Stoops - There are still plenty of games left

Monday, November 11, 2002

A loss to Texas A&M knocked Oklahoma out of the No. 1 spot and dealt a blow to the Sooners' hopes of playing for the national title. Whether it's a knockout blow remains to be seen.

With their 30-26 loss Saturday at College Station, the Sooners (8-1, 4-1 Big 12) fell into a tie for fourth in the Associated Press media poll and dropped from second to sixth in the coaches poll. They're sure to tumble to at least third Monday in the new Bowl Championship Series ratings, which are used to determine the teams that will play for the national title.

But coach Bob Stoops says there is still much football to be played -- Oklahoma has three regular-season games left, plus a possible berth in the Big 12 title game -- and that his team may yet have a chance to get back in the mix.

"I don't know about a good shot, but a shot," he said Sunday.

Stoops is taking this approach: If his team can start winning again, beginning this week at Baylor, then it will win the Big 12 South title and play for the conference championship. Meanwhile, perhaps one of the teams ahead of Oklahoma in the BCS will lose.

"If we can do that ... we have a good feeling things will work out," he said. "If they don't, we've still got an opportunity for a championship in this conference, and that's pretty good."

Oklahoma's previous loss ended any chance for a national title. It came in the final game of the 2001 regular season, when Oklahoma State upset the Sooners to deny them the Big 12 South title. They ended up playing in the Cotton Bowl.

The timing of Saturday's loss, while not good, isn't as bad as a year ago.

"Winning will cure a lot," Stoops said. "I think winning can still give us a chance. That's all you can hope for. But we want that Big 12 first. If we're able to do that, that'll take a lot of sting out of this one."

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of Saturday's game was Oklahoma's pass defense. Aggies freshman quarterback Reggie McNeal came off the bench and threw touchdown passes of 61, 40, 17 and 40 yards against a secondary considered among the best in the country.

On the longest touchdown, McNeal hit Terrence Murphy in stride down the sideline. Murphy cut inside to elude Brandon Everage, then ran untouched to the end zone.

On a 40-yarder to Greg Porter just before halftime, which tied the game at 13, Porter got behind Antonio Perkins. Bethal Johnson beat the Sooners with a hitch-and-go that resulted in the 17-yard touchdown, and Murphy got open behind cornerback Derrick Strait on the final touchdown pass.

"I don't know, we just didn't react very well to the routes," said co-defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. "Those are guys who have played exceptionally well for us."

The loss was just Oklahoma's third in the past three years, and while it hurt and was costly, it didn't do anything to change Bob Stoops' perception of this squad.

"This game can't take away what those guys have worked for and earned," he said. "You saw Texas A&M's reaction after beating us. We've earned that.

"Nobody's going to settle for it or at all like it. We played hard the other night, we just weren't good enough in a lot of different areas to get it done."

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