OU offensive line tries to work out kinks
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Saturday, September 08, 2012
9/08/12 at 6:16 AM
NORMAN - Gabe Ikard is an Oklahoma center first, and an OU fanatic a close second.
The Oklahoma City native admits to growing up ranting and raving about Sooner shortcomings. He admits he still does it, albeit a little quieter, in film sessions.
What if he'd been among the OU faithful in the stands last Saturday night in El Paso?
"I would have yelled at the offensive line," Ikard said with a laugh.
So he gets it. The Sooners get it. Their offensive line got off to flimsy start, a problem reflected in the 24-7 final score.
That makes Saturday night's follow-up against FCS opponent Florida A&M more important than you might think. The Sooners, or at least Sooner offensive linemen, have something to prove.
Not so much to fans who have been discouraged since last Saturday night.
"More to ourselves," left guard Adam Shead said. "We know what we're capable of. When we don't perform the way we know we're capable of, we feel bad. It's just the thought of knowing you left something on the field."
Until Damien Williams broke loose for a 65-yard touchdown run with 2:55 remaining, the Sooners left plenty.
"The touchdown at the end is really what we could have had several other times," tackles coach Bruce Kittle said. "We just had one guy off all the time."
"We missed a couple things we shouldn't have missed," said James Patton, who oversees the line's interior. "The energy was good. The attitude was good. It's getting the kinks out and being more precise on what we're doing. And playing better. You know?
"We've got to make big improvements from Week 1 to Week 2."
And even bigger ones between now and Sept. 22. That's when Kansas State comes to Norman, signaling the start of conference play.
UTEP sacked Landry Jones three times and bothered him on several other occasions. The Miners held OU to 81 rushing yards and a 3.5-yard average for three-plus quarters.
Imagine the damage Texas could inflict Oct. 13. That was the reaction, anyway, among Sooner fans ready to set off alarms.
It wasn't quite that dire around the Switzer Center.
"We've got a lot of trust and confidence in each other. One somewhat poor performance isn't going to wreck our world," Ikard reasoned. "It's a long season."
The Sooners lost starters Ben Habern and Tyler Evans as preseason camp opened, and responded with a can't-miss-a-beat message. Fact is, that's too big a hit to take without missing several, at least until the rebuilt line gels.
Left tackle Lane Johnson was making his first appearance on the blind side after being the 2011 right tackle. Daryl Williams, in Johnson's place at right tackle, hadn't started since the '11 opener. Right guard Bronson Irwin hadn't started at all.
"You've got to have chemistry. That's what we're working on," Shead said. "We're getting there. We're not perfect, obviously, but we're getting there."
The technical problems involved "lunging," "cross-facing" and "missing steps." There were communication issues as well, which goes back to new players/positions.
The Sooners swear there are positives to build on. Kittle thought his three-tackle rotation of Williams, Johnson and Tyrus Thompson held up well.
"There are definitely some things we can clean up," Kittle said. "But there were other times where we flipped it on and their entire defensive line was six yards off the ball."
Jones was on his back more than usual - he wasn't sacked a third time until his fifth game last season - but he did have five seconds to find Kenny Stills for a 68-yard touchdown.
It's just the Sooners must have more of that kind of protection, and more strength at the point of attack, as the season continues and the competition stiffens. If not, the howling is only going to get louder.
"We didn't play our best game. We're fully aware of that," Shead said. "We shot ourselves in the foot a lot Saturday night. We know we did wrong. We've got to fix it ...
"We've got to fix it."
Florida A&M at no. 5 OU
6 p.m. Saturday TV: PPV
Radio: KTBZ am1430, KMOD fm97.5
Original Print Headline: OU offensive line tries to work out kinks
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
OU center Gabe Ikard signs an autograph for fan Phoenix Moore, 9, after the spring game. Ikard and his fellow offensive linemen have something to prove Saturday after a poor showing last week. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World file
OU running back Damien Williams is taken down by UTEP defensive lineman James Davidson last week. MARK LAMBIE/Associated Press