Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

September 18, 2012

Time to test OU

No. 6 Sooners get first big challenge in No. 15 K-State this weekend.

NORMAN — It's time for No. 6 Oklahoma to be put to the test.

After getting nudged down the rankings in the first three weeks of the season, the Sooners (2-0) emerge from an off week to play No. 15 Kansas State (3-0) on Saturday night in Norman.

In front of a national television audience, it'll be a chance for Oklahoma to prove it deserves to be ranked higher — as it was at No. 4 in the preseason poll. Or it could provide more ammunition for voters who questioned the Sooners enough to bump Oregon, Georgia and Florida State ahead of them already this season.

"I just know that the intensity this week is going to be a little bit different," left tackle Lane Johnson said Monday.

The Sooners were anything but spectacular in an opening 24-7 win at UTEP, putting the game away with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. After that, the Sooners cruised to an easy 69-13 win against Florida A&M of the Championship Subdivision.

With a week off, they've made it to late September without the country knowing what this largely remade team is all about. An overhauled receiving corps, a shuffled offensive line that's already given up seven sacks and a defense retooled under new coordinator Mike Stoops will all get stiffer competition against the Wildcats.

"Now we're getting into our Big 12 Conference and we'll see how we've progressed through the year and these last two games," quarterback Landry Jones said.

Coach Bob Stoops would only concede that he'll know more about his team "to a degree" after facing a Top 25 opponent. Even while watching Kansas State play three games, he found it hard to gauge this week's opponent. The Wildcats obliterated Miami 52-13, but only led Missouri State by seven and North Texas by eight heading into the fourth quarter.

"What do you know yet? In the end, I think it takes a lot more than three games to really know," Stoops said. "I think you're still working through some pieces and trying to improve."

The Sooners practiced four days last week, taking off Friday through Sunday, getting some early looks at Kansas State while trying to shore up their own issues — pass blocking on offense, eliminating the big play on defense and preventing another blocked punt on special teams.

"Our focus has definitely changed a little bit," Johnson said. "We know we've got to play better and I think once we start firing on all cylinders and playing to the best of our ability, I think things will definitely show out there on Saturdays."

Under Stoops, Oklahoma is 14-0 against Top 25 opponents on Owen Field and has won all of those games by double digits except the last time the Wildcats brought a ranked team to Norman in 2001 and lost 38-37. The Sooners have won those games, including visits from top-ranked Nebraska in 2000 and No. 2 Texas Tech in 2008, by a combined 602-218 — or by an average score of 43-16.

"I don't think there's anything that we do. As we kind of work through the week, we like to call it the process of winning, is pretty standard how we do it," Stoops said.

"Hopefully, I'd like to think that our guys' attention to detail and focus is the same. But sometimes, for whatever reason, some games here we've played pretty well. I don't think there's any exact science to it."

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