John E. Hoover: Losing sheds light on learning opportunities
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Saturday, November 10, 2012
11/10/12 at 5:05 AM
Go to John E. Hoover's blog
Related Story: Down the stretch: TU looks to close out division, rivalry with win at Houston
Original Print Headline: Losing sheds light on learning opportunities
Bill Blankenship has this file folder he keeps handy.
It's painful every time he opens it. So many of life's great teaching moments are.
The label reads, "How to Lose Football Games."
It hurts, but Blankenship refers back to it often.
"You put things into that file over the years," the University of Tulsa football coach told the Tulsa World this week. "Fortunately, I don't put as many things into it now as I did 10 years ago or 15 years ago. But I do think from that perspective, we tend to learn more."
Scottish author Samuel Smiles, perhaps the originator of the self-help philosophy ("Self Help" was the title of his 1859 book, after all), tells us that more wisdom is gained through failure than through success.
Given that, the Golden Hurricane goes to Houston on Saturday armed with newfound wisdom gleaned from last week's failure at Arkansas.
"It's how to be able to bounce back from something like that," said quarterback Cody Green. "You find out the real character of your team."
Between the season-opening defeat at Iowa State and last week's setback, Tulsa had won seven consecutive games. If TU truly intends to compete for the Conference USA championship, the Golden Hurricane likely will need to win at least two of its last three.
Losing to the Razorbacks exposed some important flaws within this team that needed to come to light - flaws that weren't necessarily exposed against the likes of Nicholls State or UTEP or UAB or Marshall.
Nobody likes to lose. Ever. But maybe coming up short to a team like Arkansas, in a place like Fayetteville, will become a good thing over the next three or four weeks.
"What would happen is, if you win that game and it's a close game, you tend to go, 'Well, we must have done most things right,' " Blankenship said. "Whereas I think any time failure comes in, you are much more painstakingly evaluating every piece of that. 'Where could I have gotten four more points? Where could I have gotten one play better on third down or fourth down?' "
Shaky victories can be like a sand castle on the beach: frustrating to build, fun to look at, but you can't live there.
Close defeats, then, can be like a great, flat stone on the same beach: cold and hard and uncomfortable at first, but offering something firm on which to build.
There's another perspective that losing at Arkansas created, one that Tulsa fans don't want to hear, but one that nonetheless can be a powerful tool for a team whose goal is to win C-USA: the moral victory.
First off, moral victories are for suckers. Close? Almost? Whatever. Did you win or did you lose?
But in this case, Tulsa can draw from its near-miss.
"We don't have to constantly remind (players) that (they) can play at this level," Blankenship said. "Because (they) tangibly saw: This was SEC talent, on the road."
Tulsa should have beaten Arkansas. The Razorbacks found a way to not lose. Physically, measurably, Tulsa players now know what they are.
"You don't have to question whether or not, you know, 'I wonder if we can play with those guys?' " Blankenship said. "That's what I want them to take away."
It doesn't sound like Tulsa held onto any illusion about being a BCS buster or any of that. Golden Hurricane players and coaches seem to have put aside the disappointment. They take no emotional hangover to Robertson Stadium.
"(Offensive lineman) Brian DeShane said a great thing on the bus (ride from Fayetteville)," Green said. "He goes, 'I wish we could just start practicing now. Just get off the bus and practice now. I just want to get this feeling out.' You could say that about the entire team."
Green says ending a seven-game winning streak, disappointing though it may be, will have no bearing on TU's efforts against Houston, Central Florida or SMU.
"We try to be 1-0 at the end of the week," Green said. "That's how we did the first nine games. And it's how we're gonna do the next three. Next Sunday, we're gonna try to be 1-0."
And next Sunday, Blankenship hopes that file folder stays closed.
TU head coach Bill Blankenship walks on the field after the second half of theTU v Arkansas football game at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, in Fayetteville, Arkansas on Nov. 3, 2012. TOM GILBERT / Tulsa World