When Oklahoma takes the field tomorrow morning, the offense will be without two key starters. Junior running back Damien Williams is still nursing an ankle sprain as is senior offensive lineman Lane Johnson. Neither is expected to play but if they do it will be sparingly. Look for senior running back Dominique Whaley to get the start in place of Williams with junior Brennan Clay coming off the bench. Sophomore Tyrus Thompson will get the call in place of Lane Johnson at the left guard position.
Quarterback Landry Jones is coming off of a 35-51 effort for 356 yards but failed to throw a touchdown pass against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Jones has now thrown for 2009 yards and 12 TD’s on the year while leading an Oklahoma offense that ranks 5th overall in the conference. Last week, Jones kept the Oklahoma offense moving while throwing the ball but it was the play of the offensive line last week that hurt the Sooners. Oklahoma used 5 linemen to try and block the Notre Dame (three set) defensive front but the Irish clearly overpowered the Sooners as they only gave up 15 rushing yards on the night.
“It was very disappointing for us and you just have to take your hat off to Notre Dame for turning out a great performance,” said Offensive Line Coach James Patton.
With Johnson out with an ankle injury, keep your eye on the above mentioned Tyrus Thompson to see how Iowa State attacks that side of the line.
The Sooners running game was none existent to say the least last week and when talking to Offensive Coordinator Josh Heupel, he had this to say about the play calling.
“Well ultimately, you try and call things that will work and at the beginning, we just tried to stretch the field by throwing outside and we thought that we could pop some runs up the middle after that but it didn’t work out like we planned it,” said Heupel.
“Understand that you can’t pass it all the time because when you get down inside the red-zone, things get compacted and there isn’t much room down there so you have to be able to run the ball at some point so we will look at some things and make some corrections as to what we are doing.”
The Sooners just like any other team out there will always try and establish the run to set up their passing game but unless the offensive line starts to get a “push” up front, it will be tough going for Jones and the rest of the Sooner offense to sustain drives.
As mentioned, Oklahoma ran for a net total of 15 yards last week and will be facing an Iowa State team that will load the box and focus on stopping the Sooner ground attack once again this week. This should give the OU receivers plenty of opportunities to make some big plays on the perimeter. Junior receiver Kenny Stills played outside all of last week and with the emergence of Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard, Stills has more than likely been shifted back outside for good. Senior Justin Brown will line up outside opposite Stills and that gives OU some great size and speed. Saunders and Shepard are Ryan Broyles clones and have shifty moves after the catch. Look for the Sooners to go to the air more often this week and if it is working, stay with it as Heupel admitted that he should have stayed with the passing game more last week when the Irish were stuffing the run.
Of course the “BellDozer” is always available as well and sophomore quarterback Blake Bell finally ended the Notre Dame streak last week of not giving up a rushing touchdown this year by powering his way into the end-zone with 9:10 remaining in the 4th qtr of last week’s game.
“Blake has been doing this since we have installed this package and I think we have great success with it,” said Head Coach Bob Stoops.
“We are going to put our guys in the best position to score and Blake allows us to get ‘numbers’ when we are down in the red-zone and as you all of seen, we score a lot of points using that formation. Using our jumbo set allows Blake to pick his holes and find a crease in the defense and he does a great job of executing and getting points on the board.”
Bell has 9 rushing touchdowns on the year but defense now have to also plan for the passing ability of Bell as well. Last week, against a strong Notre Dame front, Bell lined up in the usual “BellDozer” package and took the snap. Instead of running the ball, he stopped and stood up and threw a lob pass to fullback Trey Millard out in the flat for a key first down which [a play later] turned into a Blake Bell touchdown for the Sooners.
Iowa State counters with a defense ranked 6th in total defense in the league (6th in rushing defense, 3rd in scoring defense, 8th in passing defense) and is led by a pair of senior linebackers in Jake Knot and A.J. Klein. Knot (6-3, 252) has 79 tackles on the year (55 solo) and Klein (6-2, 244) counters with 67 total tackles (36 solo) as they are relied upon heavily to anchor the middle of the Cyclone defense. Senior strong safety Durrell Givens is the cyclones ‘run-stopper’ in the secondary as he has 52 tackles on the year (37 solo). The ‘Clones other safety is Jacques Washington (6-1, 213, Junior). He has 3 interceptions on the year to go along with 51 total tackles (31 solo). The Iowa State defense is an athletic hard hitting defense that has athletes across the board so Oklahoma will have to be “on and clicking” offensively to have sustained success moving the ball.
Along the defensive front, the Cyclones sport a smaller front than what the Sooners experienced last week and that should make it easier for Oklahoma to run the football. Nose guard Jake McDonough (6-5, 280, Sr.) anchors the D-line followed by D-Tackles Cleyon Laing (6-4, 290 Sr.) and Henry Simon (6-3, 290, Sr). All are athletic and can move around well and have shown that they can fight off blocks to make tackles.
Oklahoma will have its work cut out for them tomorrow morning but playing early will help the Sooners as senior defensive end R.J. Washington stated earlier in the week.
“Man, I am just glad we get to go out and play early and get it done,” said Washington. “We will have to change up our routine a little bit but that is a good thing because I really don’t like all those late starts because you have to sit around all day and wait to play and that kind of sucks sometimes.”
The Sooners have shown resiliency by bouncing back after the Kansas State loss and all week the team has talked about character and maturity after the Notre Dame loss. The Sooners show it once again as they get back on the winning track in a tough well-fought game against Iowa State in Ames.
Sooners 31 Cyclones 24