Tight Zone Troubles

NORMAN, Okla. — There's not a whole lot to critique about a 6-0 start, but perhaps the one glaring problem has been OU's red zone production.

The Sooners, although they've scored 91 percent of the time in the tight zone (on 31-of-34 tries), have managed touchdowns on just 19 occasions.

That's 56 percent of the time, a stark contrast from 2008 when they managed a ridiculous 85 percent touchdown rate, albeit at the hands of four future NFL offensive linemen and Heisman quarterback Sam Bradford.

But still, the production doesn't lie this year.

OU has been miserable when it comes to cashing in touchdowns.

And if those stats aren't enough, consider that on nine of those 15 drives in which they've failed to get six inside the red zone, they've been inside the 10-yard line.

That means more than one out of every four times OU reaches the red zone, it moves inside the 10 and settles for a field goal.

"I think it's just a little bit of both being able to run the ball a little bit better and me making the right reads down there, just making quicker decisions," said quarterback Landry Jones. "So, I think just some of those things. I mean, we'll clean it up and we'll get better at it."

Slot receiver Ryan Broyles added onto that.

"Just got to reach blocks, you know, a couple of blocks we've seen in film," Broyles said. "I'm actually starting to learn a little bit about the O-line now, seeing who you have to pull to. [There's a little miscommunication sometimes], so it's nothing that we can't fix."

But it's certainly something the coaching staff has been addressing inside the meeting rooms and out on the practice field.

Just ask running back Roy Finch.

"I feel like one thing that has to change because our coaches are emphasizing that in meetings, is identifying [people], the line identifying who they have," Finch said. "You know, sometimes the center makes a call and it doesn't trickle down to the guard and the tackle and the tight end, so they don't know where to track to. So, I feel like it's just mostly communication and just trying to everybody being on the same accord."

As if it hasn't been evident all season, it came to a head the other night in OU's 47-17 win at Kansas, when the Sooners on four different occasions settled for three points from place kicker Michael Hunnicutt instead of touchdowns.

Three of those drives ended inside the 10, two inside the 3-yard line.

"A couple of times, blocking assignments," said head coach Bob Stoops. "One series it was pretty obvious. We hit Dominique Whaley in the chest. He drops it. We overthrow Ryan, who's open in the end zone. And then on the third play that series, our fullback's coming open underneath the tight end on a little switch route and he trips over the tight end and he's open."

But as Stoops so often does, he found a way to justify the situation some and why it's not all that bad.

"At the end of the day, that happens and you're not going to be perfect all the time," Stoops said. "We were 7-of-7 scoring. You know, Michael hit all of those. And then like I said, there's a time or two we got crossed up on who we were blocking up front and allowed a linebacker to run through and hit us. So, it's something we continue to work on. But we're down in that red zone a lot. I'll say that, probably more so than a lot of people, and just got to keep scoring."

Certainly, common logic would tell you the more chances they get in the red zone, the more they'll improve as the year rolls on.

The rest of the season will tell that tale.

Sooners scoring in the red zone this year:

Vs. Tulsa:

RZ Scores: 7-of-8
RZ TD's: 5-of-8

--Jimmy Stevens 28-yard FG (stalled a 11-yard line)
--Dominique Whaley 2-yard TD run
--Whaley 1-yard TD run
--Whaley 6-yard TD run
--Broyles 4-yard TD pass from Jones
--Trey Franks fumble at the 1-yard line
--Brennan Clay 11-yard TD run
--Mike Hunnicutt 27-yard FG (stalled at 10)

At Florida State:

RZ Scores: 4-of-5
RZ TD's: 1-of-5

--Jones 1-yard TD run
--Stevens 21-yard FG (stalled at 4)
--Stevens 29-yard FG (stalled at 12)
--Stevens 31-yard FG (stalled at 14)
--Kneel out (end of game)

Vs. Missouri:

RZ Scores: 5-of-5
RZ TD's: 4-of-5

--Hunnicutt 26-yard FG (stalled at 9)
--Broyles 4-yard TD pass from Jones
--Jones 1-yard TD run
--Whaley 3-yard TD run
--Broyles 4-yard TD pass from Jones

Vs. Ball State:

RZ Scores: 3-of-4
RZ TD's: 3-of-4

--James Hanna 6-yard TD pass from Jones
--Kenny Stills 7-yard TD pass from Jones
--Whaley 1-yard TD run
--Hunnicutt missed 30-yard FG (stalled at 13)

Vs. Texas in Dallas:

RZ Scores: 5-of-5
RZ TD's: 3-of-5

--Hunnicutt 26-yard FG (stalled at 9)
--Hunnicutt 24-yard FG (stalled at 7)
--Stills 19-yard TD pass from Jones
--Broyles 5-yard TD pass from Jones
--Stills 14-yard TD pass from Jones

At Kansas:

RZ Scores: 7-of-7
RZ TD's: 3-of-7

--Stills 17-yard TD pass from Jones
--Hunnicutt 36-yard FG (stalled at 19)
--Roy Finch 8-yard TD run
--Hunnicutt 19-yard FG (stalled at 2)
--Hunnicutt 27-yard FG (stalled at 10)
--Hunnicutt 20-yard FG (stalled at 3)
--Whaley 10-yard TD run

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