OU notebook: Unbalance of power
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Friday, September 23, 2011
9/23/11 at 3:19 AM
Missouri, never known for its defense, actually is 11th against the run nationally. Oklahoma's rushing lanes might not be as open as they were in 2008 (Mossis Madu 114 yards against Mizzou in the Big 12 championship), 2007 (Allen Patrick and Chris Brown a combined 159 yards in another Big 12 championship) or 2006 (Patrick 157 at Mizzou).
It will be interesting to see if OU uses an unbalanced offensive line to run on the Tigers as they did last week at Florida State.
They put left tackle Donald Stephenson next to tackle Lane Johnson on the right side, leaving tight end James Hanna on the left side next to guard Gabe Ikard. The formation helped OU to a 15-play, 6 1/2-minute opening drive in Tallahassee. Ten of those plays were runs, covering 52 of the 80 yards.
"We talked about it the whole week, just being able to punch them in the throat," starting tailback Brennan Clay said. "We went in there knowing it was going to be a hostile environment, and we wanted to make a statement that first drive and silence the crowd. I believe that's what we did."
The unbalanced line was a factor.
"It's just something we felt would create an advantage with angles for our guys up front," offensive coordinator Josh Heupel explained. "We gave them a chance to have some success in the run game."
"It stresses defenses because we're putting a couple 300-pound tackles side by side," OU tackles coach Bruce Kittle said. "Also, we like it as kind of a changeup that gives us options. The things we've called out of that formation have worked so far this year for us."
Goal line grief: The Sooners went back to the unbalanced line after that opening drive. Their coaches said they did not, however, try it inside the Florida State 10.
Perhaps they should have, at least in the second quarter. That's when OU settled for two field goals after having first-and-goal from the Seminoles' 6- and 3-yard lines.
"It's just focus," Clay said. "Every time we messed up it was just missing a guy. We need to get a hat on a hat. If we do that, Dom (Whaley) or myself can get it in there. There's no doubt about that. It's just being able to move the pile. Just missed assignments."
"It needs to get better," coach Bob Stoops said of OU's goal-line offense. "But do I think it's better than a year ago? Yeah, by a long shot. Are we there yet? It's the second game. No way. So, I think it will get better."
Still scary: Not long ago, the Sooners had to defend two All-American pass catchers in order to stop Missouri - wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and tight end Martin Rucker.
The Tigers aren't bringing Maclin and Rucker to Owen Field Saturday night, much to OU's relief. But they still have weapons at the two positions in T.J. Moe and Michael Egnew.
Moe made 92 grabs for 1,045 yards last year, and found himself on the Biletnikoff Award watch list this preseason.
"T.J. is kind of their Wes Welker," OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. "He does a lot. He gets in the backfield. He can run it. He's even thrown it. He's got great hands. He's really quick underneath."
Egnew caught seven passes in Missouri's upset of the Sooners last year, and went on to garner consensus All-America honors.