Unlike last year, Sooners show they have swagger to tackle challenges
In a game that was talked about throughout the nation, Oklahoma managed to walk out of Tallahassee, Fla., with a hard-fought victory against Florida State.
With coach Bob Stoops able to quell some of the talk about his team’s past play against ranked teams, they return home Saturday to play the Missouri Tigers.
Throughout the preseason and leading up to the game against Florida State, many pundits focused on the revenge factor the Seminoles would have in the contest. After the 47-17 thrashing the year before, it would make sense for Florida State to want to prove the final score was a fluke.
The same logic applies for Oklahoma against Missouri.
In a game that was broadcast in primetime on ABC and attended by the “College GameDay” crew, the Sooners went into Columbia, Mo., as the No. 1 team in the country. Many people across the country felt the ranking was undeserved, and the Sooners’ play did nothing to derail those thoughts as they lost, 36-27.
Despite the fact OU led the game going into the fourth quarter, there was never a true sense that they were in control of the game. The Sooner defense was gashed by Missouri, giving up 486 total yards in the game, and at times looked confused and out of position.
The offense committed three turnovers as Sooner fans watched an all-too-familiar fourth-quarter collapse in a hostile environment. But this 2011 squad is a different Oklahoma team.
The Sooners have shown a swagger that has been missing on Stoops’ teams since the early 2000s on both sides of the football this season.
In Saturday’s game against Florida State, Oklahoma allowed only 26 yards rushing on 27 attempts. While the offense was sluggish for much of the second and third quarters, the offensive line got a push at times that the Sooners haven’t benefited from in years.
Against Missouri last season, OU lost the lead in the fourth quarter after being outscored 16-6. When Florida State tied the game at 13-13 last Saturday, there was a chance for the game to snowball out of control.
Instead, the Sooners stepped up, recovered from a 3rd-and-28 touchdown pass for Florida State that tied the game, drove the ball 83 yards down the field and retook the lead.
Questions still abound in the secondary after they have given up big plays in both of Oklahoma’s first two games. They have played well for a majority of the snaps but have yet to put it together for a complete game, something that could be a concern against a historically potent Missouri passing attack.
While former Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert is now in the NFL, sophomore James Franklin has played well this season, throwing only one interception in the Tigers’ first three games. He also presents a dual threat, and his ability to rush the football will keep the Sooner defense honest.
When Missouri returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown on the first play of the game last year, it was a sign of things to come for the Sooners. The game ended Oklahoma’s stay at No. 1 only a week after it had begun.
Unlike last year, the Sooners come into this game against Missouri deserving their No. 1 ranking after downing the fifth-ranked team on the road.
Oklahoma has dominated Missouri under Stoops, going 7-1 against the Tigers. With that one loss still fresh on the minds of these players, the Sooners have a chance to begin Big 12 conference play with a victory, and retain the No. 1 ranking Missouri took from them last year.
Jordan Jenson is a film and video studies senior. You can follow him on Twitter at @oujordanjenson.