Stoops sees plenty to fix, but also plenty of potential

Friday, September 8th 2006, 9:54 pm
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ Not even star tailback Adrian Peterson escaped criticism after Oklahoma got past its season opener with a slim victory.

Coach Bob Stoops criticized his defense for overpursuing and missing too many tackles, his secondary for communicating poorly and his receivers for dropping passes and running routes incorrectly. Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson pointed out that Peterson, who had two second-half touchdowns to put the Sooners ahead to stay, made mistakes too, including missed blocks, not enough straight-ahead running and one of four Oklahoma turnovers.

But with all that, Oklahoma still had reason to be happy. Unlike last season, the Sooners made it through Week 1 with a win.

``A win is a win,'' quarterback Paul Thompson said. ``It's the first game of the year. Coming out of this game, I feel real confident and the team feels real confident. It's something to build on.''

The Sooners' first chance will come Saturday when Tyrone Willingham brings Washington (1-0) to town. After its 24-17 opening win against UAB, Oklahoma (1-0) dropped five spots _ the biggest fall of any team that won last week _ to No. 15 in the AP poll.

``It doesn't much matter,'' Stoops said.

Stoops tempered criticism of his team with praise for some individual performances, including Peterson, tight end Joe Jon Finley, his return specialists and Thompson, who got a second chance at quarterback when starter Rhett Bomar was dismissed last month.

``I believe he played well. I believe he'll continue to get better as we go through the year, the more comfortable he becomes. That should only get better and better as he plays,'' Stoops said.

That seemed to be the overriding opinion for Stoops, who dismissed any negative perception about the Sooners in the polls or in the eyes of the public.

``If we don't win by 30, everybody's disappointed. That's the way it goes,'' Stoops said.

``In the end, I see what we have a chance to do,'' he added.

Washington is also looking for improvement after a 35-29 opening win against San Jose State, led by second-year starter Isaiah Stanback at quarterback. Stanback threw for 168 yards, ran for 102 more and accounted for two touchdowns against San Jose State.

Willingham expects Oklahoma to be focused on stopping Stanback.

``I'd say he's improved everywhere,'' Willingham said. ``The overall experience and knowledge he brings to our football team is so much better. It allows him to be so much better, so much more confident, so much more poised in his play. That's a week-to-week thing you have to see and hopefully it continues, and he'll be very strong and positive for us the entire season.''

The only other time Washington and Oklahoma met on a football field, there were national title implications and a horse-drawn schooner played a role in the outcome.

Oklahoma, ranked No. 2, had a field goal called back against the Huskies in the 1985 Orange Bowl because of a penalty and then had to move an additional 15 yards back because the Sooner Schooner had entered the field to celebrate the field goal prematurely. The ensuing kick was blocked and even though the Sooners later made a field goal to go ahead 17-14, Washington eventually rallied back for a 28-17 win. BYU was crowned the national champion.

Stoops said he didn't know if that bit of infamous history would have the Sooners seeking payback two decades later.

``You can say they do, but is it truly going to sink in? I don't know that that's realistic,'' Stoops said. ``In the end, this is a different time and the bottom line I think as much as anything, you establish, you understand that they're a very prideful and strong program like we are and you need to be ready to play.''