NORMAN, Okla. — Only six have been put up in the first quarter of the last three games.
No, that’s not by the Sooners’ opponents.
That’s by the Sooners, who have mounted just a pair of field goals against TCU and Texas and were shut out last week in the opening 15 minutes at Kansas.
In all, their opponents have outscored them 38-33 in the first quarter so far in the first seven games of the season.
Twice, in that game against Kansas and also in the season-opener versus Louisiana-Monroe, they’ve been blanked in the first quarter.
Three times, including the two above and in a 16-7 West Virginia win, OU has managed just a field goal in this period.
So, it’s a trend that has held constant throughout the season to this point.
In fact, though the Sooners are 6-1, they’ve only led in three of their seven contests after the first quarter.
And they’re determined to reverse that trend.
“Our first goal needs to be starting quicker,” said center Gabe Ikard. “You know, we’re starting so slow the last two games. It’s got to change. You know, we need to come out and play fast and put points on the board early, stop putting our defense in back spots.”
Fullback Trey Millard concurred.
“Yeah, we always try to start fast,” Millard said. “The past two games we haven’t really done it, but we’ve kind of fought through that. Part of it’s to win on offense, defense and special teams and we did that, I think, this past game. We know that the defense can keep us in it, and the offense will just keep plugging.”
But the defense can only do so much, especially when potent offenses are on the other side of the field such as the one the Red Raiders possess.
The Red Raiders rank 14th in the country in scoring offense with their 41.1 points per game, and they amass 548.1 yards per game, good for sixth in the nation.
Knowing that, the onus, then, is on OU’s offense to score some points and that means not taking a quarter off like has been the case so far.
“At the end of the day we’ve got to do a better job as players and as a staff of starting fast,” said co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. “It’s going to be critical in this ballgame. You certainly don’t want them to get off to a fast start and struggle offensively. We need to be able to be efficient early in the ballgame.”
Said Ikard: “That will be very important against Texas Tech with how explosive their offense is. We really need to take care of our assignments early, get some points on the board.”
Wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who responded with a nice seven catch, 74-yard, two-touchdown performance against Kansas after failing to haul in any against Texas, knows this, too.
“Yeah, I mean, we have to get that going early, especially in this game,” Shepard said. “You know, we know that they’re going to put up a lot of points offensively, so we have to counter that and do the same thing.”
So, how do the Sooners buck their recent trend?
Well, Ikard suggests it’s as simple as everyone being on the same page and executing.
“You know, if one guy—you got 11 guys out there—if one guy is off his game a little bit, things can go poorly,” Ikard said. “But the biggest thing is execution. You know, you have your plan. You line up and practice how you think they’re going to line up and the things you think they’re going to give you, so sometimes they give you something a little different and you have to adjust to it. But when it comes down to it, it’s just guys blocking, guys making plays. So, we need to be more efficient.”
That’s the plan, and perhaps that’ll lead more towards the 11.7 points they’re averaging during the second quarter than the 4.7 they’re averaging during the first.