DALLAS — Mike Stoops had an answer for every question except, once again, how to stop an OU opponent.
The Oklahoma defensive coordinator spoke for more than 15 minutes to the media Saturday after No. 7 Oklahoma’s 48-45 loss to No. 19 Texas. He owned the performance the Sooner Nation has blamed him for.
“I’m extremely disappointed in my inability to get this team to play at a higher level,” Stoops said. “It takes everybody pulling the same way, and I certainly take a lot of that responsibility.”
This has been a recurring theme the past four years — the defense plays poorly, the offense bails them out and Stoops takes the blame. But this time the offense’s late heroics weren’t enough to bail them out, and it may have just cost the Sooners their season, just like it did last year … and the two years before that.
And that’s why something has to change — assistant coaches, players, schemes, mentality — if Oklahoma wants to once again reach the pinnacle of college football.
And just so it’s clear, Saturday’s rock bottom result is not the reason something needs to change. It’s just another step back in the disaster that has been the Sooner defense the past few years.
Since Stoops has returned to Norman in 2012, Oklahoma has finished in the top 30 in total defense just twice. Here’s where the Sooners ranked in total defense the past six years: 67th (2017), 69th (2016), 29th (2015), 55th (2014), 29th (2013) and 51st (2012).
Heading into the Red River Showdown, the Sooners ranked 89th — it’s not getting better, it’s getting worse.
Texas came into Saturday’s game averaging 28 points and 390 yards a game. The Sooners gave up 48 points and 501 yards Saturday. Oklahoma looked confused the majority of the game lining up wrong and constantly looking to the sideline as if to be asking for answers on how to slow down the Longhorns. And rarely did the Sooners match Texas’ physicality.
“We didn’t tackle well … I didn’t think we covered well … And the glaring deal was the third-and-longs,” coach Lincoln Riley said. “We didn’t get enough stops.”
And that right there has been the ending of too many stories for the Sooners since Riley arrived at Oklahoma and turned the Sooners into the offensive powerhouse they are. Oklahoma has finished in the top five for total offense each of the last three years and are on pace to do so again this year.
In 2015, a Texas team that finished 5-7 and fielded two receivers as quarterbacks put up 24 on the Sooners, which then was followed by Clemson ending their season in a 37-point performance. In 2016, Oklahoma allowed 78 combined points by Houston and Ohio State to derail their season just as it started. In 2017, Iowa State bullied its way to 38 points and a win in Norman while Georgia ended the Sooners' season with 54 points.
And in 2018, after a disastrous performance against Texas, it looks to be trending in the same direction. In their last two losses, the Sooners have been outscored 102-93.
For a program that once prided itself on defense, how is that acceptable? And how much longer will Riley allow the defense to hold him, and his team, back?
Fans automatically want to point to Stoops when things go wrong, and rightfully so, as he is in command of the defense at the end of the day. But at some point every defensive player, coach and staff member needs to take a good look in the mirror too, because it’s not one man’s fault.
“It’s all frustrating,” Stoops said. “It hurts. But it is what it is.”
Riley may now have to contemplate doing what his predecessor never would to get his team to the next level: letting Mike Stoops go.