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October 25, 2011

Players pull together as OU faces tough test

Oklahoma faces its biggest challenge of the season on Saturday in Manhattan, Kan., as they try to rebound from a shocking 41-38 loss to Texas Tech. A loss which snapped a 39-game home winning streak and sent the Sooners' national title hopes careening out of control.

Since the loss, players and coaches have struggled to find answers as to why this team, so full of promise, has failed to perform up to expectations.

During Tuesday's weekly press luncheon, Bob Stoops even hinted that his defense was overrated.

When Stoops was asked about lackluster practice performance spilling over into games, he offered another explanation for the poor performance from his defense on Saturday.

"Maybe (we're) overrated on how good they are, too," said Stoops. "Oh, if you're more intense you're going to make that play? To me, either you do, or you don't. Or maybe you're not quite good enough to make that play and that guy just beat you on that route and out-executed you."

When Stoops was later pressed on whether he thought his defense was overrated, he snapped back in their defense.

"No, I said they could be," he answered. "They could be. I didn't say they were. I said at times, the way we played the other night wasn't real positive. So, at the end, what I was saying was, is it intensity? Or is it maybe they just got beat?

"The other guy's better than him at route-running or covering? I don't know. It all amounts to the same thing is what I said. And I think too much of the time a lot more is made too early in a season about what a team is and isn't.

"To me, to point to it's all intensity, that's a cop out. I don't buy that."

Regardless, this is a team searching for answers after their loss on Saturday. The players took matters into their own hands by holding a player's only meeting on Monday.

"Yesterday, we actually had a player meeting, just us players, talking about what we need to do and what we want to accomplish as far as the season goes," said starting safety Aaron Colvin." Each guy kind of put in a little bit of their words, but the main guys were Travis Lewis, Ryan Broyles and Landry Jones."

Colvin said the message was about how this team needs to respond with such a huge game looming this weekend at Kansas State.

"Just to come back," said Colvin of the meeting's tone. "They talked a lot about the 2008 season. They lost a game and they still went to the national championship. So they were saying just keep fighting throughout the whole season and things can still go our way.

"I feel like we have a very close relationship, a very close bond. So I feel like we'll be able to bounce back."

Bouncing back won't be easy against the undefeated Wildcats in Manhattan. The Sooners national title hopes are on life support, but more importantly, as Stoops alluded to, this group still has to prove how good they really are.

"It's definitely going to be a gut-check game," said right guard Tyler Evans. "It's going to be our character that shows everybody we're not ready to give up and we have something in our sites that we really want.

"I'm sick of it. I know we lost and everybody keeps rubbing it in. It gets annoying hearing about it all the time. It's definitely a motivator."

Motivation that this team will need if they hope to leave Manhattan with a victory on Saturday.

"We're going in to play a Kansas State team that's undefeated and we're going in there to play in their stadium," Evans said. "I think it's definitely going to be a game to show we had our flaws last game but we're ready to step it up."


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