OU football: Five things we learned from this week's press conference
1. West Virginia is still a big game.
Yes, the Mountaineers (5-4, 2-4 Big 12) are on a four-game skid, but one of the Big 12 conference’s newcomers didn’t get all of the hype of being a top-five opponent earlier in the season without some flash and pizazz. They still have wide receiver studs Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin who can make opposing secondaries look like the Keystone Cops in the backfield. They still have early-Heisman trophy front-runner Geno Smith under center. And barring any freak problems in practice this week, all three proven playmakers will be on the field when the No. 12 Sooners pull into Morgantown this weekend. But OU is playing the opponent not the rankings or numbers game this Saturday.
“Our guys have heard all the hype throughout the year on their high-powered offense and how difficult it is to play up there,” coach Bob Stoops said. “I sensed in the locker room after the game that they understood it and were looking forward to the challenge of it.”
2. OU’s run defense knows it messed up against Baylor.
After the game Saturday, the Sooner coaching staffed was pleased the team’s passing defense did its job, limiting Baylor to season lows in several passing categories while quarterback Nick Florence failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season. But OU’s front seven still gave up too many yards on the ground to a Bears team that didn’t have a potent running game until after it left Norman. And the Sooners know they have to continue to get better over the next few days in order to become a more consistent defense.
“Good football teams don’t miss tackles,” senior defensive tackle Casey Walker said. “You have to correct that quickly because, at the end of the day, it will catch back up with you and that’s how you lose a ball game.”
3. Senior safety Javon Harris stuck to a very simple game plan to beat his nemesis.
Harris waited a year to finally face Baylor again and pull the thorn out of his side following last year’s loss to the Bears in Waco. The Lawton native took the loss personally and vowed to turn things around in 2012. So it only was fitting Harris played one of the best games of his career and led the Sooners in tackles (14). But the matured veteran didn’t press in the game and instead waited for plays to develop, a patience Harris said helped him improve not just from last year but also has aided the senior this season week-to-week.
“I didn’t want to make some of the same mistakes I made the previous week as far tackling and stuff like that,” Harris said. “I just went into this game and did my job. Personally, I was looking forward to that game, but now I’m ready for West Virginia.”
4. Senior quarterback Landry Jones credits God and offensive line for his safety.
The offensive line has been a mess this year when it comes to switching positions and rotating guys in and out of the lineup because of injuries. But as a four-year starter, Jones may be one of the best protected — or luckiest — quarterbacks in OU’s history for being able to stay healthy throughout the course of his time in Norman. It would be easy to give all the credit to Jones but the captain is quick to thank his supporting cast for keeping him well-protected.
“I’ve taken a lot of big hits around this place and I have never had a concussion and never been really rolled up on,” Jones said. “I truly credit that to God and Him protecting me when I am out on the field and the offensive line has done a really great job.”
5. Stoops is all about safety.
The targeting and hitting defenseless players conversations surrounding both college football and the NFL have stirred up mixed emotions from players, coaches and fans. Is football becoming too soft? What are the long-term effects of multiple concussions? Are the rules set up to favor only the offense? And after a weekend in which three NFL starting quarterbacks had to be sent to the locker room for concussion-like symptoms, Stoops gave his own opinion on the matter during Monday’s presser.
“I think anything that promotes safety of the players is positive,” Stoops said. “I’m an old defensive guy but anything they can do to make the game safer is positive.”