MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

October 22, 2013

OU hopes to keep Texas Tech’s offense off the field

By John Shinn
CNHI News Service

— NORMAN – There was a time when Oklahoma was giddy over the prospect of getting in an offensive shootout. From 2008-12, it won a lot of Big 12 Conference games in that manner.

But that period has passed. The Sooners’ typical scoring drive is a matter of stringing plays together instead of relying on one big one. The 8-yard run is a lot more common than the 50-yard catch-and-run.

An offensive shootout is not part of the game plan as No. 17 OU (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) prepares to face No. 10 Texas Tech (7-0, 4-0) Saturday at Owen Field and No. 6 Baylor Nov. 7.

“It’s very important that we are able to control the time of possession and keep those offenses off the field,” OU center Gabe Ikard said.

The only way to do it is run the ball consistently, effectively and repetitively.

How well the Sooners do this will have a major impact in Saturday’s game and whether or not they can remain in the Big 12 title race.

When asked about it Monday, OU coach Bob Stoops laid out the scenario needed to win games against the high-powered up-tempo offenses they are about to face.

“You’ve gotta be ready for the tempo, and part of that many plays is the offense needs to stay on the field. Our offense needs to stay on the field, and it’s hard to get that many plays when your offense is on the field, hopefully, a good number of plays,” he said. “So, that’s what I said to start with: We’ve got to play together well as a team.”

At times, the Sooners have done that. The victory over Notre Dame Sept. 28 remains their most complete performance of the season.

The defense played well in that game. The two early turnovers it came up with set up the two-touchdown lead. But OU ran the ball 42 times, ran 19 more plays than the Irish and finished with more than an 11-minute edge in time of possession.

OU couldn’t do anything resembling that in the loss to Texas and didn’t find that groove until the second half of last week’s game against Kansas.

But neither of those teams have boasted especially explosive offenses. The Red Raiders average 41.1 points and 548.1 yards per game.

Struggle for a quarter with a bunch of three-and-outs, and the game can get out of hand in the blink of an eye.

“When you are playing a great offense, you want to get started quickly. You know they are going to put up points and get started quickly. That will be our main goal on Saturday, to be able to get started fast,” Ikard said. “We’ve really put our team in some bad spots in the last couple of weeks with the way we have started.”

Doesn’t matter how OU scores Saturday, but the longer the offense stays on the field the chances of winning greatly increase.

If OU can do it by constantly running the ball, along with the clock, the odds only get better.