After Baylor scored a touchdown to open the second half in the Bears' eventual 48-14 depantsing of Oklahoma last weekend, the Sooners were essentially on life support.
Down 17, OU badly needed points. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops' unit needed a chance to regroup. Maybe most importantly, the Sooner O needed to prove it could hold up its end of the deal if the D could start getting stops. Giving up 28 unanswered points had definitely put both sides of that proposition in doubt.
Two plays into the drive, the touchdown train looked to be on schedule. The first two plays had netted nine yards. The Sooners just needed to move the ball a measly three feet to get a fresh set of downs.
Quarterback Trevor Knight took the third-down snap from center out of a pistol formation, turned and handed the ball off to Keith Ford. The Sooners' sophomore tailback was promptly met in the backfield by Baylor defensive tackle Beau Blackshear, who dropped Ford two yards short of where the ball had been snapped. (Bears defensive end Shawn Oakman, who was on an unmolested beeline into the Sooner backfield, would have smothered Ford if OU's tailback somehow managed to elude Blackshear.)
With his offense now moving backwards, head coach Bob Stoops opted not to risk handing the ball back to the Bears deep in Crimson and Cream territory. OU punted away on fourth down. Baylor then proceeded to snuff out whatever little life was left in the home team with a 70-yard, seven-play touchdown drive.
Of course, if you're familiar with OU's short-yardage complex, you probably had a pretty good inkling as to how that sequence would end up. It has been a running theme (no pun intended) this year. The Sooners' Power Success Rate, which Football Outsiders defines as the percentage of runs on third or fourth down with two yards or less to go that achieved a first down or touchdown, is 65.7 percent. That places them 74th nationally.
Those struggles have been magnified in OU's three losses.
In dropping games to TCU, Kansas State and Baylor, the Sooners have converted a combined eight of 16 run attempts (50 percent) on third and fourth down with two yards or less to go. For reference, the national median conversion percentage in those situations is around 67 percent.
If you include passing plays in similar situations, the total conversion rate in those three games drops down to 45 percent (nine conversions in 20 attempts). If you shrink that universe down to just the plays where OU has had goal to go, the Sooners have hit the end zone just twice on nine attempts.
You could argue that this reflects a problem with the offensive line or a "toughness" issue. Frankly, though, problems in short yardage have dogged OU's offense for more than just this year. I'd point the finger at the scheme.