Bob Stoops, welcome to the longest offseason of your career

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We’re nearing the 14-year anniversary of Bob Stoops’ only national championship at Oklahoma, and his Sooners have never been farther away – both in the literal passage of time and in the actual product on the field. A season that started with aspirations of reaching Oklahoma’s first title game since 2008 ended in humiliation, a 40-6 blowout to No. 17 Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Monday night.

The loss dropped the Sooners to an ugly 8-5 on the year – not Stoops’ first eight-or-fewer win campaign, but the only one without an excuse. He went 7-5 in 1999, but that was his first year. He went 8-4 in 2005, but that team lost Adrian Peterson for much of the year and replaced a number of players that contributed to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons. He went 8-5 in 2009, but that team lost Sam Bradford for almost all the season. All of those teams got better as the season progressed. This one regressed – sharply.

The 2014 Sooners – ranked third in preseason by the coaches’ poll and fourth by the AP – went 0-4 against ranked teams. Their best win? It was probably back on Aug. 30, a 48-16 romp over a Louisiana Tech team that later played for the Conference USA title. Outside of that, there’s not much to be proud of in this wasted season.

The mystique is gone. A program that once blew its opponents off the field simply by showing up no longer intimidates anyone. The home-field advantage, once the biggest in college football, has completely evaporated. OU lost three home games for the first time since 1996, and each came wrapped in its own special box. There was the 31-30 loss to Kansas State handed away on a silver platter, the 48-14 blowout at the hands of Baylor, and the 38-35 overtime collapse to a 6-6 Oklahoma State team to close the year. Oklahoma won one home game after September, and it came against Kansas.

As for the actual proceedings on the field Monday night, Oklahoma failed to execute in every facet of the game. Trevor Knight threw two interceptions and failed to muster even three yards an attempt. Oklahoma out-rushed Clemson significantly, but lost any meaningful progress after Samaje Perine and Keith Ford both lost fumbles. Charles Tapper had a nice tipped pass-turned-pick six called back due to an offside call. Even the special teams joined in on the fun, letting Michael Hunnicutt‘s extra point get blocked. The Sooners committed eight penalties, while Clemson was flagged only twice. They lost the turnover battle, 5-0. They converted 2-of-12 first downs. They let Cole Stoudt look like Deshaun Watson, hitting 26-of-36 passes for 319 yards and four total touchdowns, including a 65-yarder to Artavis Scott on the Tigers’ first play from scrimmage. Clemson scored the game’s first 40 points, meaning Oklahoma sat on the business end of a 57-0 run (dating back to the Oklahoma State collapse) until Alex Ross carried in an 11-yard touchdown run with 6:57 to play, saving Stoops the indignity of his first shutout in Norman.

And, worst of all, their longtime defensive coordinator Brent Venables stood on the opposite sideline, picking up his former colleague Josh Heupel‘s offense and slamming it on its head.

There is reason for optimism next season. Baker MayfieldDorial Green-Beckham and possibly Joe Mixon figure to be quality reinforcements for an offense that sorely needs them. But for a program without an outright conference title since 2010 and that has lost at least two regular season games for six years running, for the first time it’s fair to wonder if the coaching in Norman is good enough to harness the talent in front of it.

The good – and bad – news for Stoops? He’s got nine long months to stew on it.

As teammates flew, DB ejected for punching Louisville player forced to ride managers’ bus back to Clemson

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That’ll teach him.  They hope.

In the third quarter of Clemson’s 35-point win over Louisville Saturday night, Tigers cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. was involved in a punt-return kerfuffle with Cardinals defensive back Trenell Troutman that ended with Booth, after he had taken him to the ground, punching Troutman.  The fracas resulted in Booth being ejected from the game for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Following the game, head coach Dabo Swinney apologized to his UofL counterpart, Scott Satterfield, for what he described as unacceptable, disappointing behavior.

Sunday, Swinney stated that the punishment phase for Booth commenced almost immediately, and commenced in a very unique way.

“He had a long bus ride home last night and plenty of time to think about it,” Swinney said, confirming that Booth rode the managers’ bus back to Clemson instead of flying home with the rest of his teammates.

For those keeping score at home, it’s a roughly seven-hour drive from Louisville to Clemson via an automobile, and likely longer if you’re taking a bus.  Taking a plane, it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour and a half.

In addition to the bus ride, Swinney also stated that Booth will be subject to additional, unspecified in-house sanctions.

