OU football film study: Sooners still struggling to close out games

In Mike Baldwin's weekly OU football film study, he shows why the offense and defense are to blame for the Sooners' late-game struggles.
by Michael Baldwin Modified: October 5, 2010 at 8:54 am •  Published: October 4, 2010

With the Oklahoma leading Texas by 11 points on Saturday, ABC sideline reporter Holly Rowe said Sooner coach Bob Stoops challenged his players to finish strong, asking the defense to blank the Longhorns in the fourth quarter.

Stoops' pep talk, however, didn't change OU's 2010 trend of shaky finishes.

After watching film of the Sooners' 28-20 win over Texas, a season-long theme continued Saturday in the Cotton Bowl.

Similar to wins over Utah State, Air Force and Cincinnati the Sooners seized control early only to be forced to make some big plays to hang on at the end.

It was a group effort. Neither the offense nor defense maintained early-game momentum.

The defense once again failed to slam the door. But at least the defense posted a pivotal red-zone stop and a three-and-out after a botched fake field goal. Meanwhile, the offense was a key factor for some Red River rivalry late-game drama.

Statistics were dramatically different from when OU went up 21-7 midway through the second quarter compared to the rest of the game.

The issue was little production on first and second down.

On eight possessions following the two-touchdown lead, the Sooners averaged 1.2 yards on first and second down. The Sooners converted a couple of third-and-longs. But the result was six punts, a turnover on downs and one touchdown.

From midway through the second quarter to the end of the game, the Sooners averaged 1.3 yards per rush and were 0-of-2 passing on first and second down.

It's logical to run clock with a comfortable lead. But on eight possessions after taking control in the second quarter, 14 of 16 plays on first and second down were runs.

On OU's first five possessions, three ending with touchdowns, the Sooners were more balanced -- 20 runs, 15 passes -- on first and second down.

The offense's production was dramatically different, too. OU averaged 5.2 yards per play on first and second down to compile 17 first downs and three touchdowns.

Here are a few other observations from watching the Texas film:

OFFENSE

* Kenny Stills is developing into a solid No. 2 receiver. Stills' 18-yard TD catch and 20- and 32-yard receptions were against man-to-man coverage.

* James Hanna's TD catch caught Texas flat footed. With both tight ends lined up on the left side, Hanna went in motion right. Hanna hesitated and found a wide open seam in the end zone.

Continue reading this story on the...

by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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