Remember back when Oklahoma relished getting payback? The Sooners would bottle up their pent-up frustrations from the previous season's upset and unleash some fury on whatever squad had the misfortune of having offended them.
The OU squad that took the field on Saturday against Baylor looked about as interested in getting revenge as Lane Kiffin is in playing with fully inflated balls. The Bears, who beat OU for the first time in school history last year, made the Sooners sweat out a 42-34 win.
Even as the Bears' high-powered passing game sputtered, Baylor moved the ball consistently on the ground with its read option concepts. Baylor amassed 263 yards rushing as quarterback Nick Florence and running back Lache Seastrunk both went for more than 90 yards.
Florence used the option threat to freeze OU's defensive backs and take shots down the field. Fortunately for the secondary, he struggled to adjust to the stiff wind sweeping down the plain of Owen Field. Florence misfired on chances to hit streaking receivers on multiple occasions, which prevented the Bears from posing a more serious upset threat.
Offensively, the stats would look solid if not for the fact that Baylor may have the worst defense of any major conference team. The Sooners gained 200 yards on the game, but they demonstrated little ability to routinely line up and whip the Bears' shoddy front seven. OU occasionally snapped off a big run, including back-up quarterback Blake Bell's 55-yard touchdown burst early in the fourth quarter. Still, the Bears got solid penetration at the line of scrimmage and routinely dragged down ball carriers for short gains – 15 of OU's 39 runs went for less than 3 yards.
On a night when Landry Jones lacked his A-game, OU's offense was again saved by a bevy of talent in the receiving corps. The 'Stache spread the ball around to eight different receivers and all over the field. His most frequent target: Justin Brown, whose 6 receptions included a 35-yard TD toss from Jones with 15 seconds remaining in the first half.
More worrisome than the flaws in execution may be the Sooners' demeanor and attitude. Pundits love to fall back on a team's mystical "intangibles" when they can't explain something, but there's a lot of truth in the idea that this OU squad simply lacks a killer instinct. As was the case against Iowa State a week ago, OU let a lesser opponent hang around and had to work far harder for a win than should have been necessary. The Sooners gave the Bears plenty of help, too, as Jones threw yet another flummoxing pick and Damien Williams coughed up the ball once.
That lack of focus among college kids isn't uncommon. The problem is that it's way too common with Bob Stoops' team lately.
Next week, OU travels to West Virginia to take on a pissed off bunch of Mountaineers who have dropped four straight games. An uninspired effort like the one that the Sooners gave Saturday will end any hopes of a BCS bowl game.