Our Q&A this week was coordinated with the Head Thief over at the great Oklahoma blog Land Thieves. We attempted to bring in John Shinn (douchebag) of The Norman Transcript, but he apparently had no interest. So a big thanks to the Head Thief for both his time and his answers. He also asked me to opine on Kansas a bit over there, so I'll update you when it's posted as I was a little slow getting answers back to him.
1. So we might as well address the elephant in the room... is Sooner Nation still pretty upset that your Sooners got caught looking ahead to their battle with the reigning Orange Bowl champions?
"Of course we're upset. Our hand signal is an upside down longhorn. We harbor resentment about losses for years. Think Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, direct that resentment toward an official, coach or player (generally official or coach), and that's a Sooner fan."
2. Seriously though, how is everyone holding up? To me, even worse than losing to UT (great team as they are) would be that the blueprint for taking OU down has been laid out; now it's just up to whether or not teams have the personnel and discipline to execute.
"There's a several points of despair from last week's game...a) why can't we find a kicker that can kick the ball somewhat consistentlly into the end zone; b) how can we have such great student-athletes yet not be able to cover a kickoff; c) we're doomed, Ryan Reynolds is injured; d) how could a second stringer be that unprepared for the ball game; e) TCU and UT both showed how to stop the Sooners; and most of all; f) holy crap, Oklahoma State might really be good this year. In spite of the aforementioned points, we're optimistic Mizzou and Texas Tech will beat the Horns and give us a shot at the Big 12 title again."
[Ed. note: What, no mention of Kansas taking them down?]
3. Speaking of that blueprint, the loss of a running game has been the most surprising issue to me. I'm inclined to think it has a lot to do with the no-huddle. Would you agree? And on that note, what do you think of the new offense?
"I believe our lack of a running game relates to two things: a) overrated offensive line; b) health of DeMarco Murray. I think it's more a than b. When we put Chris Brown or Mossis Madu in there, they are not exactly lighting it up either. You can't really say, wow, "he missed that hole" if you look at our TCU-Baylor-Texas games. Might the no-huddle factor in there somewhere? Perhaps. Maybe the more versatile personnel groupings don't lend themselves to running effectively. For example, based upon the blocking I didn't see from our TE Jermaine Gresham on the fake punt, I don't think he's grading out well for moving people out of the way."
4. Since the passing game has been nearly flawless, we'll move to defense. The front four is the strength. But how would you rank the other units?
"Linebackers - I would give them a B for the season and a C for the Texas game. Ryan Reynolds was our sole returning starter here, and Chris Clayton and Travis Lewis have played well on the outside. Ryan was playing well during the year and okay during Texas (pass coverage not his strength anyway) before the injury. On to the DBs. Aside from one deep ball, I thought the corners played well on Saturday. Dom Franks didn't get many balls thrown his way. Brian Jackson was stuck with covering Quan Cosby, and he did most of his damage in the middle of the field. Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes are playing well overall as well."
5. Obviously the Ryan Reynolds loss is enormous as he was not only the best linebacker but the leader of the defense? There was a noticeable increase in production on Texas' part after he went out; would you say this is a sign of things to come or will the defense be ok without him?
"Ryan's injury is a huge loss, but I'm a big believer in the coaching staff and I'll delusionally - apparently that's not even a word, but I'm going with it - believe they'll have someone ready to play MLB by Saturday. With so many spread teams and quality QBs in the conference, you've got to consider playing a nickle back all the time anyway. Perhaps they'll try that Saturday. I was pretty frustrated that even though the 92,000 people at the Cotton Bowl knew the ball was going to Shipley over the middle, we still couldn't stop it. Maybe he had some sort of invisible force field up or something. I think the biggest concern on the D is the loss of leadership. Great teams have leaders and playmakers that step up and make that pontiac game changing play that keeps you from losing. We just couldn't come up with a stop on Saturday when we needed it."
6. Switching gears, how do Sooner fans feel about KU? Are they worried at all? Did last week's loss cause you to worry more or less about this game?
"Sooner fans are still pretty upset that Danny and the Miracles beat us in 1988. Some Sooner fans haven't realized the Jayhawks are good at football yet. Presently company excluded, of course. In what little research I've done on the Jayhawks this year, I've found that they suck at kick returns. So our weaknesses match up well. Conversely, it doesn't look like we'll be running the ball well this week either. Seriously, I think with as good a team as Kansas is, and with the loss of our defensive leader, we're definitely concerned."
7. We haven't spent a whole lot of time in Norman...for those of us considering the trip down where would you recommend we check out? And yes, we'll be looking for the most fun places to get as drunk as possible.
"I'm not the best resource for local watering holes, but here's a couple: O'Connells is legendary in Norman. The old location on the SE corner of the stadium at Lindsey and Jenkins is still there. The new location on campus corner (northeast side of campus) is also available. There are several places to imbibe yourself in the Campus Corner section. Brothers Pizza is a good one as well. Off campus, my favorite burger place in town is Goldie's Hamburgers. It's on the east side of town. The Mont, at Boyd and Classen has good food and drinks, at least it did when I was in school. There's a lot of tents and vendors and such on the north side of the stadium if you get to the game early. A couple of places even had a big screen up last year, so weather permitting, you can eat a burger, drink some beer and watch the early games there on the north side of campus."
8. Finish this sentence. Oklahoma will win if...
"Oklahoma will win if...we can find a way to defend the middle of the field."
9. And finally, what's your score prediction?
"I'm pretty surprised at the 18 point spread I saw in the paper today. I'd probably say 42-28, Sooners."
[Ed. note: spread is now at 19.5]
p.s. Our Mangino question somehow didn't make it into the e-mail we sent him (but recently was re-sent), so hopefully we'll get his answer back on that and get it posted then. **UPDATE** The response is in. I don't remember the exact wording of my question, but really I just wanted him to discuss how OU fans feel about The Big Man. Here's what he had to say...
"There are mixed emotions about Mangino. He was our OC for our national champsionship run, but many believe that Heupel was the coach on the field that got it all done...from the casual observer it looked like a lot of audibles when Josh was our QB, and it tended to work out pretty well for the Sooners. To Mangino's credit, some one was preparing them for all those options so that the line checks were successful. To the passionate fan at OU, Mangino fell out of favor a bit after the loss to Oklahoma State in 2001. I guess in a nutshell, when he had an oustanding college QB, he was an outstanding offensive coordinator. When he had an average QB (Hybl), the was an average offensive coordinator. Funny how that works out.
Personally, I thought he would be a decent head coach, and have been impressed that he got it turned around at Kansas. The post-Glen Mason years didn't work out well for the Jayhawks."