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Oklahoma Searching for a Response After Dismal Showing Against Kansas State

The Sooners dropped their Big 12 opener to the Kansas State Wildcats, once again putting themselves in an early hole in the conference race.

NORMAN — Kansas State punched Oklahoma in the mouth and the Sooners failed to respond.

Facing a two-game road stretch, the Sooners (3-1) will be forced to respond if they want to save their season.

Both sides of the football laid claim to the blame on Saturday night.

OU’s defense couldn’t get off the field, allowing Adrian Martinez and the Kansas State offense to extend drive after drive.

On the other side of the ball, procedural penalties and missed throws plagued Jeff Lebby’s offense.

“On offense, we couldn't stay on the field,” OU head coach Brent Venables said after the game. “… When we needed to be precise, we needed precision, we just weren't as efficient as we needed to be on offense at the most critical times. At the most critical times on defense, we were at our worst for whatever reason.”

Oklahoma again finds themselves in a familiar position.

The Sooners have to circle the wagons quickly to try and get back to the Big 12 Championship in Arlington. It’s not an insurmountable task, but OU will have to dig deep and find an answer to the early season adversity.

“We're not going to be defined by this loss moving forward,” Venables said. “We will, however, be defined by how we win moving forward.

“I still believe with everything I've got in this team and what's still sitting in front of us. It's certainly not the result that we wanted, and I'm all for losing the game. But we just played really poorly. In all of the areas that you've got to play well, we didn’t.”

The veterans in the OU locker room weren’t sent into a panic after the loss, but they understand that something has to change to get the Sooners back on track.

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“I said to the team before coach came (into the locker room after the game) is the good thing is that everything is still in front of us as far as what we want to accomplish,” tight end Brayden Willis said. “I’ve been here a while and I’ve been through this a few times. Now, more than ever, we need leadership. We need older guys to step up — especially with the dynamic of our team. I feel confident in the guys that we have.”

Throughout the offseason, Venables and the coaching staff preached over and over how they want to develop leaders on the team and let the players drive the culture.

Now’s the time for that work to show through, as the Sooners have a pair of road trips to the Dallas metro area to square off against TCU and Texas in the upcoming weeks.

“I’ll be the first one to tell you because as a leader on this defense, I’m going to step up and do everything I can to make sure this takes place,” linebacker David Ugwoegbu said. “Huge wake-up call. It just makes you think about everything we did throughout the week. Did we practice with the right intent every single day?

“Did we pay attention to every detail that we should’ve paid attention to as far as the scheme, as far as watching film, defensive scheme and then scheming on the offense. It was a huge wakeup call. Very much needed.”

Since the Big 12 Championship Game returned in 2017, the Sooners twice dropped a game before OU-Texas and rallied to win the conference.

But they’ll have to look within themselves and clean up plenty of self-inflicted mistakes to repeat the feat in Venables’ first trek through the league as a head coach.

“I'm certainly disappointed in so many ways, but I do believe that our guys will respond the right way,” Venables said. “We've got great leadership and tremendous buy-in. We've had great accountability. We're down in the mud right now. There ain't no doubt about it.

“We're going to take this one on the chin and try to learn and grow from it. You've got two options in how we respond moving forward. There are really just two choices. I feel very strong and have a very clear vision for how our guys are going to respond to it.”

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