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-09-05-2005 #1DJRamFan Guest
Oklahoma, Auburn Stumble In Openers
Top 25 teams tumble in first weekend
Sept. 4, 2005
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Bob Stoops found much to dislike in Oklahoma's season-opening performance. No consistent running game. Poor pass protection. Errant throws.
And in the interest of fairness, he said the coaching also left something to be desired in a 17-10 loss to TCU on Saturday.
"They outplayed us and outcoached us as a whole," the Sooners coach said Sunday.
No team understands his pain better than Auburn. The 16th-ranked Tigers also stumbled out of the gates with a 23-14 loss to Georgia Tech.
The two teams who spent the end of last season jockeying for the right to play Southern California for the national title likely want no part of the top-ranked Trojans at the moment.
For Auburn, it was a turnover- and mistake-filled end to a 15-game winning streak that trailed only USC and Utah among active streaks. Keeping the season from going downhill was more on the team's mind in the locker room than the streak.
"The winning streak, that was something we obviously all looked at," coach Tommy Tuberville said. "It's something we didn't harp on. It's been awhile since we lost a game, and it was good to see the seniors stand up and say a few words after the game (instead of) having their heads down."
It's no real surprise that the offenses at both Oklahoma and Auburn sputtered against decent - though unranked - opening competition. Both were replacing terrific and seasoned quarterbacks in the Sooners' Jason White and the Tigers' Jason Campbell, White a Heisman Trophy winner and Campbell a first-round NFL draft pick.
With the defenses gearing up to force Auburn's Brandon Cox and Oklahoma's Paul Thompson and Rhett Bomar to beat them through the air, neither team mustered much of a running game. Something that was seldom a problem for either offense last season.
The result: Cox turned it over on the Tigers' final five drives, with four interceptions and a fumble.
Thompson completed 11 of 26 passes for 109 yards with an interception for Oklahoma. Bomar was 2-for-5 for 19 yards.
Not even the Sooners' super sophomore Adrian Peterson could produce anything on the ground. The Heisman runner-up ran for only 63 yards after setting an NCAA freshman record with 1,925 rushing yards.
What went wrong? Good question, Stoops said.
"It might be the attitude and discipline we came out and played with," he said. "Or it could be the play-calling. It really is hard to put your finger on it."
Defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek offered a blunt assessment.
"We never got tough, and we never had the attitude we needed to win," said Dvoracek, one of the team's four captains.
Auburn was spoiled last season with tailbacks Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams, but abandoned the run with an early deficit and Georgia Tech stacking the line of scrimmage.
Tailbacks Tre Smith, Carl Stewart and Kenny Irons combined for just 19 carries.
Cox threw for 342 yards on 44 attempts, a major departure from the Tigers' typical offensive strategy. Campbell seldom attempted more than half as many passes last season.
"How many times have you seen a team throw for that many yards and lose the game? More than not," Tuberville said. "I'd rather run the ball and play defense.
"But they came in and they were going to put the ball in No. 12's (Cox) hands. That was their gameplan."
Both teams know they have plenty still to play for, even if climbing back into national title contention anytime soon seems unlikely.
Could Oklahoma lose its swagger with the setback?
"I'm not concerned at all" about that, Peterson said.
Auburn, meanwhile, still hopes to contend for its second straight Southeastern Conference title starting with a visit Saturday from Mississippi State.
"Our goal is to win the SEC championship," linebacker Travis Williams said. "We have to put this one behind us and look to the future."
Associated Press reporter Jeff Latzke in Oklahoma contributed to this report