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September 25, 2011Oklahoma didn't win any beauty contests last night on Owen Field against Missouri. The Tigers jumped up 14-3 on the Sooners until OU's defense found it's bearings in the second and third quarters.
As soon as the OU defense stiffened, the Sooner offense got on track and helped OU build a seemingly insurmountable 31-14 lead.
But the defense softened again in the fourth quarter, allowing the Tigers to put another 14 points on the board and the Sooners' 38-28 victory in their Big 12 Conference opener played out more like a sleep walk than a steady victory.
When senior captain Travis Lewis talked to reporters after it was over, his review of the Sooner defense was more like an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras.
"I thought we were at a better maturity level than this," said a frustrated Lewis. "Maybe players relaxed a little bit. They thought they were better than they were and they started hearing all the great things and they started believing them. This is a reality check."
The Tigers rolled up 532 yards of total offense on the Sooners. Missouri running back Henry Josey shredded the Sooner defense for 133 yards on just 14 carries.
Mizzou QB James Franklin also hit triple figures with 103 yards on 25 carries.
The defensive secondary wasn't any better giving up a 45-yard touchdown pass over the middle of the field and surrendering almost 300 yards to Franklin through the air.
"Horrible, disappointed... disappointed. We relaxed. It's what happens and everybody is disappointed - coaches, players. We gave up 530 yards," Lewis recounted. "We played like a 25, 30-ranked team. We're not the No. 1 ranked team in the nation right now."
According to the Associated Press poll the Sooners are no longer the No. 1 team in the country. LSU took over the number one spot this afternoon.
But for Lewis, he's just happy this shabby defensive performance came during a win.
"I'm happy that it happened, we get to go back to work starting tomorrow and rebuild," he said.
HABERN LOST FOR 4-8 WEEKS
Ben Habern suffered a broken radius bone in his right (snapping) arm against Missouri. OU medical officials say he'll be sidelined anywhere from six to eight weeks, although Bob Stoops believes he could return in as early as four weeks to jump back in at offensive guard.
Habern is a team captain, and best friends with quarterback Landry Jones.
Jones took the news hard following the game against Missouri.
"It stinks that Ben went down," said Jones. "You hate it for someone like Ben. He's one of the better guys on our team. He's struggled with injuries quite a bit. It really stinks for him but we're going to have to move on and Gabe's going to do a great job for us in the future."
Gabe Ikard will take over the center duties for Habern just as he did late in the game against the Tigers.
"It was definitely a huge loss with Ben, but I took a bunch of snaps at center during two-a-days. It was nothing out of the ordinary," said Ikard. "I hadn't been taking many in practice at all, but I had to adapt when called upon. I did my best, but obviously I've got to get better, which will come in practice next week getting a lot of reps."
Oklahoma has changed their offensive line philosophy heading into this season. They put more responsibility on the center to make calls at the line of scrimmage as he identifies defenders for combo blocks.
Habern's experience was one of the major reasons James Patton and Bruce Kittle made the change. But now that responsibility will rest on the shoulders of Ikard, who just happens to be an Academic All-Big 12 team member who carries a 4.0 GPA in zoology.
"We call it out in the film room, all of us," explained Ikard. "I'm just bumping over one spot and it's not that big of a deal for me. It's just making sure all the other guys know where I'm going. It's definitely different, but we did a decent job without Ben in there, but we've got to step it up."
STRUGGLING WITHOUT STILLS
Kenny Stills was suited up all week in practice. During pregame warmups, Stills was out there with his teammates, running routes, catching passes and in full uniform.
But as gametime approached, it was announced Stills would not be in the lineup against Missouri.
"Kenny will be back," said Stoops following the game. "He just had some (concussion) symptoms show up late in the week where the doctors didn't feel he should go. We really didn't find that out until Thursday night. That was a little bit - we weren't really expecting that."
It showed during the game as Landry Jones had troubles finding other receivers besides Ryan Broyles early in the game.
The offense sputtered until Jaz Reynolds and Dejuan Miller started connecting with Jones on the field. With starting No. 3 wide receiver Trey Franks also suspended, Jones was fighting to find those connections throughout the entire first quarter.
"It's amazing," said Stoops. "You can throw for 445 and we feel he's out of rhythm, you know? That's pretty good, but other guys stepped up.
"Jaz Reynolds - and you guys know, I've been talking Jaz up in the spring and summer and he's come on and shown he can be dependable. Dejuan Miller had a nice day and other guys - we've got other guys."
Jones leaned on Broyles against Missouri as the two hooked up 13 times for 154 yards and three touchdowns on the night. But Reynolds nearly cleared the century mark by catching five passes for 93 yards.
Jones also had success on short passes to his running backs, fullbacks and tight ends to get the offense moving early, until the true wideouts started making plays.
"I mentioned in the locker room after the ballgame, I thought our wide receivers stepped in, in place of a couple of guys and really performed extremely well," said co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel.