Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

October 2, 2012

Sooners out to snap 3-game skid at Texas Tech

NORMAN — Needing a win to right what critics say is a sinking ship, Oklahoma's first preference probably wouldn't be a trip to Texas Tech.

More often than not in recent years, strange things have happened when the Sooners visit Lubbock. The Red Raiders haven't lost at home to Oklahoma (2-1, 0-1 Big 12 Conference) since 2003. And the Tech hex spread to Norman last year, when an unheralded squad knocked off the Sooners 41-38, snapping Oklahoma's 39-game home winning streak.

To be fair, Oklahoma has had some big wins over Texas Tech (4-0, 1-0) in recent years, most notably in 2008, when the Sooners won 65-21 en route to reaching the BCS national championship game. But there's little doubt the 17th-ranked Sooners will be challenged Saturday to avoid losing consecutive games in the same season for the first time since 2003, when they fell to Kansas State in the Big 12 title game, then to LSU in the championship game.

On Monday, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops acknowledged "unfortunate circumstances" in his team's last three trips to Lubbock but declared there's nothing in particular that's led to the Sooners' three-game losing streak there.

"There's common threads any time you lose a game, whether it's Tech or anywhere else," Stoops said. "Usually, there's turnover issues, injury issues, execution issues. So, no, there isn't anything spiritual or spooky about it. It's just playing ball. Sometimes you play better. Other times you play better than you do at other times. So it's just how it is. Any time you can play it can be different."

In 2005, Texas Tech running back Taurean Henderson scored on a 2-yard run on the game's final play to give the Red Raiders a 23-21 win. Replay reviews upheld the touchdown, but subsequent replays showed Henderson's knee might have touched the ground before he scored.

Two years later, Oklahoma lost starting quarterback Sam Bradford to a first-quarter concussion and had to go with seldom-used Joey Halzle, while Tech quarterback Graham Harrell passed for 420 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-27 win that knocked the Sooners out of the national-title hunt.

Current Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones started the 2009 game as a redshirt freshman and the Sooners - wearing throwback jerseys - did little right in losing 41-13.

"We had cool uniforms," Jones said. "We looked good. We just didn't play good."

Oklahoma had an open date last Saturday after losing at home 24-19 to Kansas State on Sept. 22. Stoops said the focus has been addressing what they need to do to win at Texas Tech, but he sees no reason "to bring up something that happened in 2005."

"In the end it'll get down to the same things — how do you protect the football, be strong in the kicking game, play good defense," Stoops said. "It gets down to the same things. For instance, it didn't matter to Tech how many times we won here. The last time they were here before last year, we beat them 62-10 or whatever the heck it was (45-7). That didn't seem to matter a year ago.

"Everyone wants to tie years to other years and I don't see it that way. We went to Kansas State a year ago and had a heck of a game and we didn't do that the other night. In the end, different years are different years."

That doesn't mean Oklahoma's players aren't aware of the program's dubious history in Lubbock in recent years. Center Gabe Ikard said it's been mentioned as coaches told players "to forget about the K-State game and bring your focus to practice and to meetings, because we're going to Lubbock and . basically we haven't won there in a long time."

Why has Jones AT&T Stadium been such a tough place for Oklahoma to win?

"I don't really know," Ikard said. "You get there and it's — very hostile fans. They're great fans. They let you know they don't like you. They just really bring a lot of energy to that stadium. I just don't know. It's kind of a mystery, but it's one of those things where . we need to be able to play anywhere in the country, play the exact same way, execute the same way. So we've got to do it in Lubbock, Texas, this week."

The loss to Kansas State hopefully awakened the Sooners, said linebacker Tom Wort, who's sensed a renewed focus during recent practices.

"I think at OU, sometimes things come easily," Wort said. "When you take a loss, you get that chip on your shoulder and it kind of revitalizes you and gives you that attitude. I think we've always had that attitude whenever we've had a loss. We've come back with an attitude. You prepare that much more with intensity. I think it helps."

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