Oklahoma Sooners’ offensive struggles continue, just squeaking by Texas Longhorns


Oklahoma’s 31-26 win over Texas was one that was not celebrated, at least not for long, by the Sooner faithful. That should be understandable to anyone who watched OU on offense, especially in the first half. Oklahoma managed just 232 yards of offense and converted just one third down on 11 opportunities. In short, it’s back to the drawing board for Josh Heupel.

The Bad News

The bad news is that Heupel and the Sooners were atrocious offensively in the first half against the Longhorns, posting that aforementioned horrifically bad total yardage number. For perspective, Oklahoma’s defense played fairly well aside from a couple mishaps from S Ahmad Thomas (I’d analyze those but I’m trying to keep this a G rated post) and STILL allowed 250 (!!!) more yards than the Sooners offense was able to muster.

Once again, it was the game plan in the first half that completely stifled any potential rhythm that Oklahoma could have come up with. Heupel handcuffed Knight with more of those “zone reads” and completely failed to put the ball in playmakers hands in space. Samaje Perine saw a good bit of work in the first half, but that play (why does he seem to only have one play?) is being stopped more often than not these days.

The insistence of interior running and lack of creativity despite boundless personnel combinations made things very difficult for OU in the first half, and the scoreboard reflected that. If not for a KR TD from Alex Ross (he needs the ball more in space) and a pick six from Zack Sanchez (plus: eight tackles!!) the Sooners would have put up just three points in the first half. And if not for a 15 yard penalty for destroying Sterling Shepard on the punt return to start the drive, OU would have been scoreless.

The Good News

Heupel came out with a much better idea of how to attack the Longhorns defense in the second half. We saw plays that involved Shepard, Neal, Ross, and others with the ball, on the outside, and in space. And for the most part, it worked. And even though that double-reverse that Heupel tried early in the third quarter didn’t work, that’s the kind of play that will make Oklahoma successful this season.

The difference in the second half was obvious, even to the casual observer. Oklahoma did a much better job of putting guys in space in the second half, and it showed with a pair of offensive touchdowns. Something else I noticed: When OU spread the defense out, it opened up the Texas defense for plays like Perine’s TD run.

Just like how the run sets up the pass, moving the ball on the edge of the field will create more space up the middle. If the defense doesn’t feel like it has to honor the perimeter, then OU will continue to see crowded fronts and a lack of space for Perine to navigate.

I loved how Oklahoma used Trevor Knight in this game. Remember, Knight is just a redshirt sophomore and has yet to play his 15th game in an OU uniform. He’s not the future Heisman Trohpy winner that people suspected he could be after the Sugar Bowl in January, but he can be a very serviceable QB on this team that is full of weapons and in need of a distributor.

With that said, I like where we saw his passing numbers end up at 12-20. I’d expect to see that number rise a little closer to 25 in most games later this year, especially if OU is able to be more successful on third down (they will have to be) and therefore run more total plays. We didn’t see him challenge the UT defense down the field at all in this one, but it’s not as if Durron Neal and KJ Young were doing a lot to help him, either.

For Oklahoma’s offense to be the most successful, I don’t think Knight needs to throw it more than 25 times per game, and he’ll likely complete at least 15 of those on swing passes and other easy routes. There’s nothing wrong with that, because that’s what this offense is largely designed to do: get the ball in the hands of playmakers in space and let them go to work.

More Bad News

I don’t want to end this piece on such a bad note, but I think it’s something that can’t go unmentioned: Oklahoma really, really needs Keith Ford to be back. Ford was apparently the guy who made this Sooners offense go, because it has been abysmal since he was injured in the Tennessee game. Between a lack of swing passes, off-tackle running, and a receiving threat out of the backfield, OU has been missing the three biggest components to its offense through the first three weeks.

Still, the coaches have been horrible at constructing an offensive identity for this team in Ford’s absence. With Ross’ athletic ability and Perine’s dominance (eight TDs in three games), Hepuel and Jay Norvell should have been able to give Knight and co. something better to work with over the last three games. Their lack of imagination has already cost Oklahoma one game and it nearly cost them another against Texas on Saturday. As long as Keith Ford is out, no game will be an easy one for the Sooners.