Sooners need to play with an edge in Bedlam

Even Brent Venables will poke fun at himself. The first-year Oklahoma head coach knows sometimes he can ramble on in press conferences and get off topic and all that sort of stuff.

Listen closely enough, though, and there are times when Venables gives an honest insight into what’s going on with Team 128.

OU fans shook their head when Venables said the team was tired after the 49-0 shellacking Texas gave the Sooners in the Red River Rivalry.

Venables used a different term following OU’s latest, and most frustrating, loss of the season at West Virginia.

You know what? It’s not time to sulk or cower or point fingers. It’s time for something else. It’s time, for lack of a better term, it’s time to be pissed.

There isn’t one person in the program that is happy with OU being 5-5 overall and a dismal 2-5 in Big 12 play. Don’t wonder what could have been in the three one-possession losses OU has had, including the last two weeks.

No, get angry. Finish with an edge.

“It’s always been about the finish,” Venables said. “There ain’t nothing easy about it. Whether you’re winning or, certainly, after disappointment, your character will reveal itself. I know these guys. Again, they’re young guys and they’re hurting right now. They’re really, really hurting.

“At some point and time, we’ve got to be pissed as well and do something about it. All of us. It ain’t okay. We’ve got a bunch of reasons where we can justify failure. But we’ve got to get better. We’ve got to coach them better, and we’ve got to play better.”

That’s not something you turn the switch on Saturday evening when Oklahoma State comes to town for what could be one of the final Bedlam matchups in a long, long time.

It starts at practice, and a mindset that has to continue the rest of the way. Like if you can’t be pissed heading into Bedlam, especially after what happened last year in Stillwater, then it’s going to be incredibly difficult to believe you can turn that corner this weekend.

You don’t like being 5-5? Do something about it.

“That’s exactly what I did the last game,” said cornerback Woodi Washington, who forced a fumble last week. “That’s what I’m going to continue to do moving forward is just play angry, especially this game. We all know what this game consists of. It’s going to be physical. It’s a rivalry game. We just have to keep our head up and go out and ball.”

Monday was another correction day for OU, a whole bunch to get right after the disaster that was in Morgantown.

If you can watch that film and not get angry, whew.

“Just making sure you’re prepared and playing with a different fire when you’re on that field,” Washington said. “Really, just the preparation standpoint is the biggest thing that’ll separate us this game.”

Running back Eric Gray has every right to be pissed. If anybody has played at an elite level during this 2-5 conference run, it’s Gray. He’s been phenomenal, including a 211-yard, two-touchdown performance at WVU.

He hasn’t been able to celebrate the outings. It’s something annoying offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, and another reason why Gray is ready to go out with a bang on senior night against the Cowboys.

“Most definitely,” said Gray about if he’s pissed. “People are saying the season isn’t going the way you wanted. You didn’t finish the way you wanted to. There are two games left to finish. To get, like Coach Venables said, to get pissed off and to really finish it out the right way.”

That can’t be the only emotion, obviously. You need focused intensity. You need effort with technique. You can’t just put all your coaching to the side and be crazy. But a little crazy might work as OU is in the rarest of spots and fighting to be bowl eligible.

Quarterback Dillon Gabriel didn’t play against Texas, so Saturday is going to mark his first foray into what OU rivalry culture is all about.

He’s got enough plays he wants back from recent weeks. Let it all out vs. OSU.

“I think that’s the most frustrating part is it’s self-inflicted,” Gabriel said. “But at some point, though, we gotta flush it and we gotta move past it. Because we got another opportunity to be good. We gotta be excited about that because we got another opportunity to play and it’s Bedlam.”

Fans see video of players laughing or joking after a loss and can’t understand it. No, they’re not in those walls and don’t know what goes on every day, but just the mere thought that 5-5 is OK hurts. They’re mad and want to know the guys in that locker room are, too.

Show it in Bedlam, enough said.

“I’m frustrated. Pissed. I’m a lot of things,” wide receiver Drake Stoops said. “Not towards anyone or anything. But personally, as a competitor, losing sucks. And I think anyone who’s ever competed in anything understands that. So it is very, very frustrating to lose.