NORMAN- The Oklahoma Sooners are in an awkward position this week.
With their win against the Baylor Bears on Saturday night, they clinched a berth in the Big 12 Championship game versus the Iowa State Cyclones.
Iowa State sits idle this week, having completed their regular season slate, but a trip to Morgantown looms for Oklahoma as their matchup with West Virginia was rescheduled to this weekend.
A prevailing thought has emerged that the Big 12 should just scrap the tilt between the Sooners and the Mountaineers in the interest of safety to ensure the conference title game goes off without a hitch.
For Oklahoma’s money? They’ve got other things on their minds.
“We need to play games,” Lincoln Riley said in his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “For us to play the quality of ball and to make the improvements we need to make, we need to play.”
“This is an important week for us,” he said.
The performance of the Oklahoma offense raised eyebrows against a stout Baylor defense.
Totaling just 269 yards of total offense, the Sooners were held under 28 points for the first time in 60 games. Oklahoma struggled mightily to rush the ball as well, finishing with a measly 76 total yards of rushing.
Senior offensive tackle Erik Swenson was disappointed in the performance because it seemed it was just one or two hiccups that would tank plays, he said.
“After watching the film [I’m] just kind of frustrated with the performance,” he said. “I don’t think we did really necessarily anything too bad. It’s just that, you know, one guy just didn’t do his job to the highest role.”
“We all take full responsibility of that,” he said.
Riley said one position couldn’t really be singled out for the slow offensive night.
“I don’t think anybody on offense played particularly well,” Riley said. “It wasn’t anybody’s best game… the mistakes were kind of shared all the way around.”
It wasn’t all bad for the Sooners offense, Riley said.
“There’s still a lot of good,” he said. “The problem is in offensive football, nine guys can be doing it freaking perfect and if one or two guys aren’t it can look like a trainwreck.”
Junior tight end/h-back Jeremiah Hall said the Sooners are refocused in practice after their sub-par performance.
“I think we were a little bit too casual last week in practice,” Hall said.
Hall acknowledged the Sooners toned down the physicality a bit after resuming practice on the heels of the COVID-19 outbreak that shut down team activities for five days.
“At the same time, there’s no excuse,” Hall said. “This week we’ve definitely stepped it up a notch already.”
“We’re going to be better this weekend,” he said.
The Oklahoma offense is focused on themselves and executing against West Virginia, not the Cyclones who loom in two weeks, Hall said.
“We need to take this week to prove to ourselves how great of an offense we are,” Hall said.
“We need to go out this week and dominate and go into the Big 12 Championship with confidence in ourselves,” he said. “We’re locked in on West Virginia this week.”