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November 4, 2013

Sooners know they have to hit the ground running against Bears

NORMAN — Coaches stress playing well from the start of a game in every sport. But it’s always with the caveat that it’s not everything.

For No. 12 Oklahoma, that won’t be the case Thursday against No. 5 Baylor. What happens in the opening minutes will likely be the difference between winning and losing.

“It’s important for our whole team — offense, defense and special teams. We all need to start fast,” Sooner quarterback Blake Bell said. “We need to put together some long drives as an offense and keep them off the field.”

A major reason the Bears (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) are a two-touchdown favorite has been their ability to explode out of the gate. They’re averaging 23.4 points in the first quarter. In six of their seven games, it was over after the first 15 minutes.

For the Sooners, (7-1, 4-1) a slow start means they’ll likely become another victim Thursday night. But starting slow has been OU’s modus operandi all season, averaging just 4.125 first-quarter points.

Anything similar to that is a death nail Thursday.

“You have to stay within the game early, in the first quarter and second quarter, of what you are trying to do to them,” OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “If they do jump out, you have to continue to play the next play. I think it’s important that we start fast. We have to score touchdowns in the red zone. The culmination of a lot of things have to come together for us.”

The Sooners have to play well in every phase, but the fast start in every phase is essential.

Falling behind early has a demoralizing effect on teams. But one of the biggest problems it causes is the game plan becomes useless. Spend a whole week working on something, and it can be completely useless in three series.

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