Oklahoma's use of different receiving options pays off
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Monday, November 05, 2012
11/05/12 at 5:16 AM
Related Story: OU Notebook: Sooners move on without Gardner
NORMAN - Oklahoma started Saturday's win over Iowa State with Kenny Stills, Justin Brown and Jalen Saunders at wide receiver. The Sooners' next series, Lacoltan Bester and Sterling Shepard were in early.
Durron Neal was in the lineup by the second quarter. Trey Metoyer spelled Stills throughout the game.
"It was good," OU receivers coach Jay Norvell said. "We went into this game really trying to get all of those guys in a rotation and get them on the field. Metoyer got his hands on the ball, Durron Neal. Lacoltan was in there. We've got to continue to do that, and use all of the weapons that we have."
OU went to Iowa State intent on showing off the transformation that has taken place at the position. Quarterback Landry Jones opened preseason camp throwing to one wide receiver who had ever caught a pass in an FBS game: Stills.
Saturday at Iowa State, 26 of his 32 completions went to six wideouts, good for 366 of his 405 yards.
Brown, Stills and Shepard stood out. The trio combined for 18 catches, 276 yards and four touchdowns.
Everyone contributed. Consider the Sooners' first scoring drive of the afternoon, their 90-yarder that gave them a 7-0 early second-quarter lead.
Facing third-and-8 from his own 25, Jones sat comfortably against Iowa State's three-man rush before hitting Neal over the middle for 18 yards. The next play, Jones threw a quick-out to Metoyer for nine. Then he threw another to Metoyer for three.
Suddenly, the freshman receiver had doubled his catch total from the previous two games combined. Neal hadn't caught a pass since OU's victory at Texas Tech Oct. 6.
Two snaps later, Jones found Stills underneath for seven yards. Shepard ran a reverse for 13. Then, after Jones barely missed Brown in the end zone, OU lined up for a third-and-9 at the ISU 20. Neal and Bester were included in a four-wide set. Jones, feasting again on a three-man rush, connected with Shepard for the touchdown.
It was, literally, all hands on deck.
"A lot of guys touched the ball. That was a plus," Shepard said. "It just brings fresh legs to the offense. Guys are getting tired."
The Sooners ran Stills, Brown and Saunders ragged in their 30-13 loss to Notre Dame the previous Saturday. They weren't going to let that happen in Ames.
This way, receivers could run crisper, deeper routes as the game wore on. Jones threw for 157 yards in the second quarter, then another 122 in the third.
Receivers also could perform better off the ball, have more energy to block bubble screens or to block third-level defenders on a day OU ran it 40 times.
Brown and Saunders have come aboard since camp opened. Rookies Shepard, Metoyer and Neal have adjusted to college ball. Junior college transfer Bester has adjusted to FBS competition.
Why not take full advantage of that, especially this late in a season?
"That could be a good mix for us down the stretch," Norvell recognized, "because we're gonna have to play really hard to win these games."
2:30 p.m. Saturday
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Original Print Headline: Getting all receivers in on action pays off
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
OU's Brennan Clay runs though Iowa State defenders in Ames IA. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World