Berry: OU won’t apologize for five interceptions

Berry: OU won’t apologize for five interceptions

Rout 66: The five picks were not just a blowout accelerant. They were a sign that maybe the karma has turned for the Sooners.

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Sep 16, 2023, 10:46pm CDT

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Sep 16, 2023, 10:46pm CDT

TULSA — On the game’s fifth snap, University of Tulsa quarterback Roman Fuller lofted a pass that was more like a punt, and OU cornerback Gentry Williams was more than pleased to haul it in. It could have been a fair catch.

In the third quarter, TU quarterback Cardell Williams threw up a similar deep ball, and Sooner safety Key Lawrence had a similar interception.

So maybe Brent Venables should apologize for taking advantage of his old pal Kevin Wilson, the Tulsa coach.

Uh, no. Sorry, but Venables is not sorry.

Venables’ Sooners routed Tulsa 66-17 Saturday at Chapman Stadium, and many were the differences between these in-state foes.

But in this Rout 66 hard by 11th Street, part of the original Mother Road of America, the five picks were not just a blowout accelerant. They were a sign that maybe the karma has turned for the Sooners.

Venables constantly shows his squad video of the nation’s top takeaway defenses.

“And there’s a lot of bad balls being thrown up,” Venables said of American football. “We’re not going to apologize for making the plays that are there … a year ago, we dropped eight dead-in-our-hands interceptions.”

That’s how a team goes 6-7, as the 2022 Sooners did, when it should have been 8-5/9-4.

“Had we just made those layups — I’m not talking about a great play; I’m talking about the play that was there, that hit us in our hands – we would’ve led the country in turnovers and interceptions and been a helluva lot better, I believe, than our 6-7 record,” Venables said.

The Sooner defense wasn’t stone-handed Saturday. Linebacker Danny Stutsman stepped in front of Roman Fuller’s slant-pattern pass in the first quarter, caught it and zipped 30 yards for a touchdown. Cornerback Kendel Dolby intercepted a Fuller lob that was at least contested. Defensive end Trace Ford speared a Carnell Williams screen pass and returned the interception 26 yards to the TU 2-yard line.

And yes, Wilson did Venables a solid by not starting Williams, who has a bruised thumb but clearly was the superior quarterback. Fuller threw three interceptions in the first quarter, but Williams came on and led Tulsa on three scoring drives to get the Hurricane within 38-17 early in the third quarter. This game would have been closer had Williams played the whole way.

But again, no apologies from Venables.

“I’m not going to take that for granted, our guys making the play when we’re in position,” Venables said. “Some of it, again, is we’re under pressure and trying to make a play. That’s football.

“There’s probably been plenty of poor throws from the opponents, so getting five of them is a big deal.”

And it’s not necessarily happenstance.

Stutsman says that when practice is over, he heads for the tackling sled. But his defensive-back buddies go with the receivers to the jugs machine, to hone their hands by catching bullet passes.

“Whenever I catch it, it’s kind of just luck,” Stutsman said. But “I see those DBs out there pretty much every day.”

The Sooners had just one interception combined in the first two games, so let’s not pretend OU has turned into takeaway terrors. We’ll see on that front.

All the Sooners really have done is beat three outmanned teams, and the quality of the opponents is somewhere in the neighborhood of the trio OU squashed a year ago in starting 3-0. Texas-El Paso/Kent State/Nebraska in 2022; Arkansas State/Southern Methodist/Tulsa in 2023. If your radar detects a difference, may the good Lord take a liking to you.

Still, Venables said he does believe this is a different team.

“You’re going to avoid the same result? I don’t know,” Venables said. “That will be determined by how our guys stay determined and stay committed and stay focused and not get distracted and not get bored with doing the little things over and over and over.”

Like going to the jugs gun after practice, even if you play defense. So that when a beleaguered quarterback floats the ball into enemy air space, the cost is high.

“I’m going to say there were a lot of good plays on the football,” said defensive coordinator Ted Roof. “A lot of guys in position that went and attacked the football and made plays. A lot of those were competitive interceptions.”

So no apologies from OU. Throw it up this year, and maybe the Sooners will catch much more than just the football.

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Berry Tramel is a 45-year veteran of Oklahoma journalism, having spent 13 years at the Norman Transcript and 32 years at The Oklahoman. He has been named Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Born and raised in Norman, Tramel grew up reading four newspapers a day and began his career at age 17. His first assignment was the Lexington-Elmore City high school football game, and he’s enjoyed the journey ever since, having covered NBA Finals and Rose Bowls and everything in between. Tramel and his wife, Tricia, were married in 1980 and live in Norman near their daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters. Tramel can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected].

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