NORMAN, Oklahoma — Oklahoma has had an excruciating extra week to stew over the disappointment of the one-point loss to Kansas State that likely dashed its hopes at making the playoff.
The normally sure-footed Michael Hunnicutt missed two short field goals and had an extra point blocked in the 31-30 loss to the Wildcats. As fate would have it, the stunning defeat came before a bye week. The 19th-ranked Sooners finally can take their first step toward recovery when they play at Iowa State on Saturday.
The Sooners say they still have a chance to have a special year.
"Coaches told us the season is not over yet," defensive lineman Chuka Ndulue said. "We can still win the Big 12, so get ready. We can't take anything for granted. We do this because we love it, and we still love it. We're just going to keep playing hard."
Last year, the Sooners (5-2, 2-2 Big 12) were blown out by Baylor before closing out the regular season with wins against Iowa State, Kansas State and Oklahoma State, then beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
"Anything can happen, especially the way the Big 12 is probably going to play out," cornerback Zack Sanchez said. "There's a lot of games left, and it's going to be a crazy ending. We're playing to finish 10-2 and get the best bowl game we can. We just need to get back to being a dominant defense and just a dominant Oklahoma team."
Beating Iowa State won't be as easy a task as it might seem. The Cyclones (2-5, 0-4) lost to Kansas State by four and Texas by three, and they were tied with Oklahoma State late in the second quarter before giving up a touchdown on the last play of the first half that sent them into a tailspin in a 37-20 loss.
"They've got weapons all over the field," Sanchez said. "They kind of get overlooked because of who they are, but they've got some athletes on their offense and it just proves — they put up 45 points on Texas who has a really good defense. Obviously they're a lot better than they show on paper. They're not defined by their wins and losses. They're a good team."
Oklahoma, which has been criticized for its poor defensive play, might not have been so bad in retrospect. The Sooners gave up more than 500 yards to West Virginia, but since then, the Mountaineers have won four straight and established themselves as one of the nation's best offenses. Oklahoma lost 37-33 to TCU, but since then, the Horned Frogs have scored 58 points in a loss to Baylor, gained 676 yards in a 42-9 win over Oklahoma State and gained 785 yards in an 82-27 win over Texas Tech. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said it makes sense to look at the Sooners' defense comparatively.
"It's still not good enough for what we expect," he said. "We want more. But yeah, it is fair to compliment when you see what these other teams are doing to everyone else. If you are going to compare apples to apples, they're pretty difficult in the way they play to hold down."
The Sooners have struggled with mobile quarterbacks this season. In the past three games, Oklahoma gave up 77 yards on 22 carries to TCU's Trevone Boykin, 50 yards on 11 carries to Texas' Tyrone Swoopes and 51 yards on 10 carries to Kansas State's Jake Waters. All three also had success creating passing opportunities by moving around. This week, the Sooners face Sam B. Richardson, who leads his team with 319 yards rushing. Stoops said the Sooners have to contain him.
"More than anything, where we've been hurt with that is scrambling," Stoops said. "Our pass rush needs to stay in their lanes to keep the guy closed in or within grasp of getting him."
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