Fast starts on offense key to Oklahoma's success
Kingsley Burns, The Oklahoma Daily
Against Missouri on Saturday, Oklahoma began the game on offense for the third straight game, and the Sooners will likely try to do it again Saturday against Ball State. The reason is simple: If you get the ball and score first, the opposing team is already playing from behind.
It is an approach that is understandable when your offense is as potent as the Sooners can be.
In its opening drive against Florida State, OU was able to set the tone early, receiving the ball and driving down the field for a touchdown. The Sooners took a 7-0 lead, showing they could effectively run the football and control the line of scrimmage. While the offense wound up struggling for much of the game, this early success gave them a great deal of momentum that the defense was able to capitalize on.
Against Missouri on Saturday, however, the Sooners’ approach backfired entirely.
When the offense is able to start the game with a long drive resulting in points, it is able to keep the other team’s offense on the sideline for a period of time, delivering a punch early in the game.
Instead of delivering that early blow against the Tigers, the Sooners received a punch in the mouth that took them nearly the entire first quarter to recover from.
When OU went three-and-out on its opening drive, Missouri seized the opportunity to strike first, driving the ball with ease against an Oklahoma defense that looked lost for much of the series. With a 7-0 lead and the offense’s limited success early, OU was trailing 14-10 as the first quarter ended.
Teams know about Oklahoma’s dominance at home before they ever step on the field. Having now won 38 in a row in Norman, the odds are stacked heavily against the away team. OU teams under coach Bob Stoops expect to win in Norman, which could explain the Sooners’ initial reaction to the success Missouri found early in that game.
At times, OU looked uncertain of how to recover from its poor start at home.
Missouri’s initial success is something underdogs need to emulate when they go on the road in a tough environment. A hot start on the road can bolster opponents’ hopes for an upset victory by generating stops and putting points on the board. With the Sooners unable to plant an initial seed of doubt, Missouri was able to generate thoughts of upsetting Oklahoma for a second straight season.
While fast starts are important for the Sooners, the game against Missouri showed they can still find ways to win without them.
Against Ball State, a team whose offense is not nearly as effective as the one Missouri put on the field last Saturday, a quick start may not have as big of an impact. But in bigger games — such as when Oklahoma takes on the Texas Longhorns on Oct. 8 — a fast start could be key to keeping the Sooners’ hopes of a victory alive.
As was seen against Missouri, a slow start has the capability to throw off the rhythms of both the offense and defense. The Sooners managed to escape unscathed against Missouri, but starts like that are something Oklahoma simply cannot afford if it wants to accomplish the lofty goals it has within its sights.
Jordan Jenson is a film and video studies senior. You can follow him on Twitter at @oujordanjenson.