The Oklahoma rushing offense is ranked second in the Big 12 and 17th in the country averaging 227.9 yards per game. The Sooners have 53 rush attempts this season that have gone for 10 yards or more compared to just 21 for their opponents.
Senior quarterback Blake Bell and running back Brennan Clay each have 13 runs of 10+ yards. Damien Williams and Trevor Knight each have eight, while senior Roy Finch comes in with seven. Those variety of rushing threats have caught the attention of Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
“Their offense with the big quarterback, he's hard to bring down,” said Kingsbury. “They have very talented receivers, a running back that can take it the distance anytime. It's a huge challenge. We know that going on the road there. So we'll have to play our best game.”
Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel spoke Tuesday about QB Blake Bell and his comfort level with the Sooners’ quarterback run game.
“He was comfortable with some of the things that we did two weeks ago, although he didn’t have a lot of carries there,” Heupel said of the OU running game. “It is constantly evolving and I think you have to do that in your run game. Also, each week is different with the defenses that you see and how you need to attack them, in their scheme and their personnel, as well.”
The running game and the rest of the Sooner offense will look to extend drives and pick up first downs, especially against a Red Raider defense that ranks 10th in the nation in third-down defense. Both Heupel and senior center Gabe Ikard spoke on the need to keep the OU offense on the field in order to help keep the Texas Tech offense off of it.
“It’s not just about keeping them off the field, but keeping us on it,” Heupel said. “That gives us the ability to score points. If you convert third downs and do a good job in the Red Zone, that will change how the game is played.”
Ikard agreed with that assessment of the importance of winning the battle of the time of possession.
“The next two weeks we have Texas Tech and Baylor coming up and it’s important that we control the time of possession and we keep their offenses off the field,” Ikard said. “Right now though, our complete focus is on Texas Tech, preparing for a tough defense that moves around a lot and gives you a bunch of different looks. We are going to need to get in the film room a lot for them. They show you a lot of different things and there is really no rhyme or reason; they just sprinkle things in here and there. We are completely aware that they're undefeated coming in here, but we are excited to be home, playing a top 10 team.”
Plenty of Oklahoma, Texas Tech Ties
As two programs known for offensive fireworks, it should come as no surprise that members of the Sooners and Red Raiders coaching staffs have worked extensively throughout their careers. Current Washington State head coach Mike Leach brought his offensive scheme to OU in 1999, then implemented the “Air Raid” system at Texas Tech in 2000. OU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh coached alongside Leach for seven seasons in Lubbock as the running backs and then the offensive line coach.
“I think as much as anything we are very familiar with this type of offense because its roots are with Mike Leach, Hal Mumme and all those guys and we still have elements of it in our offense,” head coach Bob Stoops said. “It’s that same system that Tech has had for a good number of years now. Kliff has his wrinkles to it and all but again, all those principles you can see, Kliff was taught by Mike Leach. So we recognize it. It’s still difficult to stop though.”
Of course, OU co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel and Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury both played quarterback in the offense, putting up huge numbers for their respective teams. A host of other quarterbacks at the two schools have also experience success, including OU’s Sam Bradford and Landry Jones and TTU’s Graham Harrell and Seth Doege, who each have multiple 4,000-yard seasons between them.
Thou Shalt Not Give
The Sooners are 35-2 (.946) under Stoops when not committing a turnover. In last year’s win over Texas Tech, OU posted a +2 turnover mark, forcing three interceptions while giving up a fumble in the Sooners’ 41-20 victory in Lubbock.
Oklahoma has forced 11 turnovers on the year and holds a +23-point advantage over its opponents in points off turnovers. After holding a +9 turnover margin through the season’s first four games, the Sooners are a combined -3 in the last three contests, a trend OU head coach Bob Stoops would like to reverse starting this weekend.
Stoops stressed the importance of a positive turnover margin on Monday in reference to a fumble by Keith Ford at Kansas.
“It’s from the outside world to think it’s just a fumble, let him play again,” Stoops said. “It’s not when you’re on the field competing and all of a sudden you’re on the 30-yard line in scoring position and you get nothing. In these kinds of games, any kind of game, it doesn’t work. You have to take care of the ball.”
While OU will look to protect the ball, the Sooner defense could capitalize on a Texas Tech team that is currently ranked 100th in turnover margin at -0.57, including six lost fumbles and 10 interceptions.
A Fast Start is a Must Against Texas Tech
Both the Oklahoma and Texas Tech offenses have a common goal – to get points on the board in a hurry.
Both are good at it, too. OU has outscored its opponents 115-57 in the first half this season while Tech has a 135-60 advantage. The Sooners are 6-0 this season when holding a halftime lead while the Red Raiders are 5-0.
“We have to get that going early, especially in this game. We know they are going to put a lot of points up and we just need to counter that,” said wide receiver Sterling Shepard.
In fact, Oklahoma has won the last 39 games when leading at halftime, the third-longest active streak in the nation.FBS Leaders, Consecutive Victories When Leading at Halftime
1. Oregon – 58
2. Utah – 49
3. Oklahoma – 39
4. Kansas State – 35
5. Alabama – 32