Ikard, Hunnicutt Garner Midseason Accolades
With six games down on the schedule for most teams across the country, publications are naming their midseason All-America squads and a pair of Sooners have been honored.
Senior center Gabe Ikard was listed on both the USA Today and CBSSports.com Midseason All-America teams. Ikard, a team captain who has started every game this season and 43 games in his career, was an Associated Press All-American in 2011 and a preseason All-America pick by Sports Illustrated and ESPN this year.
Junior placekicker Michael Hunnicutt was also named to the CBSSports.com Midseason All-America Team as the top kicker in the country. Hunnicutt currently leads the nation with 14 made field goals this season and is Oklahoma’s all-time leader in field goals made with 52 overall. The junior has scored 60 points so far this season, tied for the sixth-highest tally among FBS players.
Charlie Weis Talks Sooners
Kansas head coach Charlie Weis has won Super Bowl rings and coached in bowl games. This week, he offered up a few thoughts about Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops and the Sooners:
On OU’s success under Stoops: “Statistically if you look at Coach (Bob) Stoops’ record coming off of the Red River Rivalry, especially off of a loss, the numbers are almost astounding in the dominance they’ve shown coming off of that game. We’re going to be ready for their ‘A’ game because I’m sure they’re not in the happiest of spirits right now.”
“Obviously I have a lot of respect for Coach Stoops who’s now in his 15th year. Gone to 14 bowl games, 154-38 (record), beat Kansas eight times in a row and three times here, so he’s had great success. They’re really a solid team in all facets.”
On QB Blake Bell: “I didn’t know what they were going to get when (Blake Bell) started playing. I think Oklahoma’s done a good job of using him similar to how Kansas State used Collin Klein. He’s a power runner and because he’s such a bull as a runner it causes more people to load up the box and he’s good at play action completing 65 percent of his passes.”
On FB Trey Millard: “Probably one of the biggest keys to their team that most people don’t give them credit for is (fullback Trey) Millard. He’s a really solid player and I think he’s really good.”
Is 200 A Magic Number For OU?
Oklahoma is currently on a 30-game winning streak when rushing for over 200 yards. The Sooners are 58-1 all-time under Bob Stoops when hitting the 200-yard plateau on the ground. Conversely, the Jayhawks have lost 18 straight Big 12 games when allowing the same total. However, the KU defense has held three of its five opponents under 200 rushing yards this season. The Jayhawk defense also forced five turnovers last week at TCU.
The Sooners have succeeded in hitting the mark so far this season, going 4-0 with games over 200 yards and ranking second in the Big 12 and 18th in the country with an average of 226.7 rushing yards per game.
Brennan Clay has so far led the way with 73 carries for 476 yards and three touchdowns. Averaging 6.5 yards per carry, Clay has had two of OU’s three 100-yard rushing games this season, including a 170-yard performance versus West Virginia.
Along with fellow running backs Damien Williams and Roy Finch, not to mention quarterback Blake Bell, a youngster – freshman Keith Ford – has also been joining the group.
“He’s fast and explosive,” said OU co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said of Ford. “He got the ball out on the sideline and got away with that, but for the most part he has done a really good job of taking care of the football. He’s a guy that needs to continue to touch the football. He has a chance to make a lot of explosive plays for us.”
When Ford was asked after today’s practice what advice he would give himself back in the preseason, the true freshman offered a measured response.
“Don’t overthink things and be patient,” he said. “If you keep working at it your time is going to come. At first I wasn’t very confident about it, but I kept talking to my parents. My dad was telling me to be patient and do what you are doing. Good things will happen.”
Whether it’s been one featured back or a whole stable of backs, the Sooners have enjoyed success both ways on the ground under Stoops.
“When you’ve got guys like Adrian Peterson, that’s what you do,” said Stoops of relying on a single back. “Other times, I think it’s been successful for us when we’ve had two. I think back to 2008, we had DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown - both 1,000-yard rushers. So what was wrong with that? In the end, I’ve had Quintin Griffin be a 1,900-yard rusher and Adrian. So we’ve done it both ways and it’s been equally effective.”
Co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel agreed with that assessment.
“I don’t think it matters as long as they are all playing at a high level,” Heupel said. “Those guys have done a good job for the most part of taking good care of the football this year. We want to make that last defender miss a little bit more as we move down the road. At the end of the day all of those guys are capable of playing at a high level.”
Revving Up the Passing Game
After the OU air attack went for 413 yards and four touchdowns against Tulsa and a 232-yard, two-touchdown performance on the road in the win at Notre Dame, the OU coaching staff knows the offensive is capable of production in the passing game. According to co-offensive coordinators Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell, wholesale changes aren’t necessary, just better execution on Saturday.
“I think after a couple of starts (Blake Bell) was very calm, confident and poised,” said Heupel. “He was decisive with the football. This last week I didn’t like where he got his body in the pocket. That led to him not being accurate with the football the way he is capable of it. I felt like as the game went on we pressed a little bit and that’s not good at that position.”
But with a thrower like Bell and offensive playmakers throughout the Sooner receiving corps, including senior Jalen Saunders and sophomore Sterling Shepard, OU will look to reestablish more passing starting this weekend at Kansas.
“We always want to get the ball to those guys,” said OU co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell. “Those are guys that can do big things when they catch it, so we always want to get the ball to Jalen and Shep (Shepard). We’re just going to keep working. Those kids played really hard last week. They did a great job blocking the perimeter. Sometimes that effort doesn’t correlate to production in the passing game, but it’s got to start producing production in the passing game. There’s no shortage of effort. I’m really proud of how those guys played on the perimeter. That’s just got to correlate into production in the passing game.”
Bell and the receiving corps are also putting in extra time to improve their connection.
“Just being out there at practice and staying out there with Jalen (Saunders) tonight and getting some extra deep routes or routes that we need to work on is really going to help us out,” said Bell after Tuesday’s practice. “I’m still learning some stuff and those guys are still learning, so I think we’ll be all right.”
Over OU’s eight-game win streak against Kansas, the Sooners have averaged 313.4 yards per game. In three of the last four games against KU, Oklahoma has thrown for at least 300 yards and three touchdowns.
Bell has shown from his high school days at Bishop Carroll High in Wichita, Kan., to his first start in Norman that he’s capable of doing the same. Bell threw for 5,992 yards and 69 touchdowns in his final last two seasons at Bishop Carroll.
Since becoming the fourth quarterback in OU history to throw for over 400 yards in a game in the Sooners’ win against Tulsa, Bell is now third in the Big 12 with a 64.6 completion percentage and on pace to become the seventh player in program history to throw for over 2,500 yards in a season. But with only four starts under his belt, the junior knows he still has work to do.
“That’s why we’re out here practicing,” Bell said. “We’re going to get better each and every day. Me and all the receivers, the more we get timing down and know what we’re doing, we’ll be able to make plays like that and hit some shots down the field.”
Watch the Game Live Online
Saturday’s game will be televised live on ESPN at 2:30 p.m. CT. Sooner fans can also watch the game live on their computers and mobile devices at WatchESPN.com.