Turns out, maybe all Oklahoma needed was to just get away for a while.
Like, the entire month of October.
The Sooners’ last home game was Sept. 26 against Kansas State. Their next one is this week, Nov. 7 against Kansas.
That’s 42 consecutive days without a home game.
OU goes into Saturday’s 2:30 game with the 0-6 Jayhawks ranked No. 19 and on a three-game winning streak (4-2 overall, 3-2 Big 12).
Sooner Nation can complain about the Big 12 schedule-makers all they want, but the reality is that so much travel, so many challenges, so much adversity forced a young OU team to grow up fast.
“It was good for us,” coach Lincoln Riley said Monday during the Big 12 coaches teleconference. “I think that it came at a good time for us. And we’ve always enjoyed the challenge of playing away from here, and I think our team really responded to it. I think guys are forced to grow up and grow up on the road.”
The road trip started inauspiciously with a loss at Iowa State, then included a four-overtime win over Texas, a complete victory at TCU, and last week’s blowout at Texas Tech.
Clearly, this team has made progress since that Sept. 26 loss to the Wildcats.
Riley described his first reaction when the Big 12 announced its revised 2020 schedule.
“Yeah, I mean, when I saw it, I thought it was kind of strange,” he said. “I just never had a stretch where you’re gone for — I think it’s been literally six weeks. So bizarre how we got there.
“But it is what it is. You gotta win the ones on your schedule.”
Riley also said after the team was stunned by K-State, being on the road for four straight games was just what this team needed at the time.
“I don’t know, sometimes I think the road creates a kind of band-together type of atmosphere within your roster — if your culture’s in a good place and if your team’s willing to really come together.
“With some of the adversity we faced early in the season, I don’t know, it was just kind of a good time for us to get out on on our own and band together and see if we could fight through it. And the team, through that stretch of games, did a nice job of that.”
It’s also a good time for an extended road swing because, well, Big 12 stadiums are only operating at 25 percent capacity.
“When stadiums aren’t full, the road isn’t as difficult and you probably don’t have as much of a home field advantage as you normally do on the flip side of it,” Riley said, “so those things are maybe negated, I would say, some this year.
“But I think these young guys have grown up and the team’s been in some tough situations that we’ve had to dig ourselves out from. So, excited here for this closing stretch. Hopefully these guys can continue to improve and get us as close to full strength as we can possibly be.”
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