Sometimes you simply deserve to lose.
It happened to the University of Oklahoma on Saturday. Barring a miracle heave at the end of a game, it’s basically impossible to overcome so many:
- poor tackles …
- penalties …
- questionable play calls …
- bad passes …
- ill-timed turnovers …
- inclement weather elements …
- injured players …
- and terribly unlucky moments.
The end result of the Sooners’ foray into the “begging-to-lose zone” was a 38-33 defeat at Kansas.
A Biblical plague of terrors descended upon Oklahoma in northeast Kansas. Some, you simply shake your head at and laugh. Others — many others — amounted to self-inflicted damage.
A pick-six interception opened the scoring when OU quarterback Dillon Gabriel, a nascent Heisman Trophy contender going into the game, inexplicably double-pumped to a momentarily open receiver, which allowed the Kansas defender to close ground, snatch the pass and cruise untouched to paydirt.
After a lightning delay, it was pretty much off to the races… with the apparent goal being a giant banner emblazoned with the word “dumb.” In that sense, this game had everything.
There were penalties galore, including three 15-yarders on one Kansas drive alone. There were questionable play calls, like running up the middle with a wide receiver. The referees made iffy decisions, such as punishing a defensive back because he mistakenly assumed the opposing quarterback would, you know, TRY to score on a play.
As the weather turned cold and rainy here and up the highway, it all combined for a miserable way to end OU’s undefeated season and jubilation for Kansas fans who had not seen their team beat the Sooners this century.
If I want to look on the bright side, some credit should be given to the Sooners… in a backward way. Despite all the problems, they still found themselves trying to protect a one-point lead with about a minute left and Kansas facing fourth down and six.
In the end, OU fans shouldn’t be too bitter. They have been playing with house money for much of this season, dating back to when SMU pulled within three of the Sooners in the season’s second fourth quarter. OU has had to dodge, duck, dip, dive and … dodge challenges by its opponents ever since. No apologies should be given nor expected for having to do so, but you can’t curse the fates when the tables turn.
All realistic goals remain in front of the Sooners, one of which is to maintain this season’s positive vibes into the offseason and the transition to the SEC. A Big 12 title berth would accomplish it. A Big 12 title would absolutely do it.
Along the way, sometimes you just have to reap what you sow and eat what you get.
Enough dining on ashes, on to the Hangover Highlights …
- Starting with one final thought on the OU game: Even the offspring of OU’s top athletic administrator had bones to pick with OU offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby. His weird play calling and absolute passiveness at the end of the game were disturbing. Are we sure that, considering Lebby’s baggage, he is the right person to the lead OU’s offense going forward? I’m simply posing the question.
- I had Oklahoma State on upset alert with Cincinnati coming to town. OSU has hitched its entire wagon to Ollie Gordon — not necessarily a bad game plan — but the Bearcats have one of the best defensive lines in the conference. I expected Cincy to give OSU’s offense issues. Instead, the Ollie Gordon show continued, and Cowboys quarterback Alan Bowman did enough for the Cowboys to win 45-13, putting up more than twice the points OU did against the Bearcats.
- OSU’s reliance on the running game will be interesting against OU next weekend. Bowman has feasted on defenses desperate to stop Gordon, but what happens if he is stopped? It’s a question OU coaches are hoping to discover next week, but the health of OU linebacker Danny Stutsman will be a factor as well. As we approach what appears to be the last Bedlam football battle for the foreseeable future, no one should be surprised by anything that happens.
- The final score of Texas’ 35-6 win against BYU seemed rather “meh,” but when you take into account the Longhorns had backup redshirt freshman quarterback Maalik Murphy starting against a 5-2 team, it actually deserves kudos.
- That said, why didn’t Arch Manning start, or even play? Manning was the all-universe quarterback recruit for the Longhorns and the latest scion of the famous family. Yet, all he did was sit on the sidelines practicing his Manning face as his teammate comported himself well in the win.
- In what was billed as the biggest game of the week, the 13th-ranked Utes simply looked tired taking on 8th-ranked Oregon. Utah had run the gauntlet in previous weeks and already had wins against Florida, Baylor, UCLA and USC. Oregon took no pity, never trailed, never really seemed challenged, and marched away with an easy 35-6 win.
- USC somehow escaped with a 50-49 victory at Cal. I’m not sure how it happened, and I watched the entire game. Cal led 28-17 at halftime and attempted a two-point conversion at the end for the win. Yet, the Golden Bears had four turnovers in a game they were expected to lose by double-digit. Such stats would make a person expect a three-touchdown hammering of the underdog.
- Clemson’s season veered from disappointing to disastrous. It’s not great to lose to a surprisingly good Duke team, to a national championship-contending Florida State squad and a one-loss Miami. But falling to mediocre North Carolina State 24-17 is something totally different, especially when it also means you’re 4-4.
- SMU woke up and chose violence Saturday. The Mustangs built a 52-3 halftime lead en route to a 69-10 zapping of Tulsa. I expect SMU to be a serious contender for the American Athletic Conference title in the final weeks.
- I love panic. Down only two points with seven minutes left, Stanford attempted an onside kick. It wasn’t even a trick play, as Stanford telegraphed what it planned to do. It didn’t work. It didn’t make much sense. But I have to enjoy the anarchy and questionable judgment shown by millionaire coaches under stress.
- Speaking of stress, at one point while watching the Sooners stumble Saturday, I heard the announcers say OU is the “college football equivalent of the Atlanta Braves,” evidently referencing the close-but-not-close enough finishes in both teams’ histories. Feeling attacked as a die-hard Braves fan, I stood up and screamed at the TV, “Why don’t you go ahead and talk about my dead grandparents while you’re at it!”