Thoughts on the Oklahoma Sooners' 31-26 win over the Texas Longhorns in the 2014 Red River Shootout.
*Football is different from most other sports in that some events truly do matter more than others in determining the final outcome. One side can control 80-90 percent of the action in a game and still come up short if a handful of key plays go the other way.
I've seen OU lose that way before, but today's game was the most clear-cut case in recent memory of an opponent essentially handing one over to the Sooners. Ill-timed penalties, special teams gaffes, back-breaking turnovers – the Longhorns shot off every toe on each foot Saturday. Texas lost despite more than doubling OU's total yardage and the Sooners converting just one third down the entire game.
That is mind-boggling.
(Cosmically, I consider the scales between the two squads to be back in balance after the 2009 game.)
*On the other hand, it was nice seeing an OU team that didn't seem to be the one making sloppy mistakes. The team looked tight, but I never got the impression that they lost their composure. Can't say that for some recent editions of Bob Stoops' squads.
Oh, and having the Golden Hat back where it belongs is comforting.
*Nabbing Jay Boulware from the Auburn staff two years ago didn't generate much buzz, but Stoops owes him big for cleaning up OU's special teams. Alex Ross' kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter was just the latest in a series of huge special teams plays in the last 10 games or so.
Unfortunately, I doubt Ross will get many more opportunities to return kicks this season.
*Enough dancing around. The biggest issue surrounding the Sooners right now is the smoking crater that has replaced the offense for long stretches in the last two games.
I can point to multiple culprits for the stagnation. Ultimately, though, I just don't see offensive coordinator a clear plan of attack from Josh Heupel. For example, when was the last time OU appeared intent on exploiting a weakness in an opposing defense?
Frankly, it comes off as though Heupel has a set of roughly 10-15 calls that he likes, which he matches to situations: 3rd-and-2 means a quick slant, etc. That makes for a fairly predictable offense. Just as bad, the O has very little flow when they're on the field. OU was noticeably more effective when the offense went uptempo, which is telling.
I really do detest bagging on an offensive coordinator, which is the universal complaint of chuckleheads. But shoe fits and whatnot in this case.
*I would contend that Keith Ford's absence has limited the offense more than most observers realize. He's a true every-down back and easily the best of OU's three runners when operating out of the zone read.
I love Samaje Perine's bruising running style as much as the next guy, but cramming it down an opponent's throat works against a West Virginia, not so much against a Texas.
*Trevor Knight is probably taking a disproportionate share of the blame for the offense's offensiveness. In the end, OU seems to be cramming some square pegs into round holes, and wide receivers who can't get separation are compounding the problems.
That doesn't make Knight blameless, but many rolls should be slowed when it comes to pinning everything on OU's quarterback.
*Plenty of blame to go around for the defense, too. I suspect that the primary culprit is a weakened pass rush. I will take a closer look this week.
*I still feel confident that winning out would put the Sooners in the inaugural playoff. After the last two weeks, I can't say that I share the same level of confidence that OU can pull that off.