Sooners don't plan on huge changes
MIAMI — Humbling losses usually are a harbinger of changes to come — particularly when they happen on the big stage of a national title game.
Oklahoma's 55-19 blowout at the hands of Southern California in the Bowl Championship Series title game on Tuesday was termed "embarrassing" by Sooners coach Bob Stoops.
It marked Stoops' second BCS title game failure in as many years. But Stoops says it won't prompt him to make major alterations to his program.
"You can't turn the football over, and you have to stay on top of people in base (pass) coverage," Stoops said. "There's nothing magical about that. We'll go about our business like we always do. But we aren't going to junk everything that's been so successful for us."
Uncharacteristic mistakes doomed OU against USC in a performance that was flatter than Ashlee Simpson's halftime act. Four first-half turnovers set up the Trojans in good field position. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Matt Leinart took advantage, riddling a leaky Sooners secondary for an Orange Bowl-record five touchdown passes, including four in the first half.
"We never gave ourselves a chance," said Stoops, who endured the most lopsided loss of his career. "It was really disappointing to play so unlike us. I wish we had represented ourselves a little better."
Stoops is 21-5 against Associated Press Top 25 opponents in his six seasons at OU, but his Sooners have lost two of their past three games against teams ranked in the top 10.
With 14 starters departing, Stoops faces the biggest rebuilding challenge of his career.
The Sooners lose the heart of a team that has produced three-straight BCS bowl trips, including quarterback Jason White, wide receiver Mark Clayton, tackle Jammal Brown, defensive ends Dan Cody and Jonathan Jackson and safety Donte Nicholson.
Their replacements ranked among the most highly recruited players in the nation. But they will have little experience, a huge obstacle for the Sooners' goal of winning a fifth Big 12 South title over a six-year span.
Tailback Adrian Peterson will return after breaking almost every single-season OU rushing record as a freshman. Stoops will meet soon with school officials to evaluate the status of defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek, a projected All-American last fall who was dismissed from the team for disciplinary reasons. Dvor♦acek has stated his desire to return to the team for his senior season.
"Sometimes, there's more great excitement in youth, and I'm excited because we have some great young players," Stoops said. "When we won the national championship in 2000, we did it with our youngest, least-experienced team. We still have great chemistry and have a strong team, even though it will be somewhat young."
The most interesting position battle will be at quarterback where Tommy Grady, Rhett Bomar and Paul Thompson will vie to replace White.
"It should be wide open," OU offensive coordinator Chuck Long said. "I'm going to throw the ball out, give them an equal number of reps and let them have at it."
Grady saw action in five games this season, including the Orange Bowl, while Bomar and Thompson redshirted. Long said the race should be the closest since White and Nate Hybl battled for the starting job in 2000.
"It may not finish after the spring," Long said of the quarterback competition. "We may carry it into fall ball, much like we did with Nate and Jason. So who knows? No one has an edge."