The Oklahoma Sooners are looking to hit the reset button.
A victory over Kansas saw the No. 4-ranked Sooners move to 8-0 for the first time since 2004, but OU was embarrassed in victory.
The Jayhawks are one of the worst teams in the country, yet Oklahoma had to overcome a fourth quarter deficit en route to a 12-point win in Lawrence.
Redshirt senior tight end/H-back Jeremiah Hall acknowledged the win wasn’t up to OU’s standards, and that the team needs to bring a new approach this week in practice, and that the Sooners’ tendency to match the level of their competition has been brought up on more than one occasion.
“Kennedy (Brooks) mentioned playing down to our opponents,” Hall said during a Zoom press conference on Tuesday. “No disrespect to Kansas or anything like that, but this week — or so far this week — we've been emphasizing competition. Just straight out there, going to compete, trying to bring back that fall camp mindset, as if we're 0-0 again.”
A lot was made of Oklahoma’s laissez-faire approach to last week, as the coaching staff gave the team the day off last Monday to try and recover from the grueling physical slate to start the season.
All told, the Sooners treated the week like a bye week and disrespected Kansas.
As a result, the lack of intensity spilled over onto the field. Both sides of the ball came out flat, riddled by mental errors and mistakes that are inexcusable in Week 8 of the season.
“This late in the season, we shouldn't have as many blown plays as we had,” Hall said. “We shouldn't have as many blown assignments as we had. We've been trying to emphasize that this week.”
Still despite the disappointing performance, it’s not all doom and gloom in Norman.
The Sooners have yet to drop an inexplicable game, something which has plagued the program since 2009, and Oklahoma is still firmly in the driver’s seat to not only win their seventh straight Big 12 Championship, but enter the College Football Playoff undefeated for the first time.
Hall said he’d much rather be having these problems as an 8-0 team than the alternative, and that he and the coaching staff still has faith the team can turn things around and play their best football down the stretch.
“I always like to keep things in perspective. I've never been 8-0,” Hall said. “I said that last week. I can smile. I can keep my head up about that.
“… We do have a little more urgency, especially from the older guys. Because the older guys can understand. The younger guys are still figuring stuff out. Caleb (Williams), he's figuring his own world out, so it's not like I'm out there on Caleb every day, but I'm looking at guys like Marquis Hayes, guys like Tyrese (Robinson), guys like Brayden (Willis). They understand the urgency that I'm talking about because they've been through it with me and so those are the older guys that i'm talking to about making sure that we lead and get everybody to have that same urgency.”
This week will present another test in Oklahoma’s mental makeup. The Texas Tech Red Raiders enter Norman 5-3 on the year, but the program fired head coach Matt Wells after last week’s second half collapse against Kansas State.
Sonny Cumbie was promoted to interim head coach, and the Red Raiders will have nothing to lose as they step onto Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium as double-digit underdogs.
Oklahoma’s work this week will be on full display, and if they’ve truly been able to bring the intensity at practice, it should be reflected with a convincing win headed into the bye week. But if they were on what defensive coordinator Alex Grinch termed as “auto-pilot”, it could be another four-quarter battle at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
But Hall remained confident the Sooners were figuring things out on the practice field, something the team must do if they wish to stay undefeated this November.
“I think we've done a good job of that, especially today,” Hall said. “We'll get some more of that competition tomorrow and we're looking to make sure that carries over into Saturday, that we make sure we play to our standard of football.”
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