COLUMN: Mindset key for talented Sooner team against Aggies
Kingsley Burns, The Oklahoma Daily
It is no surprise that a good portion of the Sooner faithful were ready to consider this season a bust after OU lost to Texas Tech on its home field a couple weeks ago.
Expectations surrounding football run high around these parts. Add to that the fact that the Sooners had two Heisman contenders and almost every starter from the previous year returning, and it is easy to see why OU fans consider anything less than a national championship this season as a bad year.
Even after the loss, though, the players and coaches on the OU football team maintained that all of their goals were still in front of them. They said they simply have to play to the best of their potential and see what happens.
“You never know what’s going to happen in college football,” junior quarterback Landry Jones said a day after the Texas Tech loss. “It’s still out there for us, and everything’s out there in front of us. We just have to limit our mistakes and learn from it.”
That kind of talk was no surprise. It was what people expect to hear from coaches and players in the middle of a season. It was about keeping the team’s morale up more than anything.
Or, was it?
Could it be that this time the coaches and players, brimming with optimism, had it right all along? It certainly seems that way.
Not even two weeks removed from a loss that most fans were sure had ruined OU’s hopes of reaching college football’s Promised Land, an eighth Sooner national title again seems like a legitimate possibility.
Granted, OU needs some help by way of a Stanford loss. However, it is hard to imagine the Sooners winning out and not being ranked in the top three.
That being said, the Texas Tech loss may have been the wakeup call OU needed. Players who may have developed a sense of invulnerability found out that they are, in fact, very vulnerable if not playing their hardest. OU’s sense of invincibility, especially at home, was shattered. In short, the Sooners were humbled in a big way.
The Sooners have won this year, but they have done so in a sloppy fashion. The team came out with no intensity in its games against Missouri and Kansas. But, the Sooners overcame slow starts and sloppy play to win those games primarily because they had the superior athletes on the field.
The problem with that strategy is it can become a state of mind. For the better part of the season, the Sooners have seemed to be playing not to lose rather than to win.
While the underdogs face OU with passion and intensity, playing like they have nothing to lose, OU has been playing the part of Goliath, expecting to simply crush anything in its path.
It is hard to tell from Oklahoma’s recent dismantling of Kansas State whether the team learned its lesson from its only loss of the year. After all, the Sooners have brought their ‘A’ game every time they have played nationally ranked opponents. Only time will tell.
Regardless of how bad the players want it, every team has a bad week, every player has a bad game, and any team is capable of pulling off an upset at any time. That is the nature of college football and sports in general. However, if the Sooners did take their most recent lesson to heart, OU could be a force to be reckoned with.
For Sooner fans, the thought of this team, as talented and athletic as it is, playing with the same underdog mentality that Texas Tech had in Norman a couple of weeks ago has to be exciting.
Greg Fewell is a journalism senior and the assistant sports editor for The Daily. You can follow him on Twitter at @gregfewell.