Where Must The Oklahoma Sooners Improve Moving Forward?

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Improvements and adjustments are all a part of the season. Oklahoma has a glaring issue begging to be fixed. The question is, will it?

High hopes and aspirations are established at the beginning of the season for the Oklahoma Sooners who have found themselves in contention for a conference title nearly every single year. Goals are set and one by one must be conquered if the ultimate dream is to be realized. The most obvious approach to reaching goals is simple...one step (or game in this scenario) at a time.

Through the ups and downs early on this season, Oklahoma seemed to find their stride after making a quarterback switch as Blake Bell stepped in for an injured Trevor Knight. The offense clicked at a new level as the Sooners churned out wins against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the TCU Horned Frogs. Then, the unthinkable happened.

Bob Stoops and company rolled into the Cotton Bowl for the annual rivalry against the Texas Longhorns. With OU plagued by key injuries and the senior Longhorns looking to earn their first win in the Red River Rivalry, the upset was on. However, a trend that doomed Oklahoma appeared long before these two teams met. That trend has manifested itself in the form of third down conversion rate.

3rd Down Conversions

Date Opponent Surface Result Attempts Conversions Conversion %
08/31/13 La.-Monroe Grass W 34-0 17 7 41.18
09/07/13 West Virginia Grass W 16-7 17 5 29.41
09/14/13 Tulsa Grass W 51-20 16 12 75.00
09/28/13 @ Notre Dame Grass W 35-21 14 5 35.71
10/05/13 TCU Grass W 20-17 13 3 23.08
10/12/13 Texas Grass L 20-36 13 2 15.38
Totals 90 34 37.78

One thing rings true: conference play presents and entirely different monster than the experiences that before. The numbers, in this case, support that statement. In three games against conference foes, the Sooners find their three lowest 3rd down conversion rates. Can it be a fluke? Highly unlikely but where is the solution? Some of the answers as to why this trend has occurred lies within execution while others fall squarely on play calling.

Remember, this is not the high octane offense of the past. Instead, this offense has the ability to grind out a win by dominating the time of possession. Regardless, if Oklahoma plans to have sustained success in the remainder of the season, the offense must be able to line up and gain crucial yardage when it is needed most. It is no secret that third down is critical in determining the outcome of the drive whether that be a punt, field goal, or touchdown.

With the Belldozer Package and Diamond Formation combined with the abilities of Brennan Clay, Keith Ford, and Trey Millard, there is no excuse as to why Josh Heupel and his offense can only convert a total of five third downs over the past two games. Will we see a move back to a run oriented offense or will the air raid take a more prominent roll...again?

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