NORMAN — The honeymoon is over for Lincoln Riley.
Oklahoma’s new coach suffered his first defeat on Saturday at the hands of Iowa State, and the fallout hasn’t been pretty.
Riley had a bad game. Baker Mayfield had a bad game. Bench Jordan Thomas. Fire Mike Stoops.
Sooner Nation had a rough weekend after their team was beaten 38-31 by a 31-point underdog, and they wanted answers — some asked with a little more venom than others. Riley said he doesn’t listen to fan grumblings after a loss.
“I learned that a long time ago,” he said.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t want them.
“We want the expectations,” Riley said Monday during his weekly news conference. “As disappointed as they are, I promise there isn’t anyone more disappointed than the people in that fieldhouse right now, I promise.”
So how was Riley’s weekend after enduring his first defeat as head coach?
“It sucked,” he said.
Sometimes Riley can be too succinct. This time, he nailed it.
Riley and Stoops said on Saturday afternoon they didn’t do a good enough job getting their players ready to play, or didn’t adjust well enough to what Iowa State was doing, or just didn’t coach very well in general.
“We’re going to have to coach a lot better,” Riley said Saturday. “I first am going to have to do a lot better job getting our team to maintain the momentum we’ve had early in games. I’ve obviously not done a good job of that at all.”
That’s a blown 14-0 lead in each of the last two games. The Sooners talked all summer about starting fast, but Riley said that was simply about the season — the non-conference — than it was about individual games. So any theory about too much emphasis on starting fast and not enough emphasis on finishing doesn’t apply, he said.
Regardless, players were ill prepared coming off an open date, and then proceeded to play poorly against an inferior team.
“That responsibility,” Stoops said, “falls on us as coaches.”
The kicker, of course, is that there is no time for the Sooners to feel sorry for themselves. There’s no open date ahead, no get-right game against a Big 12 bottom-dweller.
It’s Texas Time.
The Red River Rivalry kicks off Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in the Cotton Bowl, and OU (4-1, 1-1) opened Sunday as a 7 ½-point favorite over the Longhorns (3-2, 2-0).
The way this game has gone recently, the smart money might be on the Longhorns.
In 2013, OU was a 12-point favorite and lost 36-20. In 2014, OU was a 14 ½-point favorite and won 31-26. In 2015, OU was a 16 ½-point favorite and lost 24-17. And in 2016, OU was a 13 ½-point favorite and won 45-40.
Two things stand out going into this year’s game, and neither is good for the Sooners: Texas has improved every week since losing 51-41 to Maryland in the season-opener in Austin (including a 17-7 beatdown of the Cyclones, and a 40-34 double-overtime victory Saturday night over Kansas State), and Oklahoma has regressed — a lot — since beating Ohio State in Columbus.
“Our expectations can’t be relative to the team we’re playing,” Riley said. “Regardless of what we think of them or what the outside world tells us about them. Our expectations have to be based on us playing at our very best level. Honestly, feel like we as a team maybe expected to really separate (with a 14-0 lead) and knew we had an opportunity to do it. And our expectations are so high, when something doesn’t go our way, we haven’t handled it well. And that falls back on me.”
There it is.
Riley didn’t respond very well to his first big victory: a lackluster win over outmanned Tulane, a sloppy win over winless Baylor, and an ugly loss to middling Iowa State.
So how does he respond after his first loss?
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard every weekday on The Franchise in Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. with co-host Lauren Rew. In Oklahoma City, catch him Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 10:25 and every Friday afternoon at 4:05. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.