NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Coach Bob Stoops has a message for anyone considering the panic button after Oklahoma's closer-than-expected victory in the season opener: What's more important, starting fast or finishing strong?
The Sooners (1-0) were less than impressive in their 24-7 win at UTEP last week, getting bumped down a spot to No. 5 in this week's polls. The struggle left plenty to work on in practice, and Saturday night's home opener against Florida A&M (0-1) of the Football Championship Subdivision could provide a chance to iron out some of the kinks.
"We all had something to improve. Missed assignments, missed blocks, missed reads. That's what this week is about, preparing for the game and practicing all the little things," said running back Damien Williams, who ran for 103 yards in his debut. "I'm sure everybody is ready to fix those little mistakes. I feel like we're all going to come together as a team and everybody's going to see what Oklahoma is about for real."
Under Stoops, Oklahoma has won its three previous games against FCS competition by a combined score of 170-2. Anything less than a blowout in this one could leave the Sooners and their fans some real reasons for concern.
There are already questions being raised about a running game that was averaging only 3.4 per carry deep into the fourth quarter at UTEP, until Williams broke off a 65-yard run for a touchdown. The pass blocking was subpar, too, allowing quarterback Landry Jones to get sacked three times — as many times as he was downed in the first eight games last season.
On third downs, Oklahoma was a meager 2-for-13 except when backup quarterback Blake Bell converted three times in the Sooners' power-running "Belldozer" package. Dominique Whaley fumbled twice and was seen the next day with a ball literally strapped to his arm.
"When everyone is a little off, it looks pretty bad out there," Jones said. "But we'll get better and we'll move on down the road."
Perhaps the struggles can be blamed on heavy turnover on the offensive side, where the offensive line was shuffled because of injuries, all but one receiver was a newcomer and Whaley was making his return after a broken ankle ended his 2011 season early.