Alabama expects ‘full, speedy recovery’ for Tua Tagovailoa following ankle surgery

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At least publicly, Alabama is putting a positive spin on the most talked-about ankle in college football.

Late in the first half of Alabama’s win over rival Tennessee, starting quarterback and Heisman front-runner Tua Tagovailoa went down with an apparent ankle injury. After spending time in the sideline medical tent, Tagovailoa went into the locker room for further observation.

Not long after that, Tagovailoa was seen exiting the stadium and getting into the back of an ambulance; he would ultimately return to the sidelines but not the game as Mac Jones finished out the win.  Immediately following the game, Nick Saban stated that Tagovailoa suffered a high-ankle sprain, a similar injury he worked through a season ago, and will “probably be out a week or two.” In the postgame press conference, the head coach all but ruled the junior out for next weekend’s home game against Arkansas.

In a statement Sunday, the football program confirmed that Tagovailoa underwent a surgical procedure on the ankle earlier in the day.  It was also confirmed that the junior will not play in this Saturday’s game against Arkansas.

Tua Tagovailoa suffered a high-ankle sprain last night against Tennessee. Our physicians performed a successful tight-rope procedure on his right ankle this morning. This is the same injury, but the opposite ankle that Tua injured last season. Tua will miss next week’s game against Arkansas, but we expect a full and speedy recovery.

As for that TightRope procedure, which significantly cuts the recovery time from a high-ankle sprain?

This technique is used to stabilize an ankle after injury. It can be used to repair a high-ankle sprain, which damages the soft tissue structures between the tibia and fibula and causes these bones to separate. It can also be used to stabilize a fracture of the fibula. The TightRope system anchors the ends of the tibia and fibula together with a braided polyethylene cord, rather than with a rigid surgical screw, to restore the original position of the bones and to allow for proper healing.

Following next Saturday’s game, top-ranked Alabama will be on a bye in Week 10 before its huge showdown with No. 2 LSU in Tuscaloosa Nov. 9. Tagovailoa’s availability for that game is uncertain, even as he told teammates that he’ll “be back for LSU.”

The combination of nearly three weeks from the time of the surgery to the LSU game and the TightRope procedure itself lends credence to the private optimism coming from Tuscaloosa regarding Tagovailoa being healthy enough to take the field for a game that could very well determine one of the four College Football Playoff participants.

UCF paying UConn $1 million to renew Civil ConFLiCT in 2021

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Bob Diaco may no longer be the head coach at UConn but his legacy of trying to build a rivalry with UCF lives on in the form of a seven-figure check.

The Hartford Courant reports that the soon to be independent Huskies have agreed to a 2021 game in Orlando with the Knights and that the program will receive a $1 million check as a result of the trip South for the non-conference meeting.

The two teams have played seven times since becoming fellow members of the AAC dating back to 2013, with UCF holding a 5-2 edge overall in the series. The Knights won the meeting in late September 56-21 and have dominated the Huskies the last few years.

Fans of both programs know there’s not much of a rivalry given the lopsided nature of the results but there have been attempts to stir things up, most notably by Diaco when he ran UConn and created a semi-serious (and unacknowledged in Orlando) trophy and named the game the ‘Civil ConFLiCT.’

At least things won’t end with September’s contest as the two teams continue to fill out their schedules. UConn will now have UCF on the docket in 2021 in addition to home games against FCS Holy Cross and Purdue plus road trips to UMass and Clemson. The Knights, meanwhile, host Boise State and travel to Louisville in the non-conference slate in addition to their regular rotation of AAC opponents.

CUSA fines Lane Kiffin $5K, reprimands FAU head coach for tweet

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Lane Kiffin has made headlines again and it has nothing to do with his team’s play on the field.

Conference USA announced on Sunday that they’ve fined the Florida Atlantic head coach $5,000 and publicly reprimanded him for violating the league’s sportsmanship policy after he posted a tweet on Saturday night that was critical of officials.

“Conference USA has specific rules and standards regarding sportsmanship which have been adopted by our membership,” CUSA commissioner Judy MacLeod said in a statement. “We have an obligation to enforce our rules including the prohibition of public criticism of officiating.”

Kiffin’s expensive tweet came in the heels of a 36-31 loss to Marshall on Friday.

The Owls and their social media-loving head coach will travel to Old Dominion on Saturday to continue conference play.