LAWRENCE, Kan. — Through six games of the 2013 season, Oklahoma still doesn't quite have a firm, defined identity on offense.
OU has tried a variety of different attacks, often looking entirely different from one week to the next. Do these Sooners want to be a power running team? A spread-out, air-raid attack like Landry Jones ran throughout his record-breaking career? A zone-read team, running a Nevada-style pistol offense?
When Oklahoma kicks off Saturday afternoon inside Kansas' Memorial Stadium, there's no telling what sort of scheme Josh Heupel will unveil.
“Clearly, we've changed a little bit from the start of the season with Trevor (Knight) and the read option game,” admitted senior center Gabe Ikard.
Indeed, in each of the two games Knight started at quarterback, Oklahoma rushed the ball at least 50 times and for more than 300 yards. The Sooners haven't come within 85 rushing yards of 300 since junior Blake Bell became the starting quarterback.
Despite the obvious shift in play-calling, Ikard said that when Bell and Knight competed throughout the preseason for the quarterback job, they were running exactly the same system.
“We probably expected to have a little more quarterback run game in than we have the last couple of weeks, but that comes from the coaches seeing things and taking advantage of things that they've seen on tape,” Ikard said.
Oklahoma fans also expected to see more quarterback runs from Bell, especially last weekend against a Texas defense that had allowed more than 100 rushing yards per game to opposing quarterbacks before the Red River Rivalry.
But Heupel continued dialing up passing plays into the second half, even when the Sooners were well within striking distance in the third quarter.
Bell finished the 36-20 loss with his worst passing statistics to date, completing only 12 of 26 passes for 133 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
“We're continuing to move forward and find out each and every week,” Heupel said when asked what the offense's identity is. “We're a football team that, even last week, we rushed it efficiently enough. We need to be better in play-action pass. We've gotta make some explosive plays in the pass game.
“There's more out there in the run game, too.”
Oklahoma's run game is one area of the offense where the Sooners have a good idea of what they've got: A deep, impressive stable of running backs all apparently capable of carrying the load should that become necessary.
Against Texas, four different backs recorded at least five carries and averaged at least 4.6 yards per rush.
But Oklahoma's passing game has to improve, if only to keep defenses on their toes.
“It seems like they're gonna start crowding the box against us, almost daring us to throw it,” Ikard said. “It's kinda the vibe we got from how Texas lined up against us.”
Coach Bob Stoops has denied that there are two different offenses for each quarterback, saying the attacks with Knight and Bell are pretty much the same.
“You don't come up with a new offense every week,” Stoops said. “We never have.
“No, you just try and iron things out and make them better and smoother, and block them better and execute better. But no, we're not designing new structures all the time.”