Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops made two things clear Monday: There won't be a change at quarterback for the Sooners and he is OK with the direction his program is headed.
Stoops declined to publicly criticize junior quarterback Blake Bell or co-offensive coordinators Josh Heupel or Jay Norvell following the Sooners' woeful offensive performance in a 41-12 loss Thursday to No. 4 Baylor that effectively knocked Oklahoma out of the Big 12 Conference title race.
Despite calls from some quarters for sophomore Kendal Thompson - who missed almost all of preseason practice with a fractured foot and hasn't played this season — to have a shot at quarterback, Stoops said Bell would remain the starter when No. 22 Oklahoma (7-2, 4-2) hosts Iowa State (1-8, 0-6) on Saturday.
"We've just got to be able to throw the football better. We'll continue to work on that," said Stoops, who later added: "I'm not going to change what we're doing with the quarterbacks" regarding playing time.
The Sooners played in the national-title game after the 2008 season. During the past five seasons, Oklahoma has lost six games by 14 points or more, with three of those lopsided losses coming in the Sooners' last 10 outings, against Texas A&M, Texas and now Baylor.
Stoops' take on the "state of the program" was that Oklahoma is "7-2 and working to the end of the year. Just (Big 12) co-champs a year ago, right? What else do you want to know? Let's see. We won it in 2010 and tied it in '12 and we're going through '13. I think there are only four or five teams that have won more games over the past five years. I believe that's right. If that's not the answer you are looking for, I'm not sure. It seems like every time you lose a game, it's like, 'Oh, geez, the sky is falling.'"
Against Baylor, Oklahoma managed only 237 yards of offense and failed to effectively move the football — particularly in the first half, when the Sooners' defense limited Baylor's high-powered offense to a field goal during the first 23 minutes.
"That was probably the most frustrating performance we've had since I've been playing here," senior center Gabe Ikard said. "Just knowing all the opportunities we had in the first half, how well the defense played, to not be able to put something together and put points on the board was extremely frustrating."
Bell finished 15-of-35 passing for 150 yards and threw two interceptions against Baylor. He has started seven games after Trevor Knight struggled with his passing while starting the Sooners' first two games.
Knight initially edged Bell in a preseason competition for the job, while Thompson watched from the sideline after his foot injury. Thompson's father, former Oklahoma quarterback Charles Thompson, has called into a local sports radio program campaigning for his son to have a shot now that he's healthy.
Asked to grade his quarterback play, Stoops said, "I'm not going to grade it in front of everybody. It's been inconsistent. I think that's the fairest thing to say." But he also offered little hope for those wanting Kendal Thompson to play.
"I'm not going to sit here and make wholesale changes in the ninth game of the year, when we've done some awfully good things through the year," Stoops said. "Kendal has done an awesome job. We love what he's doing. He's got a bright future. It's hard to overcome the initial way he started. It's no one's fault that he was injured and missed 40 practices to start the year. Are we going to go experiment now to find out? I don't know that that's the case."
Stoops acknowledged he's always spent more time working with the defense than the offense, but said he was "on board" with Oklahoma's offensive game plan heading into the Baylor game. He said that Oklahoma's coaching staff spent the weekend diagnosing what went wrong and that he's satisfied with the results.
"It's always fair to say . there's blame to go around to everybody," Stoops said. "But also sometimes, when you're getting beat up front, it doesn't matter what you're calling. You're going to be an ugly play-caller when the defense is playing a lot better than you."
In recent years, Stoops — in a break from his earlier practice — has fired assistant coaches at the end of a season. He said he and his assistants know that they are accountable for what happens within the program and on the field.
"Absolutely," Stoops said. "They understand every bit as much as I do, and every coach does. I was an assistant coach a lot longer than I've been a head coach and I was always very aware of that."