NORMAN — Oklahoma fans are naturally furious about last weekend’s 36-20 loss to Texas, and co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel is the man many of them are holding accountable.
The Sooners ran the ball effectively against the Longhorns, but continued trying to pass in the second half after it was apparent that Blake Bell wasn’t going to be effective.
Texas had allowed opposing quarterbacks to rush for over 100 yards per game before facing Oklahoma, which dialed up a minimal number of designed quarterback runs.
Heupel spoke with reporters after practice Tuesday. Here are some highlights:
Q: Are you closer in the passing game than many people see?
A: It is a combination of everything. Blake has some things open that he needs to hit. Our wide receivers need to win a couple of times for him as well. He needs to get himself, within his progression with what they are doing defensively, to the right spot sometimes too. It’s all of those things.”
What are the keys to getting Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard more involved?
I don’t know if it’s just one thing. You have to continue to find schemes within what defenses are doing to try to get them involved. It’s tough on third-and-long situations to just determine that you are going to this guy. They are rolling their coverages, they are bracketing guys inside. Blake has to do a better job of getting through his progression and getting to the open guy. It’s not just one guy on third down. You have an opportunity on some first- and second-down plays to maybe take some shots and put those guys in a position to maybe make a play.
Are Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson in position to getting into a game and will you consider getting them snaps if the offense bogs down?
Those guys have done a good job of continuing to compete and continuing to get better. So if given the opportunity, I think both of those guys would be ready to play well.
From the outside, it’s easy for fans to look at offense and say this isn’t working, make a change. From the inside, how do you handle that?
We need to play better. We’re certainly capable of it. Sometimes people on the outside don’t understand how fine of a line it is between success and failure. It’s not just one guy; is 11 guys. But 11 different guys can’t take their turn not executing the way you are capable of. Last Saturday, we are capable of playing a lot better. You saw us execute well at times. We just didn’t do it consistent enough.
Did you think about switching out quarterbacks in the second half Saturday?
I didn’t think about that.
I didn’t feel like we were far off from being able to execute and push the ball down the field and make some plays.
Did you feel like he was shaken up a bit after throwing the interception that was returned?
Initially I didn’t think that way. I talked to all of our kids … whether you are up on the scoreboard or down, whether the previous play was good or bad, you just have to play the next play as its own identity. I don’t think we did that as well as we needed to as a group.
Offensive coordinators are often easy targets for fans. How do you deal with that?
At the end of the day, I don’t find my value or my worth as a person or as an offensive coordinator from what’s going on on the outside. And our players can’t do that either. You’ve gotta be confident, know the direction that you’re going, believe in yourself and believe in the guys around you, and go to work every single day. That’s what everybody in here’s doing.
Do most coaches second-guess themselves?
I think you always go back and you’re critical of your calls, what you were doing, your plan, how you work it during the course of a week. Did you give your kids enough of these certain looks? Why did you see what you saw from the defense? What are they seeing from their perspective? Those are all things you look back on.
Do you wish you’d done more to get the QB run game going?
I don’t think we’d have major overhauls to what we did in the run game, because we were efficient at it. But yeah, there’s a couple things we would tweak, certainly.