Stoops rolling the dice

OU coach "gambling" on fourth down with Sooners' offense

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops received a text the day before the Sooners’ season-opener against Louisiana Tech from former Sooners’ running back DeMarco Murray, who had a strange request.

“He said, ‘Coach, don’t kick too many field goals this year,’” Stoops recalled, “’because you have to keep my record intact.’”

While that wasn’t the reason Oklahoma attempted four fourth-down conversions in Saturday’s season opener, all of them converted for first downs, Stoops new gambling ways does offer a vote of confidence in the Sooners’ offense.

“I appreciate coach Stoops for giving us that opportunity, having confidence in us to go pick those up,” quarterback Trevor Knight said. “… Coach Stoops giving us the opportunity, and that’s just us executing.”

Stoops even apologized to kicker Michael Hunnicutt after one of the attempts, saying that he should have let his kicker try a 50-plus yarder.

None of the attempts were in a danger zone, and all fell into a very small portion of the field – between the Louisiana Tech 30- and 36-yard line.

Don’t look at Stoops as a gambling man when it comes to fourth-down attempts, though. There’s no crazy nickname, yet – what about ‘Brazen Bob?’

He just has confidence in his offense.

“I did have confidence in the strength of our running backs and what we were doing that the percentages were good to pick them up and the field position,” he said.

Stoops had one for every quarter, and each was converted on a very different play. In the first quarter, Knight scrambled away on fourth-and-2 and found Dimitri Flowers, who had settled down into an opening in the defense.

In the second quarter, Oklahoma needed two yards for the first down. Running back Keith Ford and the offensive line gave them four.

“We don’t even think it’s rolling the dice,” center Ty Darlington said. “In those situations, we want to go for it, and we want it to be right behind us. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have that confidence. I think we’re a group that is capable of being dominant. We want to be dominant.”

Ford escaped on a swing pass in the third quarter to convert a fourth-and-3, rolling for 16 yards after the catch, and K.J. Young hauled in a deep out to complete a 4-for-4 night on a fourth-and-5 in the fourth quarter.

“It’s a big confidence booster,” running back Samaje Perine said. “It shows that he has confidence in us. It gives us confidence in ourselves to go out there every drive and know that the coaches are going to believe in us to do what we have to do and get a touchdown.”

Ultimately though, the four fourth-down conversion drives resulted in as many scores as they did turnovers. Oklahoma scored in the first quarter but fumbled and threw an interception on two others. In the third-quarter conversion still resulted in a Michael Hunnicutt field goal attempt, which he converted from 37 yards out.

“All of them were in an area where you would go for it,” Stoops said. “I apologized to Hunnicutt after one of them. I told him we should have kicked one of them just to get him a long field goal. It would have been good early in the year to get a good long one in.”

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