First, here is an entire notebook, with the initial press conference video below. Come on into the premium board for the rest of the videos and full coverage of Monday's events.
- It was a pretty vanilla press conference today, but Stoops did update the injury situation. All four offensive linemen who have been nicked up recently, center Gabe Ikard, tackle Lane Johnson and guards Bronson Irwin and Adam Shead, should be good to go when the Sooners head to Morgantown. Ikard returns after suffering a concussion against Iowa State and missing the Baylor game: "It's better. I believe we'll have--I'm expecting to have Gabe Ikard back. He was very close Thursday, but didn't feel that they were ready to clear him. So, I'm expecting to have Gabe back. Lane Johnson was better, finished the game. Actually Lane had a nice game when he was in there. Limited snaps, but did well. He's in no worse for it, so he'll be improved. And Bronson [Irwin] was improved, and Adam [Shead] we believe will be fine with a day or two of rest. So, I believe we'll have those guys all ready to go."
- One thing that came along with Ikard's absence was backup center Ty Darlington's progress. The true freshman stepped in and, outside of a couple procedure issues, ran the Sooner offense effectively: "Oh, I didn't want to admit it, but I was pretty nervous. Yeah, but it's one of those things where you have confidence in the guy. You know, you gotta give it to him. A coach's son was ready for the moment, you know, and his dad's at a very successful high school down there doing well. And he came in and didn't flinch. Even before the game, I was just excited to see his demeanor and he was ready to play. And it's really exciting, too, in that there's a guy that you feel if as things progress here, you can go to and possibly move Gabe around if you needed to. So, just proud of Ty to play like he did."
- The Belldozer finally got out in open space and demonstrated his speed the other day when busting loose for a 55-yard touchdown run. When asked how fast Blake Bell runs a 40, Stoops response: "I'm not sure. Fast enough. You know, once he got rolling he was [gone]. He's pretty quick. I wanna say probably 4.6, around there."
- Outside of that, defensive discussion largely highlighted this presser. Of course, the biggest concern the other night was OU's poor tackling. The Sooners missed on a number of occasions, and that set up Baylor's 250 rushing yards. Stoops, though, insists it's not that much of a concern going forward: "Well, it would be more of a concern if it was a common thread the whole, entire year. We're nine games into it, it hasn't been a very common thread. So, I think, I believe guys can see some of where we missed them and we can do it a little bit better."
- One of the reasons they were in those situations is because they keyed on the pass to make Baylor try to exploit them in the run game. Quarterback Nick Florence arrived as the No. 3 passer in the country, and OU limited him to 200 yards below his season average. So, will they employ that strategy again against West Virginia signal caller Geno Smith? "To a degree. We'll make some adjustments, and again hopefully make some adjustments on some of the run game, though their run game really is a little fairly different in how [the do it]. You know, everybody's attack's different. The way Baylor's strategy to work you is a little bit different than theirs, but you still got speedy receivers. You still got an excellent quarterback. You don't have as much of the quarterback run game, that kind of thing. So again, everybody has their way that they like to try and move the football."
- Undoubtedly, Smith is a tremendous athlete that can beat you on the ground as well as he can through the air: "He's another one of ‘em. Geno's a big guy, great in the pocket, got a great arm, you know, all those things. He's an excellent quarterback, excellent passer."
- Personnel-wise for the Sooners, they've been fairly disruptive at times this year ast front, but have they been as much so as Stoops has wanted? "Again, it just--we have been. I mean we've had our games where we've been very disruptive. I think this style of play a week ago is just a little bit different when you have just the way they play and the plays you ahve to defend. You know, so in the end do I think up there we could have played a little bit better? Sure. But we've had our games where we've been very disruptive. So, this one we needed to be a little bit more."
- Defensive tackle Stacy McGee, a part of that front four, returned for the Notre Dame game and Stoops evaluated his play: "He's played well overall. Really has. You know, could tell getting more and more knocking the rust off and getting more and more active in there."
- Also a discussion on the line is Geneo Grissom moving back from tight end to defensive end. Stoops detailed that decision and why it came to fruition: "He's done well. Just the offensive part of it. Tried to get him in there in some of the spots earlier in the year, and just didn't keep progressing like we thought it would. And he knew that and so, you know, as it went on we still practiced him 10 minutes a game, 15 when we're down on the goal line or in some of the tight end situations to get Brannon Green a backup. But then he just knew and we he'd end up still being more productive on defense.
- In the mid-level of OU's defense, one of the bright spots has been linebacker Frank Shannon. His instinctive nature has afforded OU another option there at the backer position: "Yeah. He's more sure of himself, understanding what has to happen, where he needs to be and he's been executing well. Big, strong player in there."
- As far as the secondary is concerned, it has been way better in 2012. The Sooners have still allowed just a handful of passing touchdowns. Using multiple DB sets has been a key part of that: "I think we've been a little bit too specific on some of our match-ups. So, we've talked a lot about it. We'll work it this week and hopefully simplify it where we don't have those issues...Well, that's been positive, too. We've played a lot of guys and it's helping I think with health, you know, health-wise. And you have to when teams are going that fast, that long [they're] staying on the field. You gotta keep mixing guys in."
