COLUMN: Sooners' 800th win frustrating to all
OU’s 800th win was hard to swallow as a struggling Sooner defense allowed 421 yards and 24 points Saturday as the team edged over Utah State with 31 points.
At one point, the Sooners led 21-0 as the assumed stomping of the Aggies was well on its way. However, a few big plays and Sooner penalties would put Utah State into position to put some points on the board.
In fact, had it not been for a Utah State penalty that forced a fake field goal to be called back, the Sooners might have found themselves behind in the third quarter.
“It’s not shocking; it’s frustrating,” linebacker Travis Lewis said. “When you give up 421 yards to any team — not just Utah State — as a defense, you know, that’s not good. It’s not playing up to par. The standards here at Oklahoma — winning is not good enough. We are going to come in tomorrow and fix it, learn and take the coaching and move on as fast as we can.”
Of the 421 total yards of offense that the Sooner allowed the Aggies, 341 yards were from the passing game. Receivers ran rampant through the secondary as OU allowed five passes of 31 yards or more.
“The secondary needs to play better just overall,” defensive back Jonathan Nelson said. “We all know that we didn’t play up to our potential and we realize that we have to prepare better throughout the week.”
Both corner positions were left starter-less at the beginning of this season, as last year’s starters both entered the NFL draft.
The Sooners tried a host of defensive backs to try and fill the void, as nine players appeared in the secondary throughout the game. Of those, five were freshmen and sophomores who had received little to no game experience before.
“We were out–foxed on a number of plays,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “We have to do a better job as coaches to get the guys in better positions and continue to evaluate personnel. We have to get out guys better prepared.”
Coaches and players acknowledged that on many plays, it seemed like the Sooner’s defensive back was right with the receiver on the route but failed to make a play on the ball.
“That’s more frustrating than not being in the right place,” Lewis said. “We can fix not being in the right position or not knowing the calls, but you have to have it inside of you as a player that when the ball is in the air, it’s your ball. And I have confidence in my guys that we have that mentality.”
Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the game is it hints that more difficult weeks are to come. Florida State will travel to Norman on Saturday and will provide a more difficult challenge with more talent and quarterback Christian Ponder.
Ponder threw for 2,717 yards last season along with 14 touchdowns. While Ponder’s top receiver in 2009 graduated, the Seminoles return their next three most productive receivers.
“We have to prepare really well throughout the week,” Nelson said. “We cannot play like that this upcoming week or Florida state will not be happening.”
For now, the Sooners head back to practice this week focused on what they have to improve on to go toe-to-toe with the ‘Noles on Saturday. Defensive end Frank Alexander is said to be making his return this week after missing the game against the Aggies with a sprained ankle.
“It starts with Sunday with film preparation,” Nelson said about this week’s mindset. “Throughout the week, whatever we do whether it’s film, whether it’s practice, we can’t be joking around out there. We have to realize that this is business and we have to try and handle our business day in and day out.”