LAWRENCE, Kan. — Oklahoma leads Kansas 18-13 at halftime of Saturday’s game inside Memorial Stadium. Here’s some first-half thoughts, notes and statistics as we head into the third quarter.
WHAT STOOD OUT
* Run defense
Oklahoma’s run defense was completely gashed throughout much of the first half. The Sooners allowed 155 rushing yards — 107 of which came from senior running back James Sims — and often appeared completely unable to do anything about it. OU held the Jayhawks to three-and-outs on their last two first-half series, but that still has to be a major area of concern moving forward without Jordan Phillips and Corey Nelson.
* Offensive play calling
Josh Heupel has come under fire for his play calling in last week’s 36-20 loss to Texas, and after the offense looked completely inept early in this game, many of those same sentiments were being expressed on social media. But late in the first half, the Sooners were able to get things going and took an 18-13 lead into the break. Blake Bell is the team’s leading rusher with 36 yards on four carries, so one obvious question is, why hasn’t he carried the ball more? That was one of the things Heupel was criticized for most about last week’s loss.
* Taking chances
After it fell behind, Oklahoma coaches appeared to take more risks than it has all year. The Sooners went for a punt block with the Jayhawks backed up deep in their own territory, and it worked perfectly when Matt Dimon blocked the kick and forced a safety. Then on OU’s next drive, Heupel dialed up a reverse pass from former JUCO quarterback Lacoltan Bester to Sterling Shepard, who scored on the 49-yard pass. Where were these kinds of decisions last week against Texas?
WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN THE SECOND HALF
* Keith Ford
True freshman Keith Ford gained 19 yards on his three carries, but fumbled the ball away in Kansas territory on the Sooners’ third possession. Ford also fumbled last week against Texas, and coach Bob Stoops mentioned that a couple times during interviews last week. He hasn’t seen the field again since that first-quarter fumble, and I wonder if we’ll see Ford back in this game.
* James Sims
Sims has picked up 107 yards on 17 carries so far, and looked utterly unstoppable in the first quarter. He entered this game averaging 78 yards per game, but had more than that two drives into today’s game. Sims hadn’t been as effective late in the second quarter, but it will be interesting to see if he can get going again. If he can’t, Kansas probably doesn’t have much of a chance to win.
* Blake Bell
Bell hasn’t looked great today, but hasn’t been as bad as he was against Texas. The Sooners were taking more shots downfield in the second quarter, and it will be interesting to see if Heupel continues calling those plays in the third quarter. If Bell can connect on a few of them, maybe that will build his confidence back up and pay dividends down the road.
Offense: QB Blake Bell; HB Brennan Clay; FB Trey Millard; WR Jalen Saunders; WR Durron Neal; WR Jalen Saunders; OT Tyrus Thompson; OG Bronson Irwin; C Gabe Ikard; OG Adam Shead; OT Daryl Williams.
Defense: DE Chuka Ndulue; DT Jordan Wade; DE Charles Tapper; DE P.L. Lindley; LB Eric Striker; LB Frank Shannon; LB Dominique Alexander; CB Aaron Colvin; FS Gabe Lynn; SS Quentin Hayes; CB Zack Zanchez.
HALFTIME STATISTICAL LEADERS
Passing — OU: Blake Bell 8-14, 87 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT; Kansas: Jake Heaps 4-7, 18 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT.
Rushing — OU: Blake Bell 4-36; Kansas: James Sims 17-107, 1 TD.
Receiving — OU: Sterling Shepard 3-66, 1 TD; Kansas: Justin McCay 1-10.
Tackles — OU: Dominique Alexander 5, Quentin Hayes 4, Gabe Lynn 4, Aaron Colvin 4, Eric Striker 4, P.L. Lindley 4, Charles Tapper 4; Kansas: Victor Simmons 6, Keon Stowers 4.