This has been the most bizarre season for Oklahoma at the quarterback position. In fact, it’s has to be the most confusing QB year ever under Bob Stoops.
And it’s the biggest story to come out of the Iowa State game.
(Game-saving might be a better label.)
Jalen Saunders’ punt return
Like a lightning bolt hurled by some Football Zeus, Saunders - with ISU coverage players all around him - came up with a great play out of nowhere. It zeroed out OU’s miserable first half and likely decided the football game.
For the first time all year long, OU’s offense had a clear identity: zone-read running out of the Pistol with a threat at QB. OU’s offensive line created holes, and OU’s best group of players (Roy Finch, Brennan Clay, and Damien Williams) made big plays with defenders concerned about the outside QB run game. OU’s QB run game added big plays, too.
Sure, it was ISU, but the difference was the commitment to the scheme with the right personnel. This was the offense that OU was supposed to be running all fall based on the insider reports that fans were left to read with skepticism and wonder.
After a decent first half, ISU did nothing in the second half at all.Once Charles Tapper become eligible to play after his suspension, the D turned around. Instead of being passive and letting ISU run on them, the defenders were aggressive and attacking. Tapper right now might be OU’s most valuable defender.
In addition, Mike Stoops decided that he was not going to let any ISU QB sit back in the pocket on 3rd down. Mike blitzed and blitzed some more.
OU started to use Striker more in pass coverage and not just in a blitzing role that
has become somewhat predictable. It seemed to be working against ISU.
Ideally OU could play Striker as a nickel strong safety in its big personnel sets and not have to take him off the field for a bigger strong safety.
Knight looked more poised and ready to play than he was in his two starts earlier this year. His passing game, while still a work in progress, seemed to have improved. His big play potential running the ball is going to cause defensive coordinators some problems.
Finally, message boarders can wonder no longer: Kendal Thompson played. Of course, they will continue to wonder why he wasn’t given a shot earlier.
The OU defense in the first half had a horrible odor of "quit" around it. No one was making plays and tackles were being missed.
OU’s offense was dormant while ISU was going on long drives. If ISU had taken that last drive before Saunders' punt return into OU territory and scored, the Sooners might have easily lost this game.
OU fans would have hoped after the Baylor offensive fiasco that the Sooners' offense would start efficiently and put some points on the board early with almost 10 days to retool. Nope. Blake Bell started, and the offense went nowhere. It was more inconsistent play by Bell, especially in the passing game, and more unfocused play calling by offensive coordinator Josh Heupel.
The really, really ugly thought
Does OU win if Bell does not get knocked out?
I hate even asking the question, because hoping players get hurt is the ultimate in fan mania scumbaggery.
However, prior to the hit on Bell in the first half, Bob showed no signs of pulling Bell - and Bell showed no signs of leading OU to a score.
Where does OU go from here?
*OU has to play Knight and Thompson versus Kansas State and Oklahoma State and run the read-option offense that we saw in the second half. That scheme gives the RBs the best chance of making big plays, and other than Saunders, the those are our best offensive players.
Stick with the scheme and commit to it. It’s the best and only chance OU has of winning these road games. Will OU be too one-dimensional? Perhaps, but the scheme will force defenses to make choices that might open some easier passing options for either Knight or Thompson.
*Does Bob have to make a change at offensive coordinator?
*Playing Bell further isn’t going to provide any more answers at QB. The performance(s) of the quarterback(s) in these games should provide a clearer picture of the offseason decisions needed on offense.
You cannot go into spring camp with five QBs, and if you want to roll back to a passing-focused offense, Cody Thomas may be your best option on campus.