Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Season report card: Oklahoma
By David Ubben
We're grading each Big 12 team's season right now, and we'll move on to the next team on the list: The Oklahoma Sooners.
OFFENSE: The year got off to a rocky start out in El Paso, with the Sooners needing late touchdowns from Brannon Green and Damien Williams to break away from a near upset to the Miners. After another ugly game against Kansas State full of costly turnovers, the Sooners hit their stride. It all started with 41 points on the road against Texas Tech in a stadium the Sooners historically struggled in, but a 63-point outburst in the Red River Rivalry had Oklahoma fans thinking big again. Landry Jones was still continually unappreciated, but he helped win shootouts down the stretch against Baylor, Oklahoma State and West Virginia, and carried the Sooners in a tough game against TCU. The streakiness hit a bad spot in the Cotton Bowl loss to Texas A&M, which costs them in my grade. The running game was OK, but not outstanding outside of some long runs from Williams, but credit Jones for developing chemistry with a whole new unit of receivers. This was a gutsy finish from the offensive line, too, which dealt with a ton of injuries this year. Lane Johnson, Gabe Ikard and Ty Darlington all played well down the stretch. GRADE: A-
DEFENSE: The memories of 500-yard outings from Tavon Austin and Johnny Manziel are fresh in their minds, but this defense wasn't as awful as some believed. The linebackers were quiet this year in Mike Stoops' well-publicized scheme that stressed gap responsibility and freed up Tony Jefferson to make well over 100 tackles and leave for the NFL. Before Nov. 10, Oklahoma had given up more than 24 points just one time, and that team (Notre Dame) played for the national title. The end of the season wasn't as rosy, and the Sooners gave up 34, 49, 48 and 41 points. It was a bad finish, but Oklahoma did fix its problems stopping the deep ball from last year. That's something, and it helped Oklahoma win eight consecutive Big 12 games, which is no small feat. GRADE: B
OVERALL: Bob Stoops has gone a postseason crusade making it clear mediocrity isn't enough, but this really is a tough balance. Oklahoma's won 10 games in three consecutive seasons after a disappointing eight-win campaign in 2009, and won at least a share of a Big 12 title in two of the last three seasons. Oklahoma hasn't been to the BCS since the 2010 season, but they've won a whole bunch of games, just not enough to come anywhere close to the national championship game, which Stoops set as a standard early in his coaching tenure in Norman. Oklahoma's season ended ugly, but all three losses were to teams in the top 11 this year, and A&M might have been the hottest team in the country to close the year. This was an unsatisfying year in Norman, but how unsatisfied can you really be with a share of the Big 12 title? GRADE: B+