Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
What's going on with the Sooner offense?
It might consider doing more of what it does best and less of what it doesn't
They tried, at least.
They tried to get Brent Venables to offer something definitive about offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby’s Kansas performance at his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
Maybe Venables said quite a bit, though it didn’t feel like it in real time. Watching, it mostly felt like every other time Oklahoma’s offense has made no sense the last couple of seasons: agreement that different things might have been tried, agreement that an offense shouldn’t become one dimensional.
Looking back, Venables was asked, did he wish his offense might have taken some vertical shots against the Jayhawks?
“I think the opportunity was there,” he said, but “wishing is not going to do anything.”
Then he went a little further.
“You’ve got to take your shots for sure,” Venables said. “We’ve got good players who can run past people and go up and make competitive plays.”
Later, another question.
He’s entering Saturday’s Bedlam contest with the confidence and expectation quarterback Dillon Gabriel will again play a big part in a balanced attack, right?
“We’ve got to do a good job every week to have the kind of balance that you want and always having an aggressive mindset,” Venables said. “You have to be able to throw the ball at the highest level, no doubt about it.”
So, no, he didn’t really directly criticize Lebby. However, yes, he appeared to offer real frustration.
Perhaps that’s a positive.
At least until it happens all over again, the head coach allowing it to happen all over again, and folks excoriating the offensive coordinator all over again.
Maybe if the Sooner offense had an actual identity.
Or, barring that, simply chose to play to its strengths.
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Not a novel approach, but a pragmatic and logical one, yet still something OU’s failed to comprehend since conference play began.
Against Cincinnati, Iowa State, Texas, UCF and Kansas, the Sooners have run the ball 219 times for 919 yards, or 4.2 per attempt.
Subtracting designed runs, scrambles, sacks and losses from Gabriel, its 162 carries for 640 yards, or 4 per carry.
Meanwhile, Gabriel’s completed 114 of 167 throws against conference competition for a 68.5 completion percentage, 12.3 yards per reception and, the most important number, 8.4 yards per attempt; more than twice the yardage per attempt from Sooner running backs and exactly twice the yardage per attempt from all Sooner ball carriers.
Yet, in only one conference game has OU thrown it as much as it’s run it, 38 tosses and 34 carries against Cincinnati.
Against Iowa State it was 41 carries and 39 tosses. Against Texas it was 43 and 38. Against UCF it was 46 and 38. Against Kansas it was 55 and 19.
Why would that be?
Also, Texas, UCF and Kansas included end-of-game must-have-it drives that were either super pass-heavy or pass-exclusive, further skewing the numbers.
Not to mention the small matter of personnel. We’re eight games into the season and Marcus Major, Jovantae Barnes and Gavin Sawchuk — 4 yards per carry between them — have failed to perform consistently.
Tawee Walker, however, is averaging 5.1 yards per attempt and carries the ball as though shot from a cannon, making it one Sooner ball carrier you can trust, presuming he can remain unsuspended, and perhaps he’ll be back for Bedlam after exiting Kansas with an ankle injury.
Meanwhile, despite Andrel Anthony being out for the season, the Sooner receiving corps runs deep.
Drake Stoops has caught 40 passes, Jallil Farooq 26. Nic Anderson 17 for a 23.8-yard average and eight scores, Jaquaize Pettaway 11, Austin Stogner nine and Jayden Gibson seven.
Peering down from the press box or straight ahead at the television, a few things appear at hand.
Lebby, and maybe Venables, too, have been so dead set on building the running game they want, they’ve lost track of the offense they have; a willingness to run the ball even if it kills them and in Lawrence, Kan., four days ago, it did.
Or, when something goes bad, like an interception, or a couple deep shots gone awry, Lebby changes things midstream, jumping into the phone both, buttoning everything up, content to seek tight victory, abandoning all attempts to break the game open.
Venables plays his role, too: a head coach who’ll speak to the failings after the fact, but not jump in the way of them as they’re happening.
It’s not a good place to be approaching final Bedlam, at least for a while, against the all-of-a-sudden hottest team in the conference.
Another question was asked Venables about Lebby, from the great and constant Berry Tramel.
Did Venables think or need to address him about all the stuff being thrown at him, post-Kansas, by the fans.
Venables said it’s just a part of being at Oklahoma, or any place like Oklahoma.
“You have an appreciation for the support, but there’s craziness to all of it,” he said. “When things don’t go well, they have a right to be pissed, but you have a right whether or not you listen to it and let it affect you or not, too.”
Also, so right?
Quit doing more of the things you’re less good at and start doing more of the things you’re more good at. And don’t give up on your players, either.
It’s not that hard.