The Norman Transcript

October 22, 2013

Much ado about tempo

By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — To be or not to be an uptempo, high-flying offense?

That is the question.

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to risk the slings and arrows of an unrested defense and the wrath of Mike Stoops, or to take arms against it, by slowing yourself down and by opposing, perhaps, stray from the offense you intended to be.

That was fun.

Silly, too.

Also, accurate.

Because not only should we find out Saturday if Oklahoma can still beat a top 10 team — possibly one in name only, as its tempting to believe Texas Tech to be — but also what Bob Stoops really thinks of his offense and maybe his whole team.

Does he want to engage in a battle of wills with the Red Raiders, who are averaging almost 89 offensive snaps per game, 10 more than their opponents, and who snapped it 100 and 101 times against Kansas and Iowa State, ringing up 518 and 666 yards of total offense along the way?

Or does he want to counterpunch, hold the ball himself, and, as well as the Sooners can, play a little keep away from the Red Raiders, who can’t do much damage without the ball?

Josh Heupel will call the plays and the offensive staff will come up with a game plan, but you can bet they’ll be following the head coach’s lead.

“We’re not looking for anything in particular,” Stoops said Monday. “We want to be effective in running and throwing the football, and I think the obvious part is we need to be a little more effective throwing the football.”

The question was about identity. Note the lack of a particular word in the answer: “tempo.” Also note, he kept every option — including the option — open.

Stoops also was asked if Tech’s tendency to play really fast and get off as many snaps as it possibly can might not affect his defense so much as his offense, which likes to play fast itself, but might choose not to Saturday, all in the name of not getting into a shootout with a team that thrives on such games.

“I want to convert third downs, stay on the field and score,” he said. “Sometimes it may be fast, sometimes it may be slower, as long as we’re productive.”

You know, the day Stoops comes out against being productive we’ll really have a story. As is, we have no idea if he wants to match Tech’s tempo or not.

He mentioned last year’s Cotton Bowl, reminding everybody it was a one-point game at the half and the Sooners hadn’t punted, yet came out and began the second half with a bunch of three-and-outs, and that doesn’t work fast or slow.

So the question remains, what will OU do? How does the head coach want to play it?

It depends on so many things.

Does OU play to the strength in the passing game Blake Bell displayed against Tulsa and Notre Dame, or to the weakness of the one offered against Texas and Kansas?

That may have plenty to do with the confidence Stoops has in his defense, because if you believe Tech will suffer three-and-outs, you can afford to put your most confident foot forward. 

But if the idea of the Red Raiders possessing the ball, period, is a problem, you will be left to hedge your bets, holding back in the name of not giving anything away.

You bet, OU has to run the ball, but another 250 yards on the ground may not be worth a whole lot left by its lonesome.

To go for the jugular or to play it safe? To play fast or to plod, hoping to be ahead when it ends? 

Kind of fascinating.

Win, either way, and no apologies will be be necessary. And, just maybe, the Sooners will reveal themselves along the way.

Aye, there’s the rub.

A loss could do it, too.

Clay Horning

Follow me @clayhorning