Somewhere between the incomplete passes, ineffective quarterback runs and incomprehensible play calling, one fact became rather obvious early Thursday night:
This Oklahoma offense just isn’t very good.
Facing off against the nation’s top-scoring offense, the Oklahoma defense gave the Sooners a chance in Waco.
The Oklahoma offense, however, gave the Sooners no chance.
Instead, the Baylor defense dominated, offering its offense time to find its footing. By that point, the game was over. In the end, the sixth-ranked Bears handed the Sooners the fourth-worst loss of the Bob Stoops era, destroying No. 10 Oklahoma 41-12.
“You’re not going to come here, get one touchdown and think you’re going to win,” Stoops said. “We didn’t execute near well enough to give ourselves a chance.”
Despite failing to generate a single first down the entire first quarter without assistance of a penalty, Oklahoma somehow led 5-3.
With Baylor’s high-powered offense still trying to overcome some big-game nerves, the Sooners had an opportunity to put the Bears in a hole going into halftime.
Oklahoma had racked up 277 yards on the ground its last game against Texas Tech. But without fullback Trey Millard, offensive coordinator Josh Heupel seemed hesitant to lean on the power running game that had become the offense’s calling card.
With the ball at the Bears 31 after a Baylor personal foul, Heupel instead called another three pass plays. And all three of Blake Bell’s attempts fell incomplete. Michael Hunnicutt missed a 48-yard field goal, and Baylor was in the end zone the other way five plays later.
Before long, an Oklahoma defense that had been on the field seemingly the entire half finally capitulated. And the rout was on.
“You’re not going to go out there and keep putting your defense out again and again against Baylor and keep giving them opportunities and not have it affect you,” Stoops said. “[The offense] chipped away at our team’s performance. In the end, you have to stay on the field. I don’t know how many three-and-outs we had, but we had way too many.”
The Sooners finished with six three-and-outs. But of their other eight possessions, only two lasted more than seven plays.
Stoops said he was confident in the offensive game plan going in. But it’s difficult to see how. From the very beginning, the Sooners looked completely bemused about what they wanted to do.
On the second drive, they curiously put in backup quarterback Trevor Knight for two runs.
Then on third-and-1, even more curiously they brought Bell back in for a quarterback keeper off-tackle that fooled no one.
But most curiously, not until its third possession did Oklahoma even bother handing the ball off to a running back.
Stoops noted afterward the original goal was to keep the Baylor offense off the field. But in the first half, the Sooners attempted 16 passes, while handing the ball off to their running backs just seven times.
A depleted Oklahoma defense could not have played any better the first quarter-and-a-half. But without any complement from the other side of the ball, the defense was doomed.
“Obviously [the offensive game plan] wasn’t executed very well,” was all Stoops could say about it.
Bell completed just 15 of 35 passes for 150 yards and two interceptions. His raw QBR for the night was 5.9, on a scale of 0-to-100. (Scary side stat: Bell now has two of the four worst QBR game performances in the Big 12 this year.) Without any commitment to getting the running backs involved, the Sooners averaged just 2.6 yards on the ground. As a result, Oklahoma went just 4-of-17 on third down attempts, and was stuffed twice on fourth down. In all, the Sooners gained just 237 yards, the worst output from an OU offense since 2007 at Colorado.
Both Stoops and Heupel were vague about whether Bell would be the starting quarterback going forward. And Stoops was even vaguer about whether Heupel would remain the primary play-caller.
“We’re going to assess Sunday when we get back from recruiting,” he said, “and we’ll see what we do from there.”
But without serious changes to the offense, the Sooners could be in for one crash-and-burn November.
Oklahoma still must go to Kansas State in two weeks. The Sooners also travel to Oklahoma State in the regular-season finale. And while Oklahoma has lost its offensive stride, the Wildcats and Cowboys are hitting theirs.
No doubt Millard’s absence hurt. By refusing to address questions about it, Stoops indicated as much.
But it’s hard to believe a fullback averaging less than four touches a game is the singular difference between an offense being good and bad.
Going forward, the Sooners could be without Sterling Shepard, too. Oklahoma's second-leading receiver was knocked out of the game in the first quarter with an apparent head injury and didn’t return. Shepard has a history with concussions going back to high school.
“It's not good,” Stoops said. “We'll find out. All the guys that went off the field were hurt. We'll see how that ends up.”
The Sooners left Waco hurting and firmly out of the Big 12 title. Thanks to their offense, they never had a chance.