OU with another hard learned lesson
When you want to get to the pulse of Oklahoma, there are a lot of choices to pick from. Not the most obvious, but usually sixth-year senior wide receiver Nick Basquine is full of answers.
Being in the program since 2014, he’s the only Sooner to be on campus pre-Lincoln Riley and nobody has seen the transformation of the offense as much first-hand the way Basquine has.
But what Basquine had zero answers for is something OU fans wish they knew the answer to the problem. Why does it take an unexpected loss for the Sooners to find their footing?
Before there was the disaster in Manhattan two weeks ago at Kansas State, there was an even more shocking defeat when Iowa State came to Norman and upset the Sooners in 2017.
History has shown OU lays an egg once a year as a double-digit favorite. It looked like 2019 wasn’t going to have that hiccup. Now that the Sooners have experienced it, however, everybody will get a chance to see if they replicate the same type of success OU had in 2015, 2017 and 2018 in advancing to the college football playoff with one loss.
“Kind of like I said last week, every loss at OU is shocking. It hits you different,” Riley said. “It hits you hard. This one was no different. The opportunities after it are no different either. It’s chance for us to really rally as a team. We know the opportunities that are in front of us. We know what we can do if we play our style of ball and play to the level that we expect regardless of what the expectations are on the outside.”
We also know the Sooners are going to need a little help. Although OU has never been in the initial top four of the college football playoff rankings in the three years it has reached that pinnacle, the task seems a little more daunting this year even if No. 9 seems very doable.
None of the wacky scenarios necessary, of course, mean anything if the Sooners don’t right the wrongs from KSU and run the table the rest of the way. That begins Saturday night with Iowa State. And if you want to call it a revenge game for 2017’s home loss, sure, go ahead.
“I feel like this sense of urgency was there before, but I don't feel like it was the way that it is now,” linebacker Kenneth Murray said. “And I think guys realized now the position that we put ourselves in that we really do have to take advantage of every opportunity.
“But I also think that the losses, it’s definitely a lesson. Could be a blessing in disguise and allow us to take our game to another level and use that adversity in the right way.”
There’s almost literally zero explanation for what happened in the third quarter at KSU. Being outscored 17-0, fumbling a kickoff and netting 12 yards on six plays. Nothing about those 15 minutes make sense, especially for a team that has fared so well coming out of halftime.
But if you wondered about the fight the Sooners had, they showed it in the fourth quarter. They showed it in turning a 48-23 deficit into 48-41 and being one half yard away on an onside kick from really making things interesting.
Maybe upon initially being struck in the mouth, OU blinked. The Sooners found their footing and really are only even in the CFP conversation because of what happened in the final 12 minutes two weeks ago.
“I just want to leave my mark. I just want to show everybody that this team we have, the 2019 Sooners, we have fight,” said wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, who got the 18-0 run started with a 70-yard touchdown catch. “We’re not going to go out without it. We’re just going to play together.
“If I need to be the one to make the play, then I‘m going to do my best and make the best of my opportunities. With that play being called, I definitely did, safe to say.”
Another common thread is how the loss is viewed initially compared to how it could be at season’s end. ISU beat another top-five team that 2017 season in TCU as Matt Campbell continued to turn the program around.
Because maybe the crazy thing is having OU a 23-point favorite on the road against a team like KSU. The Wildcats are now 6-2 and ranked No. 16 in the CFP poll. Again, that’s just the kind of standard OU has set for itself against the rest of the Big 12 field.
“I don’t think there was a shock that it happened,” Riley said. “But I think there was disappointment on the things we can control and could have controlled, where if we do one of the 50 things better, we win the football game.
“So disappointment, then a quick refocus because we know what’s in front of us. I thought the team bounced back and had an extremely competitive week of practice, and they’ll absolutely be ready to play Saturday at 7.”
A lot of OU fans want revenge vs. KSU just like the Sooners were able to do last year against Texas. But first? It’s the Cyclones and making sure a repeat of 2017 is not in the cards. Another lesson that had to be learned the hard way.