Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
We’re used to this from the Oklahoma defense. Explosive offenses, with a dynamic quarterback, have been shredding the Sooners for the better part of two seasons now. What wasn’t expected in Friday night’s AT&T Cotton Bowl was that the OU offense would fall flat on its face.
The Sooners pretty much matched Texas A&M blow-for-blow in the first half. A dropped touchdown pass from Kenny Stills, and another from Trey Millard, cost OU some points but a 294 yard performance had Oklahoma trailing just 14-13 at the intermission.
That's not to say there weren't mistakes made by the Sooners in the first thirty minutes. On Oklahoma's opening drive a defensive offsides penalty would have given OU a first and goal at the A&M two. The Sooners chose instead to sacrifice the down for the result of the play settled on second and goal from the one. Obviously they thought they would be able to punch it in but the drive stalled after two Belldozer plays. I do understand their logic but I'll take three shots from the two over two shots from the one just about any day.
The other big failure in the first half was when the Sooners failed to capitalize on Johnny Manziel's only mistake of the night. After Javon Harris picked off A&M's Heisman winner, in the Sooner endzone, Oklahoma drove 55 yards in five plays but Landry Jones threw his only pick of the day on the sixth play of the drive.
Jones' interception may have cost the Sooners their opportunity to take a lead but it wouldn't have mattered anyway because the offense was basically non-existent for the final thirty minutes of the game.
Oklahoma would get the ball first in the second half and after scoring on three of their four first half possessions (averaging over 6 yards per snap) it was extremely conceivable that the Sooners would open the final half of the season with a game changing scoring drive. Instead, the Sooners went three and out which brought about Tress Way's first punt of the night. It was the first of three consecutive three play drives that resulted in Way punt and subsequently followed by an A&M touchdown.
OU was outgained 252 yards to 49 and outscored 21 to 0 in the third quarter. While you could easily cast blame on the defense for not keeping the Aggies at bay, the reality is that Sooner defenders weren't allowed to stay off the field because the offense couldn't stay on. Oklahoma had the same number of offensive possessions in the third quarter as they did the entire first half, and they all ended in punts.
The culprit, in my mind, has to be offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. Texas A&M didn't do anything different in the second half, defensively, than they did in the first. Bob Stoops said as much when asked directly about it.
"They were running the same defenses we had seen in the first half," Stoops said. They executed them and outplayed us. They executed them in the second half better than we executed our offense. No, they didn't come out and all of a sudden have some new defense. I'm sure they didn't feel they needed to either. We only had 13 points. They come out and played the same way and we didn't execute very well."
Oklahoma was straight up whipped on the front (on both sides of the ball) which when considered makes Oklahoma's 3.6 yards per carry average even more impressive. However, even at that, the play calling was very suspect. Why was there no creativity with Blake Bell? Why sacrifice a down, on a short yardage situation, by running the ball when the Aggies were basically giving up the underneath passing lanes to prevent the long ball?
Yes, the Sooners were outplayed in the second half, but even more so, they were outcoached. Oklahoma needed a game plan that would allow them to have a chance to win in a shootout. Instead they had one that was built towards eating clock and controlling the ball. When things started to unravel in the third quarter the game plan didn't change, as it should have. The quick strike offense that had been Oklahoma's identity was gone, as was the composure of the offensive coaching staff. When plays can't even get called in from the sideline before the play clock expires then how would you expect the team to play with poise and confidence?
This game got out of control in a hurry in the third quarter. Don't blame the defense for it though. Like I said earlier, they did what they've done all year long but the offense didn't. Instead of finding a way to match their opponent point for point in the second half, Oklahoma's offense never showed up in the second half. When you get beat that bad by an opponent, who didn't make any changes from what they were doing in the first half, then it's on the coaching staff.