By John Shinn
CNHI News Service
NORMAN – The last time Oklahoma started the Big 12 Conference schedule with two losses was 1998. That losing streak grew to five straight before it finally ended. The coaching change that followed was widely praised.
It would be absurd to think the 17th-ranked Sooners (2-1, 0-1 Big 12) are stumbling down the same inept path as former coach John Blake’s squad did 14 years ago. There are 13 seasons of evidence that OU coach Bob Stoops knows how to guide a team through a successful season.
Nevertheless, once a team begins spiraling downward it’s a pattern that’s hard to pull out of.
OU’s opportunity to ascend comes today at Texas Tech (4-0, 1-0). However, there are so many questions about which OU team will show up. Will it be dominant? Will it be lethargic?
No one knows.
The Sooners, however, fully grasp the magnitude of today’s game. It’s been 14 days since the season was tipped by a 24-19 Owen Field loss to No. 7 Kansas State.
It caused some soul searching.
“I think at OU, sometimes things come easily,” middle linebacker Tom Wort said. “When you take a loss, you get that chip on your shoulder and it kind of revitalizes you and gives you that attitude. I think we’ve always had that attitude (that) whenever we’ve had a loss, we’ve come back with an attitude. You prepare that much more with intensity. I think it helps.”
OU has played some of its best games after losses. The highlight of the 2011 season was a 58-17 route of Kansas State a week after the Sooners were stunned by the Red Raiders.
OU rebounded from a loss at Texas A&M in 2010 by thumping Texas Tech. But there are no guarantees trends of past seasons will carry over.
Those previous teams had already shown they were capable of playing dominant football. The Sooners haven’t this season. The offense has been inconsistent. The defense has had issues against the run. If either problem carries over it’s going to be tough to win in an environment where OU hasn’t won since 2003.
Stoops hates to compare seasons. There’s always something a little different about each team. He likes the way his team has practiced for the last two weeks.
“You’re still gonna have to go and execute well, and we did at Kansas State a year ago, and didn’t turn the ball over,” he said. “In the end, yes, I see the same kind of attitude in how they’re working and coming to practice, coming to meetings. “
It doesn’t mean it will translate to on-the-field success.
The only guarantee for this game is the fact Texas Tech has OU’s undivided attention. The loss to Kansas State opened some eyes that might have been closed.
Losing has that effect.
“I think it just happens once you lose a game,” center Gabe Ikard said. “You get a little more focused, maybe. I don’t know what it is. We just lost to a good team, but it’s one of those things where it definitely heightens your awareness a little bit.
“You maybe have a little small change in, maybe, your preparation or something. Each guy is different for that.”