Stoops: Sooners `pretty darn good' but not good enough

Tuesday, October 10th 2006, 9:46 pm
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ It used to be that Oklahoma would come up with all the momentum-changing plays in their annual rivalry game with Texas.

Now it seems all those plays _ and the wins that go along with them _ are going the Longhorns' way.

For the second straight year, Oklahoma came up short in the Red River Rivalry. The most notable stat: The Sooners had five turnovers, while Texas had none.

It's a complete turnaround from Oklahoma's five-year winning streak, when the Sooners forced 19 Texas turnovers. In losses the past two years, the Sooners have only one takeaway against the Longhorns.

``It's hard to put your finger on it in that we're doing a lot of things that we've done traditionally here for eight years and haven't been able to come up with that big play _ whether it be a deflection, an interception, a sack, rip the ball out, whatever,'' coach Bob Stoops said Tuesday as the No. 23 Sooners (3-2, 0-1 Big 12) prepare to play Iowa State (3-3, 0-2).

``It's hard to put your finger on exactly why, other than we've just got to keep pushing for more _ more aggressiveness, more discipline in what we're doing. All of it. We've just got to keep pushing for that kind of play.''

That was what Oklahoma had become known for under Stoops. Roy Williams' Superman-style leap over a Texas blocker to cause Chris Simms interception for a touchdown was the most memorable one, but plenty of other Sooners created turnovers too.

On Saturday, Oklahoma had some success stifling Texas. Of the Longhorns' first nine drives, they went three-and-out six times. The problem was that the other three drives went for touchdowns, and none of Oklahoma's stops created enough momentum or field position to help the Sooners' offense.

``We do want and expect big plays. We always want turnovers and push for them, and we're going to keep doing it,'' Stoops said. ``That's what's frustrating I guess as a coach is so many parts of that game were pretty darn good, but they weren't good enough obviously.''

Stoops pointed out that Oklahoma held Texas to a season-low 232 total yards and held the Longhorns to three-and-outs on five of their six first-half drives.

``It isn't like they're not playing well,'' Stoops said. ``We just haven't come up with the big play. We're not playing in that way where we creating a lot of big plays.''

And it's not just against Texas. Through five games, starting defensive ends C.J. Ah You and Calvin Thibodeaux have zero sacks. They combined for 17 last season. Five of linebacker Rufus Alexander's 5 1/2 tackles for loss came against Middle Tennessee.

Except for a 33-yard touchdown pass from Colt McCoy to Limas Sweed, Stoops said he was pleased with the overall play of his secondary, where personnel has been shuffled all season long, against Texas. He blamed the offense's subpar production on a season-high 11 penalties and the turnovers, not on poor execution.

And despite the loss, Stoops said he feels better about his team now than he did a week ago.

``I look at all the positives that are there and then the things that hurt us, can we correct them? Sure,'' Stoops said. ``We can eliminate some of those penalties, we can take care of the football better, we can not give up the one pass that we did.

``If we do those things, we've got a chance to be much improved this week and from here on out. That's what we're trying to do.''

Under Stoops, the Sooners are 7-0 the week after the Red River rivalry. They bounced back from last season's Texas loss by winning their next four games, and six of their last seven.

``We went on a good little stretch right after that and through the end of the year,'' quarterback Paul Thompson said. ``After that game I think we knew what kind of team we had and again after this game this year, we know what kind of team we have and how close we are.''