NORMAN — Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops scoffed two weeks ago at the suggestion that struggles in his new offensive system might require rethinking some things.
“I can’t remember … where we’ve ever scrapped the whole thing after game one,” Stoops said a few days after the season opener.
OU coaches didn’t toss their option plays altogether, but quarterback Blake Bell looked much more like Landry Jones than he did Trevor Knight in Saturday’s 51-20 rout of Tulsa on Owen Field.
Bell, making his first career start, completed 27 of 37 passes for 413 yards and four touchdowns against the Golden Hurricane defense. In its first two games this season, Oklahoma averaged more than 300 rushing yards per game as Knight and the Sooner receivers struggled to be effective.
Knight completed less than half his pass attempts with three interceptions and only 205 passing yards against Louisiana-Monroe and West Virginia.
Stoops and co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel insisted after the game there hadn’t been any fundamental shift in play-calling philosophy.
“What are you complaining about?” Stoops asked. “We had 600 yards, 51 points and no turnovers, ate up the clock. What did we do wrong? What do you want to see?
“We’re gonna mix. We’ll choose what we run according to what defenses are out there and what personnel we have.”
The Sooners (3-0, 1-0 Big 12) are off next weekend before a Sept. 28 trip to Notre Dame, which boasts a tough, unyielding run defense that completely stuffed Oklahoma’s run game a year ago in Norman.
The Sooners managed only 15 rushing yards on 24 attempts in last October’s 30-13 loss to the Irish.
At halftime Saturday, Oklahoma had rushed for only 65 yards as a team but finished with 194.
The Sooners were without second-leading rusher Damien Williams, who rushed for 161 yards through the first two games but was suspended Saturday for violating team rules.
Senior Roy Finch finished with a team-high 68 yards on eight carries Saturday, and Brennan Clay rushed for 49 yards and a touchdown.
“I think that’s what we are going to work on in practice, getting both of those things going at the same time,” sophomore receiver Sterling Shepard said of Oklahoma’s rushing and passing attacks. “It’ll be hard to stop us.”
Despite the run game’s first-half struggles Saturday, Tulsa’s defense had an enormously difficult time stopping Bell and the Sooners, who scored points on their first six drives of the game and didn’t punt until midway through the third quarter.
Bell managed Oklahoma’s offense effectively and efficiently, connecting with 10 different receivers at least once. Shepard was his favorite target, hauling in eight receptions for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
Bell finished with 10 rushes for 31 yards, but few of those carries came on designed quarterback runs.
Knight, on the other hand, rushed for 145 yards in his two starts.
The different offensive strategy was also evident in Oklahoma’s formations. More than half of the Sooners’ offensive snaps came from four wide receiver sets — a frequent sight in 2012 that made few appearances in Knight’s starts.
“I don’t think there was really that much (of a change in philosophy),” Bell said. “You know, (Heupel) and the coaching staff did a great job of just preparing and gave us plays that they thought we could execute and execute well. Other than that, we’re just doing what we do.”