Tramel: Does OU's loss to Kansas State signal a crazy 2020 season?
Misery loves company, so about four hours after the third-ranked Sooners wilted like August flowers Saturday, they maybe started feeling a little better.
Mississippi State was dusting off sixth-ranked LSU 44-34, and Texas Tech had a 15-point lead late on eighth-ranked Texas.
OU’s 35-14 lead late in the third quarter had become a 38-35 defeat, courtesy of Kansas State, and the Sooners’ nausea was tempered only by the hope that maybe crazy results will be the norm every Saturday in this crazy COVID-19 season.
Of course, the Longhorns rallied to win 63-56 in overtime, and UT’s estranged brother, Texas A&M, survived lowly Vanderbilt 19-14 Saturday night, and the Sooners and LSU stood alone in dubious battle.
What’s the diagnosis in Norman? Kooky game in a kooky season? Something amiss in the Lincoln Riley foundation? Or just OU’s turn to finish somewhere outside the Big 12 winner’s circle?
Answer one or three. The OU foundation is the same as ever.
An offense to be feared. A defense that will cause neck pain from all the head-shaking. Epic comebacks, pro and con, are a calling card of Oklahoma games.
One difference this year. Spencer Rattler, while uber-talented, is not a finished product. The Sooners are accustomed to finished products at quarterback. So a super-duper offense has been reduced to merely super for awhile. Super-duper offenses often are needed to cover for defense this unreliable.
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- Video: OU football: Breaking down the loss to Kansas State
So we’ll see. OU has done this before. Losing to Kansas State in 2019. To Texas in 2018. To Iowa State in 2017. To Texas in 2015. Big upsets all.
But this result came in Game No. 2 and Real Game No. 1. We don’t know yet if it’s an actual upset. Maybe Kansas State is just better. Just because it’s written in the Red Dirt Scrolls that OU should be superior to every Big 12 foe, doesn’t make it so.
Or maybe we can blame the pandemic. Not as the coronavirus protocols specifically pertaining to this game. Kansas State, depleted some in the secondary, kept us in suspense all week on whether the game could even be played. OU had a virtual full roster.
“Everybody’s dealing with that,” Riley said. “It is what it is right now. We’re not going to use excuses. There was plenty of controllables out there that we all have gotta do a better job of.”
K-State seemed in better condition than the Sooners, which you always expected from a Bill Snyder team and now will have to be wary of from a Chris Klieman team. Perhaps the fractured off-season conditioning adversely affected the Sooners.
OU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch didn’t buy the conditioning theory, accurately pointing out that down the stretch, the Sooners didn’t get driven on. They just got skunked on big plays.
“A bad play can happen,” Grinch said. “It shouldn't turn into a scoring play. I don't think I would circle that. I would obviously change my tune after watching the video and we see guys not straining to the ball, but no, I wouldn't circle that.”
Maybe we can circle the year. 2020. Maybe this indeed is going to be a wild season, with no results guaranteed in a sport that historically produces guaranteed results.
“It’s a very unusual season,” Mike Gundy said Saturday after his Cowboys beat West Virginia.
No kidding. OSU is 2-0 after 1974-type scores of 16-7 and 27-13. The Cowboys have scored three offensive touchdowns and allowed two TDs total. Who told us the pandemic came with a time tunnel?
“The conditioning of the teams is unusual,” Gundy said. “The makeup. The focus has been different than it ever has been. I’ve not been involved in anything like this, in just watching what happens during the week and on the field. You just gotta find a way to win somehow.”
The Sooners did the opposite. They somehow found a way to lose, and their only balm is that they’ve got company.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at oklahoman.com/berrytramel.