OU offense searches for identity

Nine games into the season and OU's offense doesn't have a clear identity and doesn't look like one will be forged in the final month.

Who knew Paula Abdul would be so on point regarding this year's Oklahoma offense? It truly is a case of taking two steps forward, taking two steps back.

The Sooners took a giant step back last week, does that mean another step forward is in the cards this week against Iowa State?

With only three games left in the season, it's almost pointless to try to label the OU offense with an identity. The truth is the Sooners are simply doing whatever they can and however they need to do it to earn the win.

That's fine ‘n all and a 7-2 overall record isn't terrible by any means. That doesn't mean there isn't frustration. From the fans, the players, the coaches – this hasn't been what everybody expected.

"I just think at the end of the day we're not as consistent as we want to be," co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. "We've shown instances where we've played smart, accurate with the football and consistent for four quarters.

"Obviously last week we were none of those things and at this point in the season – at any point in the season – it's disappointing because of all the hard work you put in and the preparation."

The disappointment cannot carry over, which is a lot easier said than done. When OU faltered against Texas, the thought of a Big 12 championship still echoed through the halls for the players and coaches.

The loss to Baylor last week to give OU two in conference when the Bears and Longhorns each have zero, sort of slammed the door shut this year on a conference championship.

The only thing left to do is pick up the pieces and keep moving. Again, easier said than done.

"Obviously last week was a big game, you want to perform well," Heupel said. "For us, at the end of the day, it's disappointing. It hurts. You come back to work on Monday, and it's a new week."

When the season began, it looked like this was a zone-read option team led by redshirt freshman Trevor Knight. When Blake Bell replaced Knight at quarterback, things looked more familiar to what OU fans have seen for years with four wide receivers and a stout passing game.

But after a couple of solid passing games early, Bell hasn't really found that groove during the last few weeks. And when he has been off, like against Texas and Baylor, he has been way off.

The running game, up until last week, had been a bright spot. The Sooners averaged 234 yards per game through the first eight but were stymied to the count of 34 carries for 87 yards. Some of that could be attributed to mentality as OU didn't have a running back carry the ball the first two drives. That physical mentality wasn't there from the jump.

"We want to be able to throw the efficiently, be explosive with it, get it in our playmakers hands, and we want to have balance of being able to execute in the run game," Heupel said. "That's who we want to be, that's what we've been here for a long time."

Heupel said how OU had been so dominant in the passing game the last few years that an emphasis was put more on the rushing attack this year. In doing so, though, the passing game has dropped off to where OU isn't a championship caliber offense right now.

"I want to see us be more consistent," junior quarterback Blake Bell said. "You've seen us out there making plays, and we just have to continue that on a consistent basis. Staying on the field, too. We've been getting on the field and right off. We need to help the defense out a little bit."

The offense has been doing such a good job with longer drives this season, not running up to 100 plays per game. It has been deliberate but maybe taking away what makes OU who it is.

"I want to see us open it up a little bit more," senior running back Roy Finch said. "We have a lot of playmakers on the outside and in the back, and I just want to see be more explosive by making those big runs and key passes. We need to not be so methodical."

With three games left in the season, it feels like a blank canvas. Bell is going to be the guy, OU coach Bob Stoops has been adamant about that. That's the only thing clear about this season's offense. An identity, a strong, consistent identity, might have to wait until 2014.

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