Lincoln Riley can’t wait for Oklahoma’s next game.
When the Sooners fell 27-14 to Baylor last Saturday, it marked the ninth loss Riley has suffered since becoming OU’s head coach in 2017 and his first in November. In his weekly press conference Tuesday, Riley told reporters he isn’t used to a losing feeling — and he wants to get rid of it right away.
“We wish we were playing today,” Riley said. “We'll continue to prepare hard, work hard (and) do the things that we need to do to be prepared Saturday at 11 a.m.”
No. 13 Oklahoma (9-1, 6-1 Big 12) takes on Iowa State (6-4, 4-3) in its final home game this season on Nov. 20. For the Sooners, the matchup serves as a shot to keep their Big 12 Championship hopes alive and resurrect any College Football Playoff chances they have left. OU’s loss to the Bears dropped the team into a tie for first place in the Big 12 and gave No. 9 Oklahoma State (9-1, 6-1) the conference’s best odds to make the CFP.
Riley believes his team learned a lot about itself after suffering its first loss of the year. With the Cyclones and Cowboys serving as the Sooners’ final regular season opponents, he’s well aware OU needs to improve to accomplish a seventh straight Big 12 title.
“We haven't played consistently enough,” Riley said. “And then again, we've been in just a lot of very low possession, low play games. It's not like we're getting seven or eight possessions in a half. So, those opportunities become so important. I know it sounds like a broken record but that's just kind of the way the year has been.”
Oklahoma’s 14 total points in its loss to Baylor are the lowest the Sooners have scored in a game under Riley, and the lowest the team has recorded in a single game since the 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl — a 40-6 loss to Clemson.
One of Riley’s main frustrations from OU’s upset defeat was his offense’s lack of production. It took the Sooners four drives to finally put points on the board, and freshman quarterback Caleb Williams finished the day 9-of-18 passing for 142 yards, zero passing touchdowns and two interceptions.
Oklahoma’s defense, however, kept the Sooners in the game before a disastrous fourth quarter. Baylor entered the fourth with a 10-7 lead, before its rushing attack finally managed to move the Bears past OU. Running back Abram Smith gutted the Sooners for a 75-yard run shortly after the quarter began.
“We’ve been, maybe, the best team I’ve ever been a part of (where) when one side of the ball is struggling, the other side of the ball (is) lights out,” Riley said. “That, typically to me, is the hardest thing to do in football, because it’s like you’re constantly trying to regain momentum. This team has been phenomenal at that, that’s a reason why we won our first nine games. But we have not been able to sustain momentum.”
Now, the Sooners welcome Iowa State — which ranks No. 10 nationally in total defense — to Norman for their senior day. The Cyclones defeated Oklahoma 37-30 in Ames last season before falling to OU in the Big 12 Championship, 27-21.
Since 2016, each game between Oklahoma and Iowa State has been decided by 10 points or less. While the Sooners likely need an impressive performance to place themselves back in CFP conversations, Riley’s mainly focused on leaving Owen Field on Saturday without the same feeling he shouldered as he departed Waco.
“Wins feel great, and I can’t even describe to you how bad losing feels when this is what you do,” Riley said. “The constant thing for us has always been coming out of it, again, not with that poor me attitude, (but) with a hunger to get better. When you don’t win a game, you can’t ignore it. You can’t just bypass it and go to the next one. You've got to own it, and we will. We’ll own every part of the things that we didn't do well.
“You gotta learn from (losing), but then emotionally (and) mentally you have to get past it. I mean, you got to get on. Our teams of the past have done a phenomenal job of that. We’ll get our chance to do it here. And it'll say a lot about who we are as a football team, and it'll say a lot about our leadership and how close knit this group is.”