The Norman Transcript

October 4, 2012

Run game struggles in defeat

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Oklahoma running back Damien Williams said Tuesday he’s ready for a bigger workload. The junior college transfer yearns to be a fourth-quarter battering ram when the Sooners face Texas Tech on Saturday.

“The more carries you get, you get used to everything, and I feel like if I get more carries, I’ll be more productive and more is gonna come out throughout the game,” he said.

History says the more work Williams — and the rest of OU’s running backs — gets, the better it will be for the Sooners on Saturday. The common trait that runs through all 11 of their losses dating back to the 2009 season has been an inability to firmly establish a running game. They weren’t outrushed in all of those games, but they were in nine of them.

The Sept. 22 loss to Kansas State was the ninth in that group. OU only averaged 3.4 yards per carry in the 24-19 loss to the Wildcats. It was in plain sight when the Sooners averaged just 2.8 yards per carry in the 41-38 loss to the Red Raiders last season.

The yards per carry averages from those losses were slightly better than what the Sooners have managed in their 11 losses over the last four seasons. They’ve averaged a woeful 2.52 per carry in those games.

“It’s something we have to be better at to be successful in this league,” guard Adam Shead said.

There’s multiple reasons why OU struggled running the ball in the losses. Some of it falls on running backs and the offensive line. In other games, early deficits forced the Sooners into a throwing mode.

Last year’s game against Texas Tech certainly fell in the latter category. Five-yard runs don’t do much good when you’re trying to erase a three-touchdown deficit in the second half. But they do wonders in the fourth quarter of one-possession game or when clinging to a lead.

But it’s not a certain yardage total or amount of carries OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel seeks. It’s precision he’s after.

“At the end of the day, you have to be efficient when you run it,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. “You look at how many zeroes and negative rushes you have through the course of a ballgame and what your average rush is. Those things are important.”

Heupel wouldn’t give an exact number he believes the Sooners need to average. Left tackle Lane Johnson did.

“If we can get 4.8 yards per carry, it means we’ve met our goal,” he said.

OU never reached that average in its last 11 losses. The only time it came close was averaging 4.4 yards per carry in last season’s loss to Baylor.

Perhaps Williams, who is averaging 9.8 yards per carry in his first season as a Sooner, will be the difference maker.

OU would love to feed the ball to Williams throughout the fourth quarter and ride out of Lubbock with a victory. It would mean it’s either leading or in a tight game with the clock winding down.

“That’s exciting. Who doesn’t want to finish the game off with a long TD run or something like that?” Williams said. “Whatever coach calls, that’s what I’m gonna do. Whatever the line wants to give, I’m gonna take.”

John ShinnFollow me


For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.