NORMAN, Okla. (AP) – Bob Stoops doesn’t want anyone looking for a deeper reason why he decided to silence some of his players as No. 16 Oklahoma tries to tackle a growing problem in Big 12 road games.
Stoops said Tuesday that his reasoning behind allowing only five players to talk to reporters this week was not related to the four-game Big 12 road skid for the Sooners (8-2, 4-2 Big 12), who happen to have the nation’s longest home winning streak.
“There’s just too many messages out there. That’s all,” Stoops said. “I’d rather some older guys that have been around, let them talk. It gives them a little more attention, guys who I think deserve it. And they’re all good players, right?”
Indeed, Stoops allowed access to some of the team’s top standouts: defensive end Jeremy Beal, receiver Ryan Broyles, linebacker Travis Lewis, offensive lineman Eric Mensik and running back DeMarco Murray. Notably missing was quarterback Landry Jones, a team captain along with Beal and Lewis.
“He’s got class, he’s working, he’s got a lot to do,” Stoops said. “He’s only a sophomore.”
Jones is 1-5 in road games over the past two seasons, with the only win coming last year at Kansas. He also has wins this year against Cincinnati in a game played at the Bengals’ stadium instead of on campus and against Texas in a Cotton Bowl stadium half-filled with Oklahoma fans.
Stoops frequently defends Jones by saying his supporting cast hasn’t done enough to help him win on the road. He doesn’t plan to make any changes to the Sooners’ weekly routine, saying that it worked in the years before Oklahoma lost several star players — including Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford — while going 8-5 last season.
He also considers those neutral-site games to be road victories.
“I think we’ve had three regular seasons that we’ve been undefeated, so we’ve got to be doing something right on the road through the years,” Stoops said. “Obviously, last year was one where it wasn’t the best. We don’t need to go back into all the different reasons last year wasn’t the best in a lot of cases.”
In each of its losses this season, Oklahoma has immediately fallen behind on the road. Missouri returned the opening kickoff for a 7-0 lead, and Texas A&M went up 9-0 in the first 3 minutes on an errant snap for a safety and a quick scoring drive.
Stoops said he is “not out there gauging” his team’s energy level prior to games to determine whether it differs on the road from at home, but he has never noticed a warning sign that the Sooners would be in trouble.
When asked why there’s such a discrepancy between the Sooners outscoring three conference opponents 140-17 at Owen Field while losing both road games, he fired back: “Ask those other teams why maybe they didn’t play so well here.”
In order to reach its annual goal of winning the Big 12 championship, Oklahoma will need to find some answers. The regular season concludes with road games at Baylor and then No. 12 Oklahoma State, which holds a one-game lead over the Sooners and Texas A&M in the South standings.
The team’s rallying cry has been to play the same way on the road as at home, but it hasn’t been that simple so far.
“Until we do it, we can just talk about it and philosophize and theorize, and we just need to go out and play good football,” offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. “We’re capable of it. We’ve done it a couple times this year. We need to do it again.
“Good teams do it every week. Talented teams do it once in a while.”
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)