TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 30: Quarterback Blake Bell #10 of the Oklahoma Sooners scores on a 4 yard rushing touchdown against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the first quarter of the Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium on December 30, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
With a whopping 89 yards at half time and just 275 for the entire game, last night's offensive performance in the Insight Bowl won't exactly go down in Sooner lore. However, coming off a Bedlam game that included 50 pass attempts Friday night's much more reasonable 25/33 pass-to-run ratio was very much a step in the right direction for an offense searching all year long for some kind of consistency under first year OC Josh Heupel. It was clear from the outset that Heupel finally got the message that OU needs to run the ball consistently and not just as an afterthought in order to be its more effective. And yet when you go back and look at the box score, you see no OU running back with more than nine carries and for the second year in a row can't help but feel that Trey Millard was under utilized yet again.
But we're going to get into that with much more detail after the jump. Fair warning before hand though. Knowing that Friday night was the last OU football game for the better part of the next nine months is a sucktasitc feeling that has only been driven home emphatically by the less than stellar New Year's Eve bowl lineup. So things might get a little long winded in the breakdown of last night's offensive performance as we (and by we I mean jte) try and extend the OU football season in any way possible. You've been warned.
I had intentions to start somewhere else, but I need to get my thoughts on Landry Jones out of the way early. Assuming you watched the game Friday night, that performance by Landry was the absolute perfect example of why he is such a polarizing figure amongst Sooner Nation. In short, he's just an infuriating player to watch and it's only amplified by the fact that the ball is in his hands on every single offensive play.
For example - When you watch the guy hold the ball while a defender comes free off his block and Landry has more than enough time to just throw the ball away rather than taking the sack but seemingly can't make a decision, it makes you want to pull your hair out.
Or another - When you watch the guy, for the better part of three years, consistently miss throws high due to poor footwork and constantly throwing off his back foot, then he unleashes one of those perfect NFL type throws that so few guys can actually make, and it's that tease of just how good he can be at times, it just pisses you off. Or at least that's what it does to me anyway.
You look at his numbers against Iowa, 16/25 for 161 yards with 1 TD & 1 INT, and they certainly don't leap off the page at you. I think it's fair to say he seemed "off" most of the night, repeatedly missing open receivers high (as usual). But at the same time he wasn't so bad that he was hurting the offense like we've seen in other games and at the end of the day I think that's all any of us really want. I'd like to think we could put enough talent around him, last night being an exception with all our injuries this year, that we could live with a 'game manager' type QB. We've seen what happens when the coaches put the outcome solely on Landry's shoulders and the results have not been good. He has more than his share of defenders, but for all their excuses I'm just not sure how anyone could believe we haven't seen who and what Landry is as a QB. We know what we're getting and that's not always a bad thing. In fact, I firmly believe it's something this team needs next year and for that reason I hope Landry does come back. Not necessarily a popular opinion within Sooner Nation I realize, but this offense needs Landry in 2012 and that means we have to take the bad with the good.
Okay, out of my system. We can move on now.
Well, Blake Bell certainly didn't do any Landry any favors in giving every local media hack an full offseason's worth of articles about the QB "controversy" brewing in Norman. As an OU fan, you can't help but watch Bell and see the leadership oozing out of him. I'd be lying if I wasn't one of those OU fans fantasizing about what this offense would look like with Bell at the helm. The obvious issue is his passing, which would have to improve dramatically during the offseason if Landry were to leave, but he's just such an efficient runner you wonder if that/he could hold up over the course of an entire season. I still believe Drew Allen would be the more likely to start if Landry declares early, but I also think Bell would be worked in much more frequently with Allen as the starter than he was this past season.
Does anybody else get that deja vu feeling coming off a second consecutive bowl game where you feel like one of our best offensive players wasn't used nearly enough? Do we get another declaration from Bob Stoops in the coming days about how Trey Millard will be used more next time? Because I'm pretty sure we heard that this time last year and then we watch a 2011 season where Millard was constantly under utilized. I don't know what else Heupel needs to see from this guy?!? I foolishly believed the talk that Millard would be used more in this game only to see him average 5.3 yards per carry and get all of four touches on offense.
I thought Brennan Clay looked as good as he has all year. Did some good things both on the ground and through the air out of the back field. Still doesn't strike me as a dynamic runner, but for the first time since the FSU game he looked like a guy who could contribute in this offense. Although it is a little concerning that he seemed to catch the Trey Franks self-tackalization disease. Didn't know that was contagious. That could be a problem.
I think Roy Finch found his way back into the doghouse last night. Not sure how else you explain his total absence in the second half. Disappointing end to a pretty disappointing season for the diminutive RB. Will be interesting to see if he puts in the work this spring/summer to get back in the good graces of these coaches and how exactly he'll be used in this offense next season.
I said it in the game thread, but it bares mentioning again. If Friday night was an audition for Kenny Stills to be this team's #1 receiver, he didn't exactly nail it. To be fair, he didn't have any other proven threats around him to draw attention away but there was a time you could say the same about Ryan Broyles and there weren't many games in his career where he was as unnoticeable as Stills was for most of the game against Iowa. I don't say that to be harsh on the young man, but he'll need to step up in a much bigger way in 2012 because Broyles obviously won't be back then either.
It was good to see Kameel Jackson have a nice game. He made a couple nice catches on some less than perfect throws from Landry. Catches that he had dropped earlier this season actually.
The TEs were their usual non-existent selves under the direction of Heupel, but I was very happy to see Trent Ratterree get a touchdown in his final game in the crimson and cream. He's everything that is right about OU football and college football in general. Congrats Trent!
Didn't think it was an especially stellar night for the OU offensive line, especially the interior guys. Thought they really missed Adam Shead. Gabe Ikard and Ben Habern were destroyed on more than one occasion by the Iowa nose tackle (I'm sure you remember the plays). Thought Donald Stephenson was pretty good for the most part, but on the other side with Lane Johnson I continue to be underwhelmed. It's clear the coaches love the guy, but the more I watch him play the more I wonder how he can be our best option.
Matt mentioned him in his quick recap and he's not really an offensive player, but I also wanted to single out Tress Way for his exceptional play Friday night. It had been an up and down year for him I thought, but he closed things out in a big way last night.
Along those same lines, are you has excited as I am that Michael Hunnicutt is just a freshman! His 35-yard field goal essentially iced the game and was just another example of how good he's been all year. Dare I say, FINALLY OU seems to have solved their kicker woes? Hooray!!!
So, clearly not a game for the record books but they got the job done and that's all we can really ask for. Don't get me wrong though, there are still a bunch of things to work on this offseason. This was supposed to be the year Heupel could ease his way into things with all the returning talent, but obviously things got off track and the former OU signal caller clearly struggled. Well the bad news is things aren't getting any easier next year, so let's just hope Heupel took some really good notes this year.