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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Turnovers worry Stoops

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— Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops tried harping on his team to try to end a plague of turnovers.

This week, he tried a different approach.

"I'm not a psychologist, but I know sometimes you can focus on something so much you perpetuate it or can make it worse," Stoops said. "I know our guys are capable of doing it, and hopefully we'll start doing it. I'm going to start talking on the positive side. Maybe they're listening."

Oklahoma and Illinois are tied for last place in Division I with 21 fumbles lost this season. Add in seven interceptions, and the No. 13 Sooners (9-2, 6-1 Big 12) are in a tie for 105th place out of 119 top-tier teams with 28 turnovers this season.

But despite all those mistakes, Oklahoma still has an outside chance at the Big 12 title and even an at-large BCS berth. The Sooners have won five games this season when they committed more turnovers than their opponent and have overcome a total of nine turnovers in back-to-back wins against Texas Tech and Baylor.

"To still have the record that we have, it shows where we could be as far as scores in close games if we eliminated those turnovers," quarterback Paul Thompson said. "We definitely feel that we can't win turning over the ball that much, but the way we have in the past shows a lot about this team and how good we can be."

A sturdy defense has helped. The Sooners, with the No. 10-ranked defense in the country, have allowed opponents to score only 51 points off those 28 turnovers. And the defense has actually yielded only 30 of those points with the remaining 21 coming on opponents returning two fumbles and one interception for touchdowns.

By comparison, Oklahoma has scored 85 points off opponents' 23 turnovers.

When Stoops finds himself yelling for the defense to suddenly get on the field, he has generally been pleased with the result.

"I don't know whether it matters suddenly or not. You need to go out and play good defense. We have gotten in a strong habit for a long period of time of playing good defense," Stoops said. "Fortunately, we've been able to - whether it's sacks, turnovers - change it and play in a good way coming right off the bench in a surprise situation. Our guys have reacted to it well."

However, Stoops said the Sooners won't change their approach just to cut down on turnovers in this week's Bedlam rivalry game at Oklahoma State (6-5, 3-4).

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