- An issue has been the team's response to the targeting rules, though, which has forced OU into some important penalties at times: "I had just shown them Thursday in the team meeting a clip that came from the Big 12 office on targeting. Though not excessive or not to the point of a suspension or anything, but it should have been called that wasn't. Plain as day, explained, very similar. He needs to hit him lower. And again I'm all for it. I'm not [against it]. We got one of those calls, too. Protecting these kids matters. You can still be tough, physical, just hit em down here. Hit ‘em where the ball is. And I thought on that play the ball was bouncing on up here. I would have liked to seen him grab the ball off the top of his head and run in for a score instead of hitting him. So, you know, you just have to keep educating them."
- Stoops is in favor of the ruling on that, though. He said concussions that result from the targeting shots are not intentionally unreported, but go so nonetheless. He has been forced to educate his team more and likes the fact that officials accordingly enforce it: "I really am. I know it's everybody. Listen, I'm an old defensive guy and a defensive back and when it was first [installed], I was like, ‘Ah, geez. How are they ever going to play?' But you notice it more and more. Guys over the the middle, they're getting hit more in the chest. You still can pop balls out without limiting the serious head blows. I think it's positive. And hey, if it's being called the same for everybody, then we're all playing by the same rules, you know, So, it's the right thing to do and again I know somebody at whatever time's going to be on the short end of it. But especially at this level and I believe even at the NFL level, even though they're professionals, those guys are so big and strong I don't know that the head can keep up with it. So, anything they can do to keep making it safer I think is really positive."
- OU will be able to put up a lot of points this weekend against West Virginia's suspect defense, but Stoops maintains the belief that they're actually a really good unit, if you can believe that: "Well again, people have executed in different ways against them. But they're very good. They're kinda a 50 front most of the time, sound cover four, which you see from a lot of people. Coverage they'll take their chances and blitz off either end and go man free. So, you know, structure is sound, good. And again, they make you execute and work to beat them and that's what you have to do."
- Really, though, they're sound? Stoops response: "That's because they don't have to go play them. So, you know, we do and we know you have to execute to have a chance to work the ball, take care of the ball, not have penalties, catch it, not have drops. For instance, one of the punts we had last week, second down we drop a pass. Third down a receiver runs the wrong route. And we have to throw the ball away and punt, so it had nothing to do with them. We had the ball, a guy open for the first down, he dropped it, a guy ran a wrong route that should have been open that Landry's ready to throw it and he doesn't break it off. So, now you punt. So, in the end it gets down to, too, your precision and execution matters. Or Damien Williams drops the ball on first down on the plus territory on the 35 or 40 going in and we drop it on first down."
- So, from that big statement, there's still no justification for why they aren't that bad and why they've improved the last few weeks. Well, here it is: "They've limited the big plays. They haven't had as many big plays. They've tackled well. You know, usually those are a couple things that will help, that will make a difference."
- Another area West Virginia has been susceptible is in the special teams department, so it figures that OU will game plan for that some: "Yeah, it's hard at this point in the year to all of the sudden have a different strategy special teams wise. I think as much as anything, you know, you wanna, you feel there's a weakness or some kind of problem somewhere, do your best to work it in the context of what you do. And I'm sure we'll try and do that, and again as much as anything where we've been good this year is do what we need to do. And we've been good at it, you know, and our assignments, our technique and so hopefully that'll continue."
- A major storyline is going to be the fact that this game could save West Virginia's season. Not only would it give them their sixth win to make them bowl eligible, but it would most likely salvage a season that started out as a 5-0 and No. 5 team in the country and plummeted to their 5-4 mark with potentially just six or seven wins. Win this one and West Virginia (with Iowa State and Kansas still on the docket) could feasibly get to the eight-win mark by the end of the regular season and nine after the bowl season. Stoops said they're aware of wrecking that opportunity: "Absolutely. I think our guys have heard all the hype, you know, beginning of the year and through the year and rightfully so on their high-powered offense and again strength as a team overall and how difficult it has been to play up there. Our guys are aware of all those kinds of things, and I kinda sensed in the locker room after the game that they understood it and were kinda looking forward to the challenge of it."
- OU's spirited play on the road this year would suggest it can do so. They've won by an average of 23.8 points per game on the road while dropping their only two losses at home: "Well, I think it's as much as anything it's hopefully it should be irrelevant where you're playing. And in regards to your mindset and regards to how you prepare, you know, in regards to how you walk on the field ready to play. And all that matters is what you're doing inside those lines, regardless of where it is, and I think we've been more consistent that way of approaching it that way. I don't feel [it's different]. Even at home it's been very similar in trying to be methodical in how we play."
- Finally, many BCS projections have OU again in the Fiesta Bowl. Win out and they'll be in a big game. Has Stoops paid attention to that? No. When will he? "Maybe the last week...I haven't watched it. What do I need to watch it for? I mean it's printed everywhere. It takes me all of a half-second for your secretary to show you, you know? I don't have time to watch it. In the end you gotta win. You gotta win this week. That's our job. You know, everyone else can anticipate and project. They're not always right. So, just keep doing what we can do to try and win this week."