State Sports

October 27, 2010

OU coach defends late punt in loss


AP College Football Writer

NORMAN — With the BCS standings in the back of his mind, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Tuesday he decided an against-the-odds comeback at Missouri over the weekend wasn’t worth risking a more lopsided loss.

Stoops stood by his decision to punt with less than 2 1/2 minutes remaining and the Sooners down nine points. The polls were on his mind at the time.

“That’s a part of it,” Stoops said, reiterating a position he first took a day earlier after practice. “I don’t know where it will lead, but I thought, ‘The guys have played hard here. We’re in this situation. It’s not where you want to be.’

The Sooners were down 36-27 and faced fourth-and-10 at their own 7-yard line, with no time-outs left, making their chances at a comeback slim. Punting the ball away was essentially a sign that Oklahoma was giving up.

Missouri got the ball, ran it three times and then punted. There were only 2 seconds left when Oklahoma got the ball back and the loss was assured.

Oklahoma fell to No. 11 in all three rankings, dropping seven spots in the Harris Poll and eight in The Associated Press poll and the coaches’ poll. The Harris and coaches polls make up two-thirds of the BCS standings, in which the Sooners went from first to ninth.

Stoops said it was also a factor that Oklahoma’s previous four possessions included two three-and-outs and an interception, to go along with a touchdown that followed a 77-yard kickoff return.

“I really thought about it, but with no time-outs and the situation, I just — like I said — I thought at this point, it was over,” Stoops said.

With the way the Sooners have been playing in the fourth quarter all season, Stoops had little reason for optimism. Oklahoma (6-1, 2-1 Big 12) has been outscored 67-30 in the final period, struggling to put away victories against Utah State, Cincinnati, Air Force and Texas.

On Saturday, the Sooners led 21-20 after three quarters but then gave up 16 straight points to the Tigers.

Landry Jones misfired on all seven of his fourth-quarter passes, including an interception, while the defense was getting gashed for 97 yards rushing and 192 yards overall. Oklahoma had the ball for only 1:45 and totaled 16 yards of offense.

“In the end, it’s frustrating because I know we’re capable of playing well through the game,” Stoops said. “When you play that well through three quarters, there’s no reason it should change when schemes and everything haven’t changed at that point in the game.”

Stoops said he would alter practice routines this week to have the offensive and defensive starters face one another more at the end of practice leading up to Saturday night’s game against Colorado (3-4, 0-3).

He also defended his decision to go for a 2-point conversion when trailing 36-27 with 6:06 to go, saying it was “not what the book says, but you’re in a bad position at that point.” The failed conversion let Missouri keep a two-possession lead.

“If you miss it late or you miss it then, either way you’re not going to win,” Stoops said. “And I felt maybe you get them not quite on point where they still have a little bit of a comfort zone, as opposed to the end of the game where they know they’ve got to have it.”

This week’s game will mark the last time Oklahoma faces Colorado before the Buffaloes enter what will become the Pac-12 next season. Stoops started out by saying he wished “things hadn’t changed” with Colorado and Nebraska both leaving the Big 12, then stopped himself.

“With that all being said, I’ll probably go back on it,” he said. “I never really liked going up there anyway.”

Stoops said he didn’t like the change in altitude and from the Central to Mountain time zone — and there wasn’t the same tradition that made up for a trip to Nebraska that was also difficult. Of course, his team also was upset 27-24 in its last visit to Boulder.

“You don’t like going on the road anywhere,” Stoops said. “The bottom line is we’re still going to play 12 games, and they’ll be good games.”

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