From everything I have watched this year, my eyes tell me OU is going to win the National Championship game tonight. Both teams' résumés look a lot more questionable after the bowl games. However, OU has more Top 25 wins and the Tech game that so many SEC fans are using as evidence. Well, Ole Miss did make Tech look like a WAC team, but OU made them look like a JUCO team the way they laid it on them.
With coach Bob Stoops' recent history, I just cannot be very confident about their chances. So I have decided to look at his top five letdowns, and really, to be fair, the top five covers almost all of them. Yeah, he has lost more than five, but really only about 5-8 can be blamed on bad coaching—but some of it was real bad coaching.
Stoops' mantra all year has been that despite the recent failures, this is a different team, which is true. But one factor remains the same, and that factor is Bob Stoops. He remains the same coach that had got burned, outcoached, and outsmarted in his biggest games of the past six years.
Now, I am an OU fan and a huge supporter of Stoops. I will not be one of the fans calling for his head if we get another disappointment tonight. Actually, I will argue with anyone that will listen why we should keep him. Yet fair is fair, and as much of a man crush as I may have on him, he has disappointed the fans a lot since November 2003.
So here is the list, love it, hate it, or leave it.
Number Five: 2008 Fiesta Bowl against West Virginia 48-28
This was the hardest one to come up with. I grappled with this and recruiting Rhett Bomar. But Bomar could have happened to any coach, and it may have been a blessing in disguise. With Bomar getting kicked off the team, it opened the way for Stoops to land Sam Bradford. Sam was considering Texas Tech before being offered by Bob Stoops.
Now, on to the game. There were not too many specific plays you can look at, but the team was unprepared to play in this game. Not spying Patrick White every play and using inside linebackers on some of the spy plays is just laughable.
While you probably could not prepare yourself for the speed of White, or Devine, even the fullback broke one for 60 yards. The West Virginia offense was one-dimensional that game because that dimension was running all over the Sooners.
Number Four: 2007 Fiesta Bowl against Boise State 43-42
This game would be at number three if it were a national championship game, but since it was not, it lands at number four.
The two big coaching errors in this game were an unprepared team to start the game and over-aggressiveness late.
The first part is, at the end of that game OU was enforcing their will on the Broncos but early on Boise State took it to OU, going up 14-0 early in the first quarter and 28-10 early in the third.
To OU's credit, they rallied back to take a 35-28 lead with 1:02 left on the clock, but that is when the coaching breakdown began.
Chris Peterson realized that his team had given up 25 straight points and was not going to beat OU the traditional way. So he opened up that section in the back of the playbook, you know, the in case of emergency plays.
After a touchdown drive that featured two big trick plays to force overtime, an HB toss and a Hook and Ladder on 4th-and-18, Stoops and his Sooners were still fooled by a Statue of Liberty play in OT on a two-point conversion.
You know the old saying: fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Well, even that proverb does not deal with the idiocy of getting fooled three times in a row.
Number Three: 2003 National Championship game against LSU 21-14
Overall, this was not a poorly coached game, but the last four OU offensive plays vaulted it way up the list.
LSU looked dominant running early in this game, but OU settled down defensively, and it became a grind it out, who makes the fewest mistakes game for the final three quarters. OU made the big mistake, throwing an interception on a WR screen on the first play of the second half for an easy touchdown. The Sooners still had a chance to tie it at the end of the game.
Late in the fourth quarter, Quentin Griffin was the freshest player on the field. On the final drive of the game, they give it to him time and again, and he was getting 5-8 yards every touch. He gets OU a first down on the LSU 13 with 1:13 on the clock with two or three timeouts left and OU down by seven.
OU had not been able to pass all night, and LSU's CB were still playing superbly, but Stoops decides to let his OC call four straight pass plays to end the game, the last one sailing over the head of Lil' Q himself.
Number Two: 2003 Big 12 Championship game against Kansas State 35-7
Before this game, I heard many media pundits across the nation asking one another if this was the best OU team ever—which automatically puts them in the conversation for best team ever, because the 1955 OU team is one of the best team ever contenders. OU, however, lost their last two games ugly, putting an end to all that conversation.
Mike Stoops had just been hired by Arizona, so this was the first time Brent Venables had to coordinate all by himself. The thing that befuddled me in this game was that the linebackers lined up five yards off the ball all game long. Even late in the game, when they are getting run all over, they are inching backwards closer to seven yards instead of stepping up to stuff the run.
The offensive personnel for K-State definitely showed that you should be playing run D over pass defense. They had an option QB that wasn't a strong passer and Darren Sproles, one of the fastest RBs in the country.
I can honestly say this is the only game I ever watched where I felt more qualified to call the plays on defense than the defensive coordinator. OU did not do anything on offense either, losing the game 35-7, but somehow still managed to get into the NC game. That would not have been so unjust if it were a close game, but no team deserves a NC shot when they just got completely manhandled by another team.
Number One: 2005 BCS game against USC 55-19
There is not anything to say about this game. OU was just beat in every phase of the game and did not belong on the same field as USC. Maybe there was nothing Stoops could have done to win this game, but there is no doubt his team was not mentally prepared for USC.
With Reggie Bush still being investigated by the NCAA—maybe, I think?—there is a chance they could lose this NC because they would have to forfeit the trophy. If so, I do not know what the rules are as far as who gets it, but I hope it does not go to OU, because that would be the most tainted trophy in history after the beatdown they received in that game.
I know you could write an article twice this long about his great coaching accomplishments, and I would not disagree with you. I just wanted to take a good hard look at the letdowns.
But Stoops is right—none of it matters. Well, as long as he wins tonight that is. Another loss and you will guarantee it matters for at least one more year. It will matter to his fans, his critics, the media, and to him. He is a proud man, and no matter what he says, the failure kills him. They do to all great players and coaches, and it is what motivates them to succeed.
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