“Stupid is as stupid does.” That quote should bring you right to Forrest Gump, but for Mark Stoops, his team’s performance last Thursday is probably the first thing that comes to mind. After seeing steady improvement through the school’s toughest 4-game stretch in history, Coach Stoops believed his team didn’t play smart enough when they needed to, “we need to be a smarter football team. We’re not very smart at times, and we need to execute in critical situations.”
Playing the same fiddle week in and week out, Stoops’ squad can’t seem to get over the hump when it matters most, “yeah, it’s a little bit redundant,” Stoops said, “I talk about that a lot, and it’s frustrating. Gets a little bit old talking about that. But we need to execute better and we need to play smarter. Those are things we can control.”
The frustration couldn’t be hidden by Stoops, speaking sternly and uncharacteristically entering the presser with a cup of coffee. After spending the weekend boiling over the loss, the proverbial pot boiled over when he talked about the blown assignment by Avery on 3rd and long on MSU’s last drive late in the 4th quarter. What followed was 30 seconds of fast-talking, hard-hitting ‘coach-speak’ about defensive deficiencies in key situations. Not long after, Stoops had to have a question repeated, “I’m sorry, I was distracted.”
What gets at Stoops most is the fact that these are plays that they can control. They couldn’t keep the referee from throwing the bogus offsides flag on the onside kick, but Za’Darius could and should have sacked Prescott in the backfield before allowing a 60-yard touchdown. Despite brain farts from time to time the team continues to fight through adversity. Stoops has set the tone, assuring there is never a lapse in effort, but there are still too many plays left on the field because of mental lapses and failures in execution:
“Well, I don’t need to go back to the tirade a couple weeks ago, do they? They’re going to get called out if they don’t ‑‑ that’s just the way it is. It’s not acceptable, it’s not okay. We’re ‑‑ there’s nowhere to hide. And if they do, they’ll get called out in front of their team, and I don’t see that anymore. I really don’t. I see us needing to play smarter and executing better. I see us growing in that regard. So I’m not disappointed.”
It’s tough for everyone involved to bounce back after weeks of losing, but the team has no time to waste before facing a team that has won six consecutive games. A lot will ride on the play (or lack of play) from Jalen Whitlow. Jalen has a bruised AC joint in his shoulder to complement his ankle injury, but Stoops did not hide his demands from his #1 QB today, “I see it as a guy that’s leading a program in the SEC and I see other SEC players banged up and leading their team to victory, don’t you? That’s what we need to do.” Hopefully Jalen won’t need to pull a Connor Shaw-esque 4th quarter comeback against an FCS team, but Stoops is tired of the same-ole same-ole, looking to Whitlow to lead the team to its fullest potential.