By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Oklahoma is sticking with Blake Bell as its quarterback. Head coach Bob Stoops stated it Monday and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel reiterated it Tuesday.
But something has to change with the Sooners’ offense. Four offensive touchdowns in three Big 12 Conference games and a 5-for-26 third-down conversion rate over the last two games screams something is amiss.
Heupel doesn’t believe it’s one particular issue that’s the root of the problems. Nor does he think the Sooners are still searching for what they do best.
“I don’t know if we are searching for an identity as much as we are searching to be more consistent in everything that we are doing,” Heupel said Tuesday night. “At times, things are executed and we are doing a really good job. Obviously, the last couple of weeks we haven’t been good on third down. That’s one point of emphasis. At the end of the day, you have to stay on the field to score points.”
The Sooners aren’t because they’ve put themselves in some very difficult third-down positions the last two games. Against Texas, the average distance OU had to get to move the chains on third down was 8 yards.
OU’s not really built for that. It’s an offense that seems to be at its best running the ball and getting in third-down situations where a simple run is still an option.
“Third and longs happen because of first and second down. We can’t get behind the chains, whether it’s because of penalties, a negative run or something like that. It’s not what you want and it makes it that much harder,” Bell said. “We need to stay out of the third and longs.”
It’s been OU’s focus over the last two practices and will be again when it faces Kansas (2-3, 0-2 Big 12) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kan.
Something has to be done. Bell threw six incompletions and was picked off twice in the final eight third-down passing attempts in the Texas games. Clearly, he didn’t look as poised in the pocket as he had in his first three starts.
“The first couple of starts, he was very calm, very confident, poised … decisive with the football,” Heupel said. “This last week, I didn’t like … what type of position he was in in the pocket. That led to him not being accurate with the football the way he is capable of. I felt like, as they game went on, he may (have) pressed a little bit. You can’t do that at that position.”
For Bell, the Texas game marked the first time in his three starts — or all season for OU — it had trailed. It was going to happen at some time, but the hope was the reaction would be better.
“Obviously, when things aren’t going right it’s never what you want as a player. There’s gonna be adversity and things aren’t gonna go your way all the time,” Bell said. “When things start going like that, you have to forget about it and go make the next play. I think that’s a big deal and, obviously, it still didn’t go our way Saturday, but we kept coming and kept coming. One of the things we need to do is fix that kind of stuff and move on.”
The Sooners have moved on from the Texas game, but they know some changes have to be made. They don’t believe there’s one major issue, but several small ones.
Bell has to play better. The receivers have to get open, make catches and get on the same page with the quarterback. The offensive line has to provide more time.
“I feel like we’re moving in a positive direction each day,” Bell said. “Today went well. Offensive line is doing a good job, and we’re just trying to get me and the receivers on the same page. We’re moving that way.”
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