The Sooners may have found an offensive identity at the Cotton Bowl two weeks ago. In the third quarter of a 53-45 win over Texas, Lincoln Riley turned to his offensive line to overpower the Longhorn defensive front and run the ball right at them. The result was effective as it not only chewed up the clock but also produced points and put a super talented, yet very young, quarterback at ease.
OU outscored Texas 14-0 in the third quarter and had Longhorn quarterback Sam Ehlinger watching from the sideline for 9 minutes and 43 seconds as they crushed the burnt orange will of their opponents.Suddenly a blueprint to success was laid for an offense that had struggled to find its way through the first three games of the season.
Junior running back T.J. Pledger finished the Texas game with a career-high 131 rushing yards and was suddenly in position to become the focal point of Riley’s attack. As the Sooners prepared to return to the Dallas Metroplex to face TCU we pegged the running game as the key to success against the Frogs.
Pledger answered the call again in Ft. Worth by averaging 5.5 yards per carry on his way to 122 yards and a score on 22 carries. Oklahoma ran the ball 45 times against the Horned Frogs, giving the offense 100 rushing attempts for 374 yards in the last two games.
The result, beyond back-to-back wins, has been a much more composed Spencer Rattler and a more efficient offensive attack. Spencer Rattler was benched in the first half of the Red River Rivalry but led the offense to 36 points through the second half and the four overtimes.
More importantly the Sooners haven’t turned the ball over in six quarters of play and here’s the reason why, defenses have to look for the run game. This is the pre-snap look for the TCU defense prior to TJ Pledger’s touchdown on the opening drive. The safeties are playing to defend the pass with the top-side standing pat and the bottom moving to cover the flat.
Now, compare that to Rattler’s second touchdown pass to Marvin Mims. There are 10 players within five yards of the line of scrimmage (there’s another receiver and defensive back below Mims) and just one safety 10 yards deep.
This time the safety takes his first step forward at the snap instead of holding steady or taking a step backwards, this is a clear indication that he is playing run first. More so, the entire linebacker corps follows Rattler’s roll-out and covers underneath. More indicators they were looking for the run. All of this leaves Mims one-on-one with Kee’yon Stewart, resulting in a 61-yard touchdown.
Beyond Mims catch this was a simple play for Rattler. The focus on the run led to a pressure free pass and a big play. You have to think that with Rhamondre Stevenson’s pending return plays like this will become more frequent for Oklahoma’s offense. I doubt that they’ll all result in a long touchdown but that’s not the point. The point is that stretching the field becomes a lot easier when defenses have to play the run first and Riley and the Sooners look like they’re finally in position to do that.
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