NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 26: Running back Roy Finch #22 of the Oklahoma Sooners rushes up field during the second half against the Iowa State Cyclones on November 26, 2011 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Iowa State 26-6. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
509 total yards, 256 yards passing, 253 yards rushing, 5.6 yards per rush, three players with 80+ yards rushing. On paper, you might think this was another banner day for the OU offense. You would be wrong. The more telling stats with respect to how this OU fan feels the offense actually performed were: 2 TDs in eight red zone possessions, two stalled drives inside the 30 because of turnovers, three INTs, four total turnovers, six dropped passes, and six out of ten times the Bell-dozer was stopped for no gain or a loss. The total yards may suggest otherwise, but this offense struggled Saturday against a game but average at best ISU defense.
In terrible weather conditions, OC Josh Heupel seemed determined to buck common logic and use the pass as the offense's primary means of moving the ball. This despite showing the ability, throughout pretty much the entire game, to move the ball consistently by running it. Again, here the stats seem to portray something that doesn't feel all that accurate. On paper, the team passed it 45 times and rushed it 45 times. The definition of well balanced. However, if you dig a little deeper those appear to be rather misleading. First, Heupel never really established the run game consistently getting better than average gains on the ground and then immediately going back to the pass. He just never consistently stuck with the run game. Second, back to the actual stats. It is true that OU had 45 rushes, but within that number includes the following: Millard - 3 rushes for 1 yard. Landry - 3 rushes for 7 yards. Bell - 8 rushes for 14 yards. Clay - 2 rushes for 15 yards.
So aside from the two Bell TD runs included in those, if you remove them from the equation OU actually ran the ball 27 times vs. the 45 passes. Now I get that is not actually how things work, but at best those were throw away calls and should not really count towards Heupel's effort (or lack there of) to establish the run. Saturday was a perfect opportunity to to do and instead he continues with his pass first (and second) preference despite the previously mentioned terrible weather conditions. What he is trying to do with this offense continues to be an absolute mystery to this OU fan.
Quarterbacks - Like so many other games, Landry Jones had some good moments and some "what in the #$%! was he thinking" moments. His final stats aren't eye popping while also not being terrible. It was the second consecutive game he failed to throw a TD pass which is a tad concerning, but also somewhat easily explainable with the emergence of Blake Bell in the red zone. His first INT was 100% on the WR (Kameel Jackson) as Landry hit him right in the hands, but the deflection lead to the pick. His second INT, not so much. It's plays like this one that continue to provide his doubters with the ammo they use to downgrade his performances. If you read any of the post game coverage in the local papers and such, they'd have you believe Landry had another outstanding game. I'm not sure what game they watched, but that is definitely not what I saw. I'm not sure why those in the media seem so hesitant to say he didn't play that well if he in fact didn't play that well, but for me this was one of those games for Landry.
The Bell-dozer showed some new wrinkles, but also showed that defenses are starting to catch on. This was easily the least successful game for that package and not just on the ground. They tried to get fancy and let Bell throw, which many of us (myself included) have been calling for, and we saw maybe why they haven't done it more. Bell made a TERRIBLE decision with the ball and gifted an INT to the Iowa State defense. There was another instance, on one of the new wrinkles, where Bell ran the option with Trey Millard and seemed to pitch too early thus hanging Millard out to dry a little bit. He seems indecisive on anything other than his little hesitation run where he follows Millard/Ripkowski, which Iowa State was clearly ready for and stuffed multiple times. Don't think for a second that Bill Young and OSU weren't watching that.
Running Backs - Roy Finch was his usual dynamic self. Brandon Williams had what has to be considered his "break out" game. And Trey Franks provided his first substantial contribution in some time with two big plays off reverses. Yet if you watched this game and didn't come away feeling like the OU offense didn't come close to using their run game enough then we might not have watched the same game.
I don't really have an issue with how they used Finch in this game given that he had 18 touches (15 rushes, 3 catches) which I think is about right for him in most games. What I do have a major issue with is how they used, or how little to be more accurate, Brandon Williams and Trey Millard. Williams is clearly a special talent, routinely ripped off chunks of yards Saturday, and yet for some reason they refused to give him consistent carries. He would rush for nine or more yards on one play, Heupel would then go right back to the pass, then Williams would come out of the game. If I'm not mistaken, there was only one instance the entire game where he was given more than one consecutive carry. Williams had 11 carries for 80 yards (a paltry 7.3 avg.) which was borderline criminal under use. Of all the games they could have built this kid's confidence heading into the biggest game of the year where he is clearly going to be needed, THIS WAS THAT GAME. And what do they do instead, give him a carry here or there, on which he does all that they've asked and then some, and this is apparently how they reward that. I have absolutely no clue what they are trying to do with this kid and at this point I don't know how you could say they clearly don't either.
Equally as confusing is Millard's lack of involvement in the run game as anything other than a lead blocker. Minus Whaley, this team does not have a real "power" back they can give the ball to in short yardage situations. Oh wait, you mean Millard is in fact exactly that?!? Well, can you please remind the OU coaches of that. I'm a huge fan of Finch, have been since he got here, but if he's on the field again in a short yardage/red zone opportunity (like he was yesterday) and they call a run right up the middle (again, like they did yesterday) I'm going to freaking scream. The kid is five freaking seven and 170 lbs soaking wet! Why do you think that is a better option than a guy who is 6'2" 250?!?
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends - Captain Obvious statement - This offense really misses Ryan Broyles. No where is it more noticeable than on third down where Broyles was Landry's Option A, B, & C. This offense does not have a guy who can find that opening in the zone, or the tiniest of creases in the defense, or catch the ball 3-5 yards short of the first down marker and still find a way to get that first down. There is still talent at WR to be sure, but without Broyles and suspended Jaz Reynolds it was clear this unit struggled. Six drops between the two units is just flat out unacceptable.
It was nice to see Dejuan Miller have a big game on senior day despite dropping a pass or two himself. Kenny Stills looked to me like he had fresh legs again, but missed a couple plays he typically makes. Kameel Jackson stepped into the lineup and had a couple nice catches, but his big mistake was a glaring one that directly led to a turnover. James Hanna had as many catches as he did drops. And that was about it. With the weather, it didn't figure to be a big day through the air and it wasn't.
Offensive Line - Don't have a lot here other than I thought the o-line played very well, both in the run and pass game. Aside from a foolish personal foul penalty, I don't remember any real negatives for the big guys up front. Another game where Landry doesn't take a sack and despite Heupel's decision to not use it enough IMO, when they did run it the line was opening up holes pretty consistently.
So, heading into Bedlam this was hardly a performance to inspire much confidence. Early weather reports for next weekend are that the weather could be even worse than it was Saturday. Which if accurate could make throwing the ball even more difficult, so for a team that is apparently hesitant (to put it kindly) to run the ball that certainly doesn't bode well in our favor.
But we'll save the Bedlam analysis for the upcoming week. For now, I guess just be glad we won this one. Right?