football Edit

Where does OU go from here?

FORT WORTH, Texas – All first-year Oklahoma head coach Brent Venables could do was sit back in his chair and try to find the words.

For the second straight game, his team didn’t look prepared, didn’t play tough or disciplined and left with a loss.

This one, though, a 55-24 shellacking at the hands of TCU has a much different vibe than the competitive battle vs. Kansas State a week before.

OU was never in this one against the Frogs, and it only kept going from bad to worse. And when you thought it had reached the bottom, there was still another floor to fall through.

“I don’t know,” said Venables about how close OU is to figuring it out. “I mean not very. We're not very good obviously right now. We have a lot to get better at, a lot to improve.

“Things don't get any easier for us. The commitment has been there. Everything we've asked, they've responded. I'm incredibly disappointed for them.”

You knew there would be some first-year head coach moments for Venables, but nobody thought the defense was going to be the No. 1 issue.

And nobody could have seen it coming at all based on the first three weeks of the season. Just like that, however, OU is 3-2 overall and 0-2 in the Big 12 for the second time in three seasons.

That 2020 team bounced back to run the table and earn another Big 12 championship. This one? How about we just start with some basics and fundamentals and work from there, OK?

As Venables explained the defensive issues in the postgame press conference, you could see his temperature rising. He essentially had to stop himself a couple of times from really losing his cool.

It was simply that kind of day, where no explanation is enough and leaving with way more questions than answers.

“The explosive runs are the ones that really -- are the ones that are backbreakers, you know? They're gonna get some plays here or there but you can't give up the explosives,” Venables said. “And today we did that. Like I said, they had a 67, 36, a 69 and a 35, those are the rushes. And the pass plays, 73-yarder and a 72-yarder.”

TCU finished with 668 total yards of offense (361 rushing, 307 passing) and averaged 8.9 yards per play.

Everything that was emphasized about a quick start and being physical and all that stuff, out the window once the game began.

“Just that we don’t start games as fast and intense as I’d like,” said linebacker David Ugwoegbu about the most frustrating part. “I don’t think there is an underlying reason behind it. I don’t know what to call it. I feel prepared and I feel like we all feel prepared going into the game. We just have to execute.”

It’s back to the drawing board. Again. Team 128 has been built around the idea of camaraderie and togetherness. It’s going to be tested like never before.

And with the Red River Rivalry against Texas coming up, well, all bets are off as to what to expect from this group.

“We’ll go back and look at it,” wide receiver Marvin Mims said. “Talked about it last week and talked about it this week again. But basically, just physicality. Toughness. Especially going on the road when nobody’s gonna be with you. Yeah, I mean, we got a big one next week in Dallas. Half and half. It’s gonna be a big game. We’re gonna have to play.”

Walking wounded

Oh man, where to begin with the OU injury/inactive report? The Sooners were already missing running back Marcus Major and defensive end Marcus Stripling, unexpectedly, heading into the game.

Then one after another against the Frogs. Safety Billy Bowman, offensive tackle Wanya Morris, quarterback Dillon Gabriel, wide receiver Theo Wease and safety Damond Harmon, among others who missed time but returned like offensive linemen Anton Harrison and Andrew Raym.

Gabriel and Harmon were both incredibly scary sights to see. Harmon went down midway through the fourth quarter, remaining on the turf for more than 15 minutes and being taken away on a backboard and cart.

“He’s had a history of some back issues and the surgeon that was there felt like his neck was stable and OK but they’re gonna do an MRI and check him out,” Venables said. “Taking obviously some precautions and obviously he was in some pain, a lot of pain.”

Teammates such as Justin Harrington and Kelvin Gilliam were visibly shaken up, and it punctuated a rough afternoon.

Gabriel left the game with under 10 minutes left in the second quarter, after taking a hard hit as he was sliding. That was a confirmed targeting call, but Gabriel was also down for an extended period of time before making it to his feet and eventually getting to the locker room.

“It was very emotional,” tight end Brayden Willis said. “You never want to see anybody go through that, especially your teammate and your guy, the head man of the offense. It was tough. There's a lot of emotions running through everybody. We've just got to see where he's at and go on from there.”