Oklahoma was in a no win situation Saturday night in Lawrence, Kansas as the top-ranked Sooners took on the struggling Jayhawks. A week after the Oklahoma State Cowboys routed the Jayhawks 70-28 in Stillwater, OU was left with the expectation of keeping pace with their in-state rivals or facing failure regardless of the game's outcome.
After drubbing Texas 55-17 in last week's Red River Rivalry it just didn't seem logical to expect the Sooners to be anything but vanilla and distracted, hence my 45-17 score prediction. Oklahoma's offensive performance wasn't bad but can be summed up with two words, "perspective" and "focus".
Our perspective as fans can often be skewed in regards to what we think the team should be or do. If Alabama, LSU or Wisconsin win in blowout fashion then we automatically expect the Sooners to do the exact same thing or suffer dire consequences. That's simply not the case. Oklahoma wasn't hurt in the polls by only beating Kansas by 30 nor were their national championship hopes diminished. Actually the only thing that dropped after the 47-17 win over Kansas was fan confidence.
For anyone who has been around football for any amount of time can testify that its impossible to keep operating at their top level 100% of the time. You just hope that on the night's you're off its against a team like Kansas. The focus just wasn't there for Oklahoma on Saturday night. They came out flat as evidenced in Landry Jones' 0-4 start in the passing game and the 246 yards the defense gave up in the first half. However, they rebounded nicely and while the defense only allowed one first down and six total yards of offense in the second half, the offense amassed 507 yards and 37 points after the first quarter. Its not so much how you start as much as it is how you finish and the Sooners finished strong.
The optimist will tell you that Oklahoma was 7-for-7 inside the red zone with no turnovers and a total of 33 points. The pessimist will tell you that the Sooners only scored three touchdowns in seven red zone attempts. Is there a red zone issue with the offense? Yeah, I think there is but I'll also take seven scores in seven trips inside the red zone pretty much any time. There aren't a lot of teams who are going to be able to get inside the red zone seven times against Oklahoma and just the fact they OU is there with such frequency says a lot in regards to the power of this offense. Why can't they score every time? Well, I'll challenge you to show me a team that can.
In my opinion the issue is a coaching problem and not personnel. Oklahoma's offense needs space, both with and depth, and inside the red zone depth is limited. We could rant a bit about not being able to over power the KU defensive front and power their way in but understanding that OU already being short on the offensive line with Ben Habern arm injury was also without starting left guard Stephen Good should take a bit of the sting from that argument. Its clear that for now this coaching staff prefers to play it safe inside the red zone and not risk a turnover or a busted play for a loss of yards. It may not be popular among the fans but it is productive when it comes to putting points on the board.
What bothers me the most about the offensive performance against Kansas is the number three. That's how many times the Sooners turned the ball over. They pretty much did it in every way possible for the offense as well. Dominique Whaley fumbled on a run, Ryan Broyles fumbled on a reception and Landry Jones threw a pick. That will get you beat a lot more than field goals inside the red zone.
At the end of the day the offensive resume reads like this - 29 first downs, 610 yards, 88 plays, 247 rushing yards, 363 passing yards and 47 points. That is not a bad performance!
Quarterback - Certainly wasn't the best performance of Landry Jones' career but we could easily point out quarterbacks who were a whole lot worse on Saturday. Jones 60% completion percentage is a bit low to his standards but the interception is what is most damaging to his grade. Three touchdowns and 363 yards can't be complained about though. Overall Position Grade: B-
Running Back - Dominique Whaley's 165 rushing yards came on hard carried where he looked fast and powerful. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry and crossed the goal line once. However, he also had his first fumble of the season that led to a Kansas field goal. Roy Finch also look strong and mad when he ran. I would even say that he ran violently as attested to by his 9.7 yards per carry. Overall Position Grade: B-
Offensive Line - No quarterback sacks is a big plus to an offensive line's grade and an average of 6.2 yards per carry takes is a step further. However, not pushing the ball across the goal line is going to cost them. Overall Position Grade: B+
Receiver - Kenny Stills and Landry Jones seemed to have some communication problems early on but the end result was pretty good with #4 grabbing 8 passes for 74 yards and a score. However, the star of the night was Ryan Broyles who became the NCAA's all-time leader in receptions. He was completely unstoppable with 13 catches for 217 yards two touchdowns. I'll even give him a small pass on the fumble. Overall Position Grade: A-