Should Stoops Revert To Defensive Focus?
By Dan Harralson
Bob Stoops enters his 15th season in Norman. It's been a while, but Stoops quickly turned around Oklahoma's historic football program upon his arrival in 1999.
Stoops was proclaimed as Big Game Bob as he won the 2000 national championship and only lost 12 games in his first six years (five losses in 1999). Stoops has lost 25 games in his last eight seasons.
That is partially true if you look at the majority of Big 12 teams, which focus on coaching offense rather than defense.
The reason is simple: Teams must keep up with the other offenses in the conference. The lower-tier SEC teams play defense, but lack offense. Good defense allows you to compete in games, but you still have to score. That is the problem with SEC bottom-feeders.
But good defensive teams with offense are successful against teams like Oklahoma.
The Sooners have lost 14 games since 2005 giving up 40-plus points. From 1999-2004, Bob Stoops' defenses did not allow any 40-point games.
I asked Stoops at Big 12 media days if his philosophy and focus shifted at some point.
"No, I don't think so. We've gone about our business of coaching and trying to be great on defense, and the way we work it, (we did things) the same way a year ago as we did back in '99 and 2000, in years where we've had great defenses.
"I think some of it is gets down to offensive schemes and being able to adjust defensively. There's always a coaching element to it, and there's also a personnel element to it, where sometimes you're more dominant in the personnel that you have on defense as opposed to offense," Stoops told Football.com.
The changes Stoops made since going up-tempo coincided with a drop in (has derailed?) the most important statistic: wins. Oklahoma has 25 losses since going up-tempo, including both contests against SEC teams (the Sooners went 3-2 against the SEC 1999-2004).
Things will not change defensively for the Sooners when facing power teams. Oklahoma relies heavily on zone coverage to help defend the prolific spread option offenses in the Big 12.
"In some of our schemes a year ago, we were more coverage-conscious, and it hurt us in the run game," Stoops said.
The Sooners can focus on changing it, but when will they need to? A quick glance at their schedule seems to reveal they'll face spread offenses every game this season except Notre Dame.
Oklahoma needs to outscore teams they want to be successful with Stoops' philosophy since 2005. The Sooners scored 30-plus points in eight games last season. They went 1-3 when scoring less than 30, including a 24-7 victory over UTEP.
"It is a tough balance. If you're going to be doing it, you need to stay on the field and score. So, anyway, it's a big issue," Stoops said of trying to keep a fast offense and keeping his defense fresh.
This is something that has been tough to do this decade. His defenses have given up 40-plus points in six games; the offense has scored fewer than 30 in 13 games since 2010.
Playing defense and running a controlled offense has won national championships the last seven years for SEC teams. Nick Saban has four national championships and three in the last four seasons. Saban, or even Les Miles, never would say they could not win a national championship in a given year. They live for it and they play the same brand of controlled football, something Bret Bielema wanted to be part of.
"I think, when you've been somewhere 15 years, you're not going to win the championship every year," Bob Stoops said Tuesday. "It hasn't happened every year. I doubt if I'm here another five that it's going to happen every year."
Bob Stoops still has the respect and time to go back to his pre-2005 winning ways in Norman — and focus more on defense.