NORMAN — Brent Venables has experienced his first setback as the head coach at Oklahoma.
His No. 18-ranked Sooners (3-1) fell victim to the Kansas State Wildcats (3-1) last Saturday night, as KSU quarterback Adrian Martinez torched OU for five combined touchdowns.
Following the first loss of his career as the head man, Venables has his eyes on a big response this weekend agains the TCU Horned Frogs (3-0).
The 21-point flurry to start the UTEP game has proved to be an aberration for Oklahoma this season.
In the Sooners’ three other games, Oklahoma allowed its opponent to get out to an early lead, including falling into a 14-0 hole on Saturday against Kansas State.
Both sides of the football have been guilty of slow stars, something Venables said the entire coaching staff is trying to stamp out at practice this week.
“You want to be able to start well together,” Venables said during his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “That's been a point of emphasis, doing the little things right. It's easier said than done, but you don't to change that way of thinking or the philosophy or the emphasis. You just have to go do it.
“We've got to do a better job, obviously. You've got to be efficient. You've got to be detailed, precise and able to anticipate timing and the precision aspect of it on offense. That's a part of it as well as getting everybody to work together. You've got to just continue to the same things you're doing later when you're doing well. You've got to do it well early.”
TCU’s explosive offense has the ability to bury the Sooners early if they don’t find a way to play their best football early on Saturday, something Venables is cognizant of.
Caught on Your Heels
OU’s defense never found steady footing on Saturday.
The Wildcats did everything they wanted in the run game, and Venables didn’t like the response he saw out of his unit.
“What I saw was guys afraid to make mistakes,” he said. “We played on our heels. We weren't physical at the point of attack. We haven't been that way. That's what I saw. I saw guys pressing; trying to do a little bit too much.”
Oklahoma’s entire coaching staff has been hard at work pointing out those mistakes in film, but Venables did acknowledge there needed to be a balance between merely harping on the negative versus empowering the team to play up to their standard.
“You flush it and you just make a (video) cut-up and show them that these are the things we did wrong,” he said. “We've done this a lot. You have it intercutted with plays that are executed well - the same exact play. Here's not good. Here's excellent. Here it's not good. Here it's excellent.”
Young depth at the linebacker spot will start and end with true freshman Jaren Kanak, at least for now.
Kanak’s fellow true freshmen linebackers Kobie McKinzie and Kip Lewis are currently slated to redshirt this season, Venables said.
“Kobie missed most of fall camp,” said Venables, “and so there's a learning curve there. So, unfortunately, he's got a ways to go from a mental standpoint, like most freshmen. So, Kip, same thing. He's just got to functionally get stronger in the weight room. He needs a redshirt from that standpoint.”
For the most part, the Sooners will have to roll with the current crop of linebackers to get through the season.
And while Venables wishes he had more experienced guys he could lean on, he and defensive coordinator Ted Roof will continue to try and develop more contributors each week during practice.
“Guys got to earn their opportunities based on what they do on the field at practice,” Venables said. “There's a lot of new things that they saw on the field last Saturday. No excuse but those guys… it's one thing for a guy that's played a little bit to make adjustments on the fly.
“It's another thing for young players to go in and throw them in the lion's den. So it could have been much worse.”
The Sooners will have a chance to respond the right way on the road this Saturday. Kickoff between OU and TCU is slated for 11 a.m., and the game will be broadcast on ABC.
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