that doesn't give up big plays, an offense balanced between the run, a strong kicking game and limited turnovers.

``I'll say that here. I'll say that there. That doesn't change for me,'' Stoops said. ``To me, I don't see that all of a sudden you have a new strategy when you go on the road.''

In Stoops' time at Oklahoma, the Sooners have played 48 games at home and 50 at other sites. Stoops is 46-2 at Owen Field and 34-16 on the road or at neutral sites.

``The only difference is you're taken out of your home routine,'' Stoops said. ``You have to travel the day before. You get plenty of rest at the hotel. It's just changing in a different locker room. All the semantics of playing on the road. In the end, that's the difference.''

He downplayed the effect of crowd noise, saying he was oblivious to it in his days playing at Iowa.

``I never noticed a crowd,'' Stoops said. ``You're deaf out there.''

That won't stop the Sooners from going through their usual preparations for road games. They'll practice with a silent snap count and use simulated noise during practice. That's all just to get the players ready to do what they need to do on game day.

``You focus on what's going to happen on the field,'' Stoops said. ``Ultimately, that's all that matters. You've got to be able to make plays in situations away from home just like you would at home.''

Missouri (7-1, 3-1) will be the fifth straight ranked opponent for the Sooners away from home. Oklahoma is 1-3 in its previous four road games, with the only win coming against No. 6 Oregon in the Holiday Bowl. Another ranked opponent, No. 22 Texas A&M, looms on Nov. 4.

After that, it's home for Texas Tech before away games at Baylor and Oklahoma State to finish the season.

``It'll be a challenge for us this week and in four of our remaining games to be a smart enough, disciplined enough and tough enough team to play solid ball on the road,'' offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said.

It's the first time since 1986 that Oklahoma has closed the regular season with four of its last five games on the road. That year, Oklahoma went through the stretch 5-0 and then beat Arkansas in the Orange Bowl.