Everything has gone according to plan for Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, whose team’s national championship aspirations are still alive two games into the season. Washington coach Tyrone Willingham hasn’t been nearly as fortunate.
The third-ranked Sooners look to continue their impressive start on Saturday night when they visit the Huskies, who are hoping to bounce back from a disheartening defeat and avoid their third straight loss to a ranked team.
Oklahoma (2-0) opened the season with a 57-2 rout of Chattanooga before cruising to a 52-26 win over Cincinnati last Saturday. The Sooners have scored the fifth-most points in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and haven’t trailed yet this season.
Though the Sooners’ third consecutive 2-0 start isn’t unexpected, it’s given Stoops reason to be optimistic about the rest of the season.
“They are listening to their coaches,” Stoops said. “I get a good sense that they want to be coached. They’re not sitting there and thinking they have it all figured out. They are trying hard and playing hard.
“It’s a growing experience. It’s only our second game and we have a lot to keep getting better at.”
The Huskies (0-2) have their own list of things they need to improve upon as they head into their third straight game against a Top 25 team. After getting blown out 44-10 in its season opener against then-No. 21 Oregon, Washington appeared to be on the verge of an upset against then-No. 15 BYU last Saturday before a controversial penalty call in the game’s final seconds.
Quarterback Jake Locker ran three yards for what could have been a game-tying touchdown with two seconds left in the game. He threw the ball in the air to celebrate the score, and the Huskies were penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. The 35-yard extra-point attempt was blocked, and the Huskies lost 28-27.
“I think we all know that was not the right call,” Willingham said. “It’s an opportunity to use discretion and it was not used. The proper judgment was not used. That was not an act of a young man taunting. That was not an unsportsmanlike act at all and therefore it should have been viewed in its totality and not just in the letter of the law.”
The demoralizing loss dropped the Huskies to 11-27 under Willingham, who is on the hot seat for his inability to resurrect the downtrodden program. After opening 2007 with back-to-back wins, Washington is 2-11, including 0-7 against ranked opponents.
Despite his team’s recent struggles and the sour ending of last week’s game, Willingham liked what he saw against BYU.
“We had talked to them about coming out and playing like Huskies play,” he said. “The kind of fight, the kind of effort, the kind of energy, and I thought very much they did that.”
Willingham will likely need more of the same against the Sooners, who compiled 592 yards of total offense last week. Redshirt freshman receiver Ryan Broyles, who was suspended for the season opener, caught a touchdown pass in his collegiate debut while setting an Oklahoma freshman record with 141 receiving yards.
“If Ryan keeps doing the thing he’s been doing lately, he has a chance to be a special player here,” Stoops said. “It’s just like a lot of young guys have to learn, and he is, and he’s doing a lot of good things in a lot of areas. It just needs to keep happening.”
Though Oklahoma hasn’t shown many weaknesses on offense, the team’s defense wasn’t pleased after giving up two touchdowns in the second quarter last week. After holding their opponent to 36 total yards in the season opener, the Sooners gave up 326 to Cincinnati.
“We’ve still got a lot of things we could fix. We played better the second half, but I’m not going to just walk out of here like we’re where we need to be, because we’re not,” defensive lineman and team captain Gerald McCoy said. “It’s just the second game of the season.
“The defense we try and play, we don’t like to give up nothing. The slightest anything is just like too much to us.”
Oklahoma defeated Washington 37-20 at home on Sept. 9, 2006 in the only previous regular-season matchup. Prior to that, the only time these schools met was in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, 1985, when the fourth-ranked Huskies beat the No. 2 Sooners 28-17.