Sooners need quick improvement

Without fixes, Oklahoma's remaining schedule could lead to disastrous season

Updated: September 25, 2012, 10:16 PM ET
By Jake Trotter | SoonerNation

Justin Tuggle, Jarrell ChildsMatthew EmmonsAfter a loss at home to Kansas State, Landry Jones and the Sooners could be in for a long season.
NORMAN, Okla. -- On his team's opening drive Saturday night, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder made a peculiar decision.

After an impressive drive, the Wildcats faced fourth-and-1 at the Oklahoma 36-yard line. But despite possessing a quarterback tailor-made for the quarterback sneak, Snyder elected to punt.

And in three minutes, Snyder's game plan became apparent. Don't give OU any breaks -- and wait for the Sooners to shoot themselves in the foot.

The Sooners obliged, committing three turnovers that led to 17 points, as K-State exited Norman with a 24-19 victory.

"We just put the defense in bad spots," center Gabe Ikard said. "Kind of uncharacteristic stuff for us there."

But the reality is, such discombobulation is becoming too characteristic of this program. And given the remaining schedule, OU could be teetering on the verge of a disastrous season if rapid improvement is not made.

"I guess we came out there and people were shaky, I don't know," safety Tony Jefferson said. "We just lost focus. You can't go against a top-25 team like that regardless where you're at, home or away."

Guess what? The Sooners have six Top 25 teams left on the schedule.

Seventh-ranked West Virginia continues to look like one of the best teams in the country not named Alabama. No. 14 TCU's defense has been stifling so far. Tenth-ranked Texas might be the most improved team in the Big 12, and No. 11 Notre Dame might be the most improved squad in the country.

The Sooners would have lost to any of those four opponents playing the way they did last night.

"We've got to fight our way through it," defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "But I don't think there's anything we can't fix."

But there's much to fix, and not much time to do it.

The Sooners essentially had three weeks to prepare for Kansas State, and yet at times looked like a team that had crammed in its game plan the night before.

The defense alone squandered three timeouts because it lined up wrong. And twice when the Sooners needed a key third-down stop in the fourth quarter, they blew the coverage. On a third-and-12, Gabe Lynn and Aaron Colvin turned Tramaine Thompson loose on a wheel route down the sidelines. The Wildcats went on to score to take the 24-13 lead.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
J.P. Wilson/Icon SMIKansas State scored 17 points off the Sooners' three turnovers, including Blake Bell's red zone fumble.
The next possession on third-and-11, linebacker Tom Wort allowed Thompson to cut across the field unscathed for a first down. The Wildcats went on to run out the clock.

"We just got out-executed in the fourth quarter," Mike Stoops said, "and that was really the game."

But while the defense had lapses in the fourth quarter, the offensive turnovers were really the game. Two fumbles and an interception led to 17 K-State points, while also costing OU a touchdown.

The most alarming quote for the rest of the season came from the K-State locker room. Underscoring Snyder's perceived game plan, defensive end Adam Davis noted that the Wildcats "knew" Jones was not good with pressure and worked on flushing him out of the pocket in practice all week.

"Get to his blindside and he's going to get jittery," Davis said. "When we'd get upfield and start jabbing his feet real quick -- that let us know that he don't like nobody on his blindside, and we tried to attack it all night."

Better believe Texas and Notre Dame and West Virginia are going to watch Saturday's game film and try to do the same. And if Jones and the Sooners don't get right and quick, Kansas State could mark the beginning of a nightmarish season.