By John Shinn
CNHI News Service
NORMAN – Only the Oklahoma coaching staff knows what it truly wanted the offense to be. It’s easy to believe the goal was something close to what the Sooners showed in the final three quarters of Saturday’s 38-30 victory over Texas Tech.
Rushing for 277 yards, passing for another 249, dominating time of possession by over nine minutes. Yeah, that is the kind of performance OU was looking for the first time it squared off against a prolific offensive team.
“When we can move the ball up the field like we did and those long plays and long chunks, that’s what you want as an offense; along with putting points on the board,” OU quarterback Blake Bell said.
It was what OU had to have Saturday. It’s what it will need again in 11 days. Next up is No. 5 Baylor (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) Nov. 7 at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco, Texas.
It’s a game OU needs to have play out much like the victory over Texas Tech.
The game plan against the Red Raiders was simple: run the ball, throw it deep a couple times and play solid defense.
Outside of a slow offensive start in the first quarter. And two special teams miscues that led to two third-quarter touchdown drives by the Red Raiders, the game plan worked.
“On both sides of the ball we made some plays when we needed to have them,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “In particular, the offense answering back and scoring, the way we rushed the football I’m really pleased with.”
Running the ball is a lone offensive element OU has been able to rely on all season. It’s been consistent throughout the first seven games.
The difference Saturday was the ability to pick up big chunks in the passing game. Bell’s 249 passing yards came on just 14 completions. He averaged 17.78 per completion against the Red Raiders. Receiver Jalen Saunders, who caught two touchdown passes, averaged 25.5 yards per catch.
“I guess you could say he was looking for me, but I was just really able to get open,” said Saunders, who finished with 153 receiving yards. “That’s our job is being able to get open, and I think we were doing a really good job of that.”
The “chunk plays” Bell and Saunders connected for were what’s been absent from the offense in the last three games.
“We just have to keep trying to find opportunities for him to get those chunks,” Stoops said of Saunders. “He’s a great receiver, great quickness, great route runner and we just have to keep finding his spots.”
They’re going to be there. OU’s running game will face some tweaks over the next week. Losing fullback Trey Millard to a season-ending knee injury will affect OU’s running ability. Millard showed he can do many things with the ball. Above all else he was a dominating blocker — especially when OU ran off tackle.
How it goes about game planning around his absence will be interesting. What’s worked best of late was putting two receivers on the field, one running and having Millard and fullback Aaron Ripkowski playing either fullback or tight end.
Tight end Brannon Green replaced Millard after the injury and the offense was still effective.
As long as it stays that way, the Sooners have finally found what they’ve been looking for.
“Our offense was very run-heavy. I thought we had some really good matchups,” center Gabe Ikard said. “We had them outsized in some positions because they’re built for a spread offense.”
Everyone else OU plays in the regular season is built the same way.