Planning for success: Oklahoma

NORMAN, Okla. -- Heading into the offseason, Oklahoma wanted to get better at running the football. The Sooners had success on the ground in 2012 but couldn’t run the football whenever they wanted to lean on their ground attack, even if the defense knew what was coming.

The 35-21 win over Notre Dame is a sign the Sooners might have accomplished their goal. OU turned to its running game to try to end the game against the Irish and had success, running out the clock after getting the ball with 5:39 left in the game.

OU has been successful running the ball during its first four games, averaging 256.8 rushing yards per game, but the Sooners' success against a stout Irish front led by defensive tackle Louis Nix III sent a message that OU’s running game is much improved.

“It does feel good,” said guard Bronson Irwin of the ability to run the ball whenever they want. “At times last year, we struggled to run the ball and this year we have been doing a good job. It has been nice to establish a really strong running game but at the same time we know there is more out there.”

As TCU visits Norman on Saturday, OU will aim to continue to have the offensive balance it has shown during the past two games with Blake Bell at quarterback. OU’s run numbers have dipped with Bell at quarterback -- 203 rushing yards per game-- but it has shown the ability to improve as the game goes on, averaging 73.5 rushing yards in the fourth quarter.

“I know that we’re a tougher line this year, a more physical line,” center Gabe Ikard said. “Those are two things that Coach [Bill] Bedenbaugh made sure were the emphasis right when he got here. We have a lot of great defensive lines in this conference, starting with TCU. They’re a very physical team up front. We just have to continue to build and get better than last week.”

Having one of the deepest groups of running backs in recent years has helped the running game immensely. No Sooner is averaging more than 100 rushing yards per game as OU has spread carries around to Brennan Clay, Damien Williams and Roy Finch. Clay leads the Sooners with 59 carries for 339 yards and two touchdowns.

“Coming in to the year, it just felt like the running backs were a big asset to the offense and we have been,” Finch said. “We’ve lived up to the hype.”