What's this? Oklahoma fighting for the chance at a bowl game?
It's true. After a 60-7 record and three national-championship game appearances the last five seasons, the Sooners are 2-3 in 2005 and facing a whale of a Big 12 Conference slate, which continues tonight against Kansas University at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
"I felt like overall, coming into the year, that we would've been stronger and better than we have been," OU coach Bob Stoops said. "You can name a bunch of reasons why we haven't been."
A depleted secondary, no Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, a less-than-healthy Adrian Peterson : yeah, there are reasons. But beyond the personnel, Stoops feels the Sooners still are underachieving. And that's what frustrates him.
"It's one thing to give up plays and get beat when you're in position or when you execute properly," Stoops said. "But it's another when you put yourself out of position and allow someone to convert on you and make a big play. That's what we're doing our best to correct."
Peterson, OU's featured running back and last year's Heisman Trophy runner-up, was limited this week in practice because of a mild ankle sprain. He's expected to play today, and that will make a big difference: OU has proven to be much better when Peterson is getting his share of carries.
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"Playing him makes us practice and focus better during the week," KU linebacker Kevin Kane said. "Overall, we are just going to try to go out there and contain him."
Oklahoma's other wild card is quarterback Rhett Bomar. A highly touted red-shirt freshman out of Texas, Bomar still is ironing out wrinkles but has passed for 535 yards and rushed for 102 more.
Passing-wise, he's no Jason White, the Heisman Trophy-winning slinger who graduated last year. But Bomar's different because he has the mobility and ability to scramble that White never had - or needed.
"You can really see that he's coming around," KU coach Mark Mangino said of Bomar. "They like to run the football, and they do a lot of running with the quarterback."
That could play into KU's hands. Kansas State liked to run the football, too, but KU's stout defense held the Wildcats to 35 yards rushing on 45 carries in last week's game. In all, the Jayhawks are ranked third in NCAA Division I-A in rush defense behind Ohio State and LSU.
Considering the way the first five games have gone for Kansas and Oklahoma, this game could be extraordinarily crucial.
"They are a young team," Kane said. "It's going to be a tough contest for us. Both teams desperately need a win."