Failure to cover a missed field goal may cost Oklahoma a chance to play for the national title.
The Sooners lost Saturday to Houston, 23-33, and were dealt a blow in their goal of a return trip to the four-team national playoffs.
OU kicker Austin Siebert tried a 53-yard field goal and it was caught in the back of the end zone by a Houston return man who ran 100 yards for a touchdown.
Houston coach Tom Herman said his team practices that play and OU coach Bob Stoops said the Sooners didn’t have the right players on the field to defend it. Stoops said he thought Siebert would make the field goal.
“We knew coming in that they were an excellent football team and they sure played that way today,” Stoops said. “About my team, not where we want to be. Nothing to do with coming in ready to play or playing hard, we didn’t play very smart. I thought some of the penalties, particularly on defense really hurt us. I thought the turnovers, fumbles on offense really hurt us. Probably a big turning point in the game, the field goal at the end of the half that they got and then the field goal returned for a touchdown. I thought those two plays were really big swings for us just momentum-wise.”
It’s only one game and OU can still repeat as the Big 12 champions and go to a major bowl. And considering the big opening day upsets (including LSU and Notre Dame), making the playoffs is not completely off the table.
Next up is Louisiana-Monroe at 6 p.m. Saturday in Norman. First-year coach Matt Viator led ULM to a 38-21 victory over visiting Southern on Saturday night. Sophomore quarterback Garrett Smith threw for 208 yards and ran for 150 yards while guiding the Warhawks to touchdowns in their first two possessions.
Oklahoma and ULM have only met once before. OU beat ULM 34-0 in the 2013 season opener. Trevor Knight, a redshirt freshman, became the first OU quarterback to rush for 100 yards since 2001 and also threw for three touchdowns. Knight, who graduated with one year of eligibility, transferred to Texas A&M and led the Aggies to an opening win over UCLA.
Baker Mayfield wasn’t the problem against Houston, even though the offense only accounted for six points in the second half. The junior was 9-for-9 passing with 162 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
“I think in the second half, we got a little greedy and tried to do too much and we got off track,” Mayfield said. “The defense started playing well. That’s when we tried to get greedy and we were not doing the same things to keep the chains moving to stay ahead of the game.”
Mayfield threw a 62-yard pass to tight end Mark Andrews in the second quarter. Mayfield had 323 passing yards on the day, helping move his career total for total offense to 4,427 yards, good for 10th place in OU history.
OU had only 70 yards rushing and starting running back Samaje Perine left the game with an injured shoulder.
“Samaje, actually in the first series, had hurt a muscle in his shoulder and was continuing to play with it,” Stoops said. “Then he got hit with a big hit there in the same spot. So it just kind of made it worse. He’ll be fine. There isn’t anything structurally wrong. You know in the end, the running game wasn’t what it needs to be. That’s something we have to keep working on.”
OU running back Joe Mixon rushed for a 32-yard touchdown, his eighth career rushing TD and his 12th career TD overall.
Houston officials have made it clear that they want to leave the American Athletic Conference and join the Big 12. Some Cougar supporters believe that the victory over Oklahoma, the reigning Big 12 champion, was a successful audition to join the Power Five league.
“We expected to win, and we trained to win,” Herman said. “It wasn’t about making a statement. It was just about going 1-0 in the first week of the season and starting the 2016 season off on the right foot.”
Did the win help or hurt Houston’s case for the Big 12?
“I’ve complimented U of H plenty last week, all summer, going into this game now,” Stoops said. “Why would I change that now? It has nothing to do with where they’re playing at. The bottom line is they’ve got a really good football team. I’ve said that a lot and obviously they do.”