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Venables Vibes: Pair of Key Oklahoma Pieces to be Game-Time Decisions for Bedlam

Brent Venables gave a pair of key injury updates and spoke on the backlash offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby has received during his weekly press conference on Tuesday.

NORMAN — For better or worse, Oklahoma doesn’t have any time to dwell on its shortcomings in Lawrence.

The Sooners (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) dropped their first contest of the season against Kansas on Saturday in a wet and sloppy performance that ended with Jayhawk fans rushing the field and tearing down the goalposts at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

OU will be on the road this weekend, taking on one of the hottest teams in the Big 12.

Oklahoma State (6-2, 4-1) is unbeaten in its last four games and is full of confidence. Add in that the Cowboys are hosting OU for the last time with Oklahoma headed for greener pastures in the SEC next year, and the stakes for Bedlam couldn’t be higher.

The winner will emerge on the inside track to the 2023 Big 12 Championship game with just three weeks left in the regular season.

Oklahoma head coach Brent Venables praised the work Mike Gundy has done to get his team back on track after dropping back-to-back contests to South Alabama and Iowa State during his weekly press conference on Tuesday, setting the stage for an emotional final meeting in Stillwater at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Sweating Out Availability

FB - Danny Stutsman, Kendel Dolby, Kansas Jayhawks

OU linebacker Danny Stutsman (28) will be a game-time decision in Bedlam this Saturday.

Oklahoma’s treatment room has been fairly packed the last few weeks.

Cornerback Gentry Williams was missing from the lineup in Lawrence, and by the end of the game neither linebacker Danny Stutsman or running back Tawee Walker were on the field.

During the weekly Brent Venables Show that airs Monday nights on 107.7 The Franchise, Venables said Williams returned to practice and that the Sooners had their “fingers crossed” that both Stutsman and Walker would be available in Bedlam.

Tuesday, Venables’ tune was much the same.

“I feel good about Danny,” Venables said. “He feels pretty confident, but we’ll see. May not be something we don’t know until close to game time.”

In another question, Venables said he felt the same about Walker’s availability as with Stutsman.

Williams’ return will be welcome after OU’s secondary struggled in Lawrence.

The sophomore has battled small setbacks all year, but he’s been Oklahoma’s best cornerback behind Woodi Washington when he’s been able to take the field.

“As I said in fall camp, that's a young group that doesn't have a lot of experience” Venables said. “Gentry has been in and out of the lineups and that's not ideal. The more you play, the better you should get. But when he's been in there, he's done a great job and all of his best football is still in front of him.”

Under Pressure

FB - Jeff Lebby, Dillon Gabriel

Oklahoma offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby has taken plenty of criticism from the OU fanbase after the Sooners' loss to Kansas. 

Rage about the loss to the Jayhawks from OU’s fanbase has been directly mostly at one person — offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby.

The playcalling was puzzling at times, and the Sooners’ inability to pick up a first down after Ethan Downs’ late interception ignited a powder keg of rage at Lebby that has steadily built over the last 21 games.

Even in the face of intense criticism, Venables said he hasn’t had to take any extra time to counsel Lebby, who is still a young play caller.

"I had that conversation with our team and our staff several times since I've been here, prior to playing our first game (last year),” Venables said. “That's Oklahoma. That's a place like Oklahoma. So that comes with it. So just stay inside out.”

Since returning to Norman, Venables has consistently preached his inside out approach in every aspect of the program. He wants his coaches and players to only worry about improving themselves and playing up to their own lofty standards every day in practice and every Saturday.

The bar Venables sets is high, regardless of if things are going well or if the team struggles.

And everyone at Oklahoma understands the magnitude of every decision made when donning the Crimson and Cream.

“I love the passion and the energy,” Venables said. “When things don't go well, hey man, they have a right to be pissed. But you have a right whether or not you listen to it and let it affect you or not, too.

“… When you're at a place like Oklahoma on this stage, there's scrutiny that comes with it, with that title, with that job, even the players… I try to keep everyone focused on the right things. That's my job as a leader. Let's focus on the controllables, always focus on our players and what we've gotta do to get better."

Homegrown Leadership

FB - Trace Ford, UCF Knights

Former Oklahoma State Cowboy Trace Ford will serve as one of OU's five captains in Bedlam on Saturday.

When Oklahoma announced its captains for Bedlam on Monday night, there was a discernible theme.

Drake Stoops, Ethan Downs, Trace Ford, Gavin Freeman and Williams will all lead OU out of the tunnel in Stillwater. All five guys played their high school football in Oklahoma, and will take center stage for the last edition of this in-state rivalry Saturday.

"What played into it is guys that are respected that are from the state of Oklahoma,” Venables said. “Having grown up in the state of Oklahoma, they haven't a different type of value maybe for Bedlam. So it's a big deal to represent their state. Nothing more, nothing less."

The Sooners lead the all-time series with the Cowboys 91-19-7, but OU lost its last trip to Stillwater.

With the Sooners headed to the SEC next year, Oklahoma State would like nothing more than to send Oklahoma out of the Big 12 with a loss this weekend.