Sooners will be better – later

Terry Bowden

I was lucky enough to be there for what has to be the biggest upset of the opening week. There were a lot of question marks at Oklahoma coming into the season, but one of them was not whether the Sooners could beat TCU.

However, because enough of the concerns about Oklahoma proved true, TCU enjoyed maybe its biggest win ever, rivaling a 1961 victory over top-ranked Texas.

All preseason I asked two major questions about Oklahoma. Are the Sooners rebuilding or reloading this year? After losing a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, the top four receivers and seven starters on defense, no one knew if the Sooners would be able to fill the holes and be just as good coming into the season. And had Oklahoma lost its swagger – its belief that it can beat anybody – after the humiliating loss to USC in last season's national championship?

After watching the TCU game, I think we have found out the answers.

TCU was coming off a 5-6 season and had the last-ranked pass defense in Division I. So the Horned Frogs made a decision to put nine people on the line of scrimmage, hoping to stop star running back Adrian Peterson and force young quarterbacks Paul Thompson and Rhett Bomar to win the game through the air.

The strategy worked perfectly. Time and time again, Thompson and Bomar could not hit or find an open receiver in critical passing situations.

As for Peterson, his first-half numbers were unbelievable: eight carries, five yards (and his first carry went for eight yards). It showed that even with the top running back in the country, you can't run the ball just because you want to.

If anyone wonders how much Oklahoma misses quarterback Jason White, they just had to watch Paul Thompson underthrow deep balls to open receivers to find out. On two plays that White easily would have made, Oklahoma came up with nothing. This just put more pressure on the inexperienced players in the passing game.

I had talked to TCU offensive coordinator Mike Schultz on Friday, and he said the Horned Frogs had three main goals: control the clock, avoid turnovers and get the game into the third and fourth quarter.

TCU followed that game plan perfectly.

Senior quarterback Tye Gunn proved to be the difference, along with the TCU defense. Although Gunn was not able to hit many passes for big plays, he kept the Horned Frogs' offense on the field, and when Oklahoma finally turned the ball over, Gunn led TCU into the end zone.

TCU head coach Gary Patterson had his team prepared. It was the biggest upset of the weekend, but it looked more like two equal teams battling it out for four quarters.

Oklahoma's defense played well enough to win the game, giving up just 97 rushing yards and no big pass plays. But when TCU overloaded the box with eight and nine defenders, they exposed the Sooners' shortcomings at quarterback.

TCU, which had enjoyed three 10-win seasons since Patterson joined the staff, seems to have proven that last year's losing record was more of an aberration than a sign of decline. The Horned Frogs will compete for the Mountain West championship in their first season in the league.

On the other hand, Oklahoma obviously must rebuild and develop a passing game at both quarterback and wide receiver while relying on a defense that looks like it can play at a championship level.

But there's an old saying in football that things are not quite as good as they seem or as bad as they seem, but somewhere in between. I can almost assure you that Bob Stoops will have Oklahoma very much in contention for the Big 12 championship.

However, make no mistake about it – the Sooners are the underdog in the Big 12 South this time, not the favorite.

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