Oklahoma vs. Kansas: What Has Happened to the Sooners Offense This Year?

Ben Kercheval@@BenKerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterOctober 19, 2013

Oklahoma has never lost a game following the Red River Rivalry under head coach Bob Stoops. Kansas hasn't won a Big 12 game since 2010 against Colorado. 

Both of those streaks looked to be on the line for the first quarter-and-a-half between the Sooners and the Jayhawks on Saturday. But 18 straight points in the second quarter and a 34-6 run over the course of the game allowed OU to get out of Lawrence with a 34-19 win. 

It was the first time Oklahoma has scored more than 20 points in a Big 12 game this season, which begs the question: What's happened to the Sooners offense this year? 

The reasons why OU has been less explosive on offense boil down to a couple of things. First, and most obviously, Oklahoma hasn't had many big plays—sort of the anti-Baylor, if you will. Of the 16 scoring drives OU has had in conference games, only two have come in fewer than five plays.

Oct 19, 2013; Lawrence, KS, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Blake Bell (10) hands off to running back Roy Finch (22) against the Kansas Jayhawks in the second half at Memorial Stadium. Oklahoma won the game 34-19. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

One came Saturday against the Jayhawks when wide receiver Lacoltan Bester threw a 49-yard touchdown on a trick play.

“When things happen like that, turnovers or touchdowns, those are momentum shifts for either side,” Bester said via the Oklahoman. “It depends on who gets them. I was glad those were on our side today.”

The other was a 75-yard touchdown run by running back Brennan Clay against TCU. 

The second issue for OU is that many of the longer offensive drives are ending in field goals, not touchdowns. In nine offensive drives of eight plays or more in Big 12 games, OU has attempted seven field goals, making six, to scoring two touchdowns. 

Oklahoma ranked in the top 15 in scoring offense the past three seasons. Much of the Sooners' offensive production came through the air, as OU ranked in the top five in passing offense every year during that time. 

Conversely, Oklahoma's offense has been significantly more run-oriented this year. It began In Weeks 1 and 2 when redshirt freshman Trevor Knight was the starting quarterback. Knight's athleticism lent itself to more of an option and zone-read base on offense. After Knight lost his starting job to Blake Bell, the OU offense moved away from the option and more to a power running game with Clay and Damien Williams. 

Oklahoma offensive stats
Scoring offenseTotal offenseRushing offensePassing offense

OU's passing game has been better with Bell as the starter, but there's still little in the way of vertical, downfield passing. Rather, much of Bell's numbers come from short, quick read passes that allow receivers to make plays in space. 

The Big 12 defenses Oklahoma has faced this year—West Virginia, TCU, Texas and Kansas—have generally been good or improved. Things don't get easier for OU in the final five games of the year. Three opponents—Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma State—rank in the top 30 in scoring defense. 

Likewise, OU's defense has been good (except against the power run). The Sooners should expect to play in more defensive struggles than shootouts this year.

Rankings courtesy of NCAA.com.