OU losing its advantage at home
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
10/31/12 at 4:57 AM
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NORMAN - It is college football's most shocking turnaround this side of Auburn. The Oklahoma Sooners, who lost two home games over Bob Stoops' first 12 1/2 years as coach, have lost three of their last seven at Owen Field.
"Where I grew up, if you fight in your own yard, you better win. That's just a mentality I took," OU defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland said. "When you lose out here in front of your whole fan base it's kind of embarrassing."
It is obviously worth pointing out that OU's homefield losses this season have come against Kansas State and Notre Dame.
"Sitting at two and three in the country right now. Both undefeated. Both running over people," defensive end David King said. "And we played them pretty close."
Thing is, the Sooners spent a decade beating down teams of that caliber in Norman. Nebraska came to town in 2000 ranked No. 1 and left a 31-14 loser. OU's 39-game homefield winning streak from 2005-11 included victories over Missouri, a team that would reach No. 1, in 2007 and No. 2 Texas Tech in 2008.
The two homefield losses over Stoops' first 12 1/2 years were viewed as freak accidents, coming as they did against decisive underdogs Oklahoma State in 2001 and TCU in the 2005 opener. Most folks dismissed last year's 39-game streak-breaker against Texas Tech similarly.
But while the Sooners answered the TCU upset with a six-year run of success on Owen Field, they have gone 4-2 since the Tech loss. Take away their Sept. 8 win over Florida A&M, they are 3-2 against FBS competition, including 1-2 this season.
"Twice in one year is something that's unheard of for the last decade or so," center Gabe Ikard said. "It's very disappointing."
It hasn't happened since John Blake's 1998 Sooners lost to back-to-back home games against California and Colorado.
Is there anything to it, other than the bad luck of hosting two very good, very strong and very disciplined, well-coached opponents over a stretch of 35 days? Is there a mental aspect to it?
OU spent six years making Owen Field impenetrable. When Texas Tech finally broke through, did it also crack some aura of invincibility?
"No team is invincible, at home or away," linebacker Tom Wort said.
The way King figures, the Red Raiders should be given the same amount of credit as K-State and Notre Dame. It's what they did, not what the Sooners didn't do.
"The media at their school is sitting there telling them, 'OU is one of the toughest environments to play in. They've only lost two games in nine or 10 years,' " King said. "They had to sit around and hear that all week."
They might not have been as good as K-State or Notre Dame, but they came in just as motivated.
Regardless of the reasons for their recent stumbles, the Sooners' task going forward is rebuilding their fortress. In doing so they can draw strength from an old friendly rival.
Nebraska lost a 47-game homefield winning streak in 1998, the day Ricky Williams and Texas won in Lincoln 20-16. The Huskers rebounded to win the Big 12 and Fiesta Bowl in 1999, hold that No. 1 ranking in 2000, and play for the 2001 national championship.
They didn't lose another home game along the way.
Other traditional powers struggled to come to grips with their loss of homefield dominance. OU can learn from Miami, which lost an NCAA-record 58-game home streak in 1994. By 1996 the Hurricanes were falling to East Carolina, with one of the Pirates yelling, "We own the Orange Bowl!" afterward.
OU can learn from USC. The Trojans had won 35 straight in their Coliseum until 41-point underdog Stanford stunned them in 2007. USC lost two more home games in 2009, then three more in 2010.
OU can especially learn from Florida State.
The Seminoles' 37-game Tallahassee winning streak came crashing down in 2001 when Miami blitzed them 49-27. The Seminoles talked about starting a new streak in postgame.
Instead, they lost at least one home game in each of the next 10 seasons. OU won in Tallahassee last year.
Unlike the Seminoles, the Sooners can't just talk about re-establishing themselves at home. They have to actually do it when Baylor and OSU visit Norman later this month.
As McFarland said: "It's nothing you want to get used to."
Sept. 1: at UTEP W, 24-7
Sept. 8: vs. Florida A&M W, 69-13
Sept. 22: vs. Kansas State L, 24-19
Oct. 6: at Texas Tech W, 41-20
Oct. 13: vs. Texas W, 63-21
Oct. 20: vs. Kansas W, 52-7
Oct. 27: vs. Notre Dame L, 30-13
Nov. 3: at Iowa State (KTUL-8) 11 a.m.
Nov. 10: vs. Baylor TBD
Nov. 17: at West Virginia TBD
Nov. 24: vs. Oklahoma State TBD
Dec. 1: at Texas Christian TBD
At Iowa State
11 a.m. Saturday
Radio: KMOD fm97.5, KTBZ am1430
Original Print Headline: Sooners losing homefield advantage
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
Oklahoma's R.J. Washington looks at the scoreboard during last year's loss against Texas Tech in Norman. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World file