The Norman Transcript

September 4, 2013

Sooners see benefits of grinding clock

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Oklahoma has changed a lot of things since the 2012 season ended. One change is the coaching staff’s philosophy on the importance of time of possession.

The Sooners controlled the ball for 32:39 seconds (5 minutes, 18 seconds on the plus side) in their season-opening 34-0 victory over Louisiana-Monroe.

“It’s a little different style than people are used to seeing from us,” OU coach Bob Stoops said, “but equally as effective when you can win 34-0 and have the time of possession be what it was. It was positive.”

Ever since the Sooners went to an up-tempo offense in 2008, Stoops had said numerous times that time of possession was a meaningless statistic. The only thing that mattered was points on the scoreboard.

But after seeing OU’s defensive statistics worsen over three straight seasons, there appears to be a philosophical change. The emphasis on the running the ball (OU ran it 50 times for 305 yards) helped chew up the clock. The Sooners only had to defend 61 plays against Louisiana-Monore. It was eight less than the Sooners’ defense faced at any time last season.

“The defense wasn’t on the field as much and wasn’t tired. It helped out,” nickelback Julian Wilson said.

One game certainly doesn’t set a season-long trend. However, anyone involved with OU’s defense is preaching the importance.

“When your offense is on the field, obviously, your defense is resting, and they don’t have the ball, and at times here when we’ve had some of the poor defensive performances, people don’t look at the offensive performance right next to it wasn’t very good either,” Stoops said. “It magnifies, especially if you’re tempo and throwing the ball, you’re out there for three plays, go three-and-out, and use 30 seconds on the clock and the defense is right back out there, it’s not real healthy. We played together the other night really well, and that’s why the score is what it was.”

What happens Saturday night when the 16th-ranked Sooners (1-0) open Big 12 Conference play against West Virginia (1-0) at Owen Field will be more telling.

In previous years, both these teams operated at blistering offensive paces and threw the ball more than it ran. They wanted to snap the ball more than 90 times a game and gave little concern about how many plays its defense had to defend. The 50-49 victory OU claimed last season at West Virginia exemplified the philosophies.

West Virginia, which is like OU in that it’s breaking in a new starting quarterback this season, ran it more than it threw in its 24-17 victory over William & Mary last Saturday.

The offensive shootout that characterized these teams’ first meeting as Big 12 members, might have been a one-time deal.

“If you are running the football, you are controlling the line of scrimmage,” Mike Stoops said. “At times last year, we weren’t able to do that on either side of the ball. That’s what we have to get better at and we’re making a conscious effort to be more physical on the line of scrimmage on both sides.”

The obvious benefit is a well-rested defense.

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn