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Offensive Struggles A New Thing For Oklahoma

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

Offense hasn't exactly been a major problem for the Oklahoma Sooners the past few years.

With Sam Bradford and Landry Jones running the show, the Sooners have averaged 40 points and 485.5 yards over the past six years. However, this year, the Sooners' offense has dropped off dramatically, averaging just 29.8 points per game and 423.2 yards per game, their lowest totals since the 2009 season, when Jones was thrust into the starting role when Bradford went down with his shoulder injury.

Everyone knew there would be a drop-off in offensive production this year with a new starting quarterback, but not many expected this, particularly a passing game averaging just 196.5 yards per game, good for 98th in the country.

Saturday's game against Texas was the low point for the OU offense. The Sooners managed 263 total yards, just 133 of those through the air.

"The passing game was really poor," OU coach Bob Stoops said on Monday. "We didn't get open or complete (passes). We dropped our first third down for a touchdown. It wasn't precise enough. You've got to be able to make those kinds of plays. We overthrew it at times, and sometimes they defended better and we weren't able to get open. All of it together wasn't good enough. The turnovers, especially the one for the touchdown was crucial."

Quarterback Blake Bell turned in a performance as bad as any in recent memory. For the game, Bell had a QBR of 2.8, the 4th worst of any FBS quarterback this season—per ESPN Stats and Info—and the worst rating for an Oklahoma quarterback since Rhett Bomar against Tulsa in 2005.

Bell on third down against the Longhorns was even worse. Bell finished 1-for-8 passing for 12 yards, three sacks and two interceptions, a rating of 0.1 (QBR is rated 0-100).

However, despite Bell's struggles, Stoops was quick to defend his quarterback both after the game and on Monday.

"It's a little of everything," Stoops said about the passing game struggles. "At times he's (Bell) holding the ball too long which leads to sacks. Another time or two on the blitz, our receiver wasn't ready for the hot read. A guy comes and Blake knows he's hot and the receiver isn't ready. Precision like that, it's just one guy or another. Another time we got beat in the guard position on a pass rush right off the bat, so the protection did break down in that case. It's one thing or another and it adds up."

Stoops said there was no point on Saturday when the coaching staff considered taking Bell out of the game, nor is he contemplating starting anyone besides Bell against Kansas this week. For the third straight week, Stoops admitted it was possible to see Trevor Knight or Kendal Thompson for a change of pace in the offense.

"We also realize it isn't all one thing," Stoops said. "It doesn't matter who the quarterback is. If guys aren't open, looking for the hot read or protecting him, you're not going to have a lot of success."

The one area the Sooners have been good in is the run game. Even against the Longhorns, the Sooners had good success running the football. Minus sacks, the Sooners had 29 rushing attempts for 165 yards, over five yards per carry. The Sooners are still averaging 226.7 yards per game, good for 18th in the country.

Oklahoma is averaging 44 rushing attempts a game this season, something that needs to continue going forward to help a passing game that is struggling to get off the ground. The Sooners have plenty of pieces to continue pursuing a dominant run game. The emergence of freshman Keith Ford has only added to the potential potency of the OU run game.

The struggles of Oklahoma's defense against Texas raised warning flags as well, and only accentuated the problems of the offense. If the Sooners can't score in the Big 12, it will be impossible to keep up with the high-paced offenses in the league. Improvements—particularly in the passing game—have to be made on offense, or else things could get bad fairly quickly.

Year     Points/Game     Yards/Game

2013          29.8                 423.2

2012          38.2                 497.8

2011          39.5                 512.3

2010          37.2                 482.1

2009          31.1                 423.8

2008          51.1                 547.9

2007          42.3                 448.9

 

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