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 second quarter of the Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium on December 30, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona. The Sooners defeated the Hawkeyes 31-14. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
After ripping offensive coordinator Josh Heupel for nearly a month now I have to give him some credit for doing exactly what I said I wanted him to do in the Insight Bowl. Heupel balanced the offense by running the football but in doing so he also exposed the world to just how limited the Sooners were at the end of the season personnel wise.
Oklahoma passed the ball 25 times and ran it 37 times. After the Bedlam game I feared that we would never see OU be run focused again. After all, Heupel is the quarterbacks coach and Jay Norvell is the receivers coach. With both of them having the responsibility of installing the offensive game plan it seemed that their natural inclination had become to favor their guys in a high flying offense that had made running backs an accessory rather than a necessity. However, the Insight Bowl showed us three things about the offense that we may not have previously known.
First, its clear that a message was sent not only to the players but the coaches as well. The offensively philosophy was different in the bowl game than from any other game this season. It was conservative to say the least but, as we'll get to in a minute, conservative was what the Sooners needed. Oklahoma had basically the same offensive personnel from the Bedlam game and the spread attack failed miserably there. If we were looking for evidence of a lesson learned then this may serve as just that. Hopefully it'll bleed through until next season.
Secondly, its clear that there really were no consistent play makers behind Dominique Whaley, Ryan Broyles and Jaz Reynolds. That's not necessarily a prognostication of gloom and doom for next season as much as it is a statement of youth and inexperience. There's a fair argument to be made that the coaches are responsible for a good amount of the inexperience but youth is youth and guys like Brennan Clay showed some promise. Whatever the reason this game was evidence that Oklahoma's depth at receiver and running back is still underdeveloped which makes me scratch my head all the more as to why the coaches invited OSU into a shootout when they clearly don't have the manpower for it.
Oklahoma's game plan was far from entertaining or even being real effective but it was exactly what the Sooners needed. Keep it close to the vest and let the defense and special teams put you in a situation to score and win. That's exactly what they did and it worked. How limited was Oklahoma on offense? Blake Bell was the MVP after playing only ten plays.
Finally, its clear that this team is going to have to rely heavily on JUCOs and freshmen for offensive improvement next season. That's a bit scary when you take into consideration the limitations of Oklahoma's youth this season. Kenny Stills has loads of potential but failed to insert himself as a top threat after Ryan Broyles left. I'll take the Brennan Clay we saw in the Insight Bowl (4.9 YPC) anytime he wants to show up. The problem is that version of Clay has been very scarce.
The Sooners won't have to completely reload however. They'll be set at offensive line. Dominique Whaley is going to be back and guys like Kameel Jackson, who showed promise as well, will have a year of experience underneath them. They need some guys to come in and make an immediate impact at the support roles with a star receiver being the only major hole to fill. That is until Landry Jones declares himself eligible for the NFL draft.