After experiencing red zone struggles once again in a 47-17 win over Kansas on Saturday night, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was asked if the Sooners have a problem in that area.
“At times,” Stoops said. “But we got field goals. It's typical. We score 47, and everyone is like, ‘How did you not get 60?' I'm sorry we didn't score every time.”
Yes, expectations are high in the Sooner Nation. Sometimes too high.
But there's no question the Sooners have issues inside opponents' 20-yard line.
Against Kansas, OU scored touchdowns on only three of eight red zone possessions.
The Sooners kicked four field goals. And Ryan Broyles fumbled at the 1-yard line when he reached the ball toward the end zone.
“We're not happy,” said co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell. “Those are very disappointing drives. We want to score touchdowns.”
Broyles' turnover was an unusual play. It was three possessions inside the 10-yard line that underscores a season-long issue that dates back to 2010.
Late in the first half, the Sooners marched to the 5-yard line. Dominique Whaley ran for 1 yard, was held to no gain, ran for 2 yards, dropped a TD pass and Landry Jones missed Broyles in the end zone.
On the next-to-last red zone opportunity in the fourth quarter, the Sooners drove to the 10-yard line. Whaley picked up 6 yards on first down, 1 yard on second down and was stuffed for no gain on a reception out of the backfield on third down. The drive stalled at the 3-yard line.
“It's a huge concern,” Whaley said. “We're just leaving too many points out there.”
It's unrealistic to score a TD every trip inside an opponents' 20-yard line. But if the Sooners went eight-for-eight, they would have scored 70 points.
Red zone issues aren't costly against Kansas. But red zone failures were instrumental last season in a loss at Texas A&M.
“We've just got to be more physical and make sure we pick up our right blocks,” Whaley said. “I need to drag some people into (the end zone). It's a whole team effort.”
It wasn't just the running game.
Late in the third quarter, the Sooners faced a second-and-5 at the KU 8-yard line. Broyles was stopped for a 1-yard gain on a slant pass. Wide receiver Kenny Stills was tackled for a 3-yard loss on third down.
The Sooners' lack of production inside the 5-yard line makes it curious why fullback Trey Millard, a battering ram lead blocker, hasn't played more during red zone possessions.
“We've just got to do a better job identifying and blocking people,” Norvell said. “It's not just physical, being tough. It's more an understanding how to block people and who to block and do a better job of that. We've definitely got to do a better job if we want to win tough games on the road.”
It's been a season-long problem.
In 34 trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line the Sooners have scored 19 touchdowns. That's a subpar 56 percent TD ratio.
“You'd like to score touchdowns every time,” said offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. “And it wasn't just the run game. We threw it a couple of times and missed opportunities as well. Ultimately, we have to find a way to get the ball in the end zone.”