3. Get ahead early and keep the lead
In road games, it's key to capture the lead in the early part of the ball game. This does a number of things. First off, it takes some of the pressure off the road team, and there will be a lot of that considering the Sooners are the higher ranked opponent in this battle of one-loss ranked teams. Secondly, if OU could seize the lead early, all the pressure would shift from the Sooners to the Hurricanes. If the Sooners can take control of the game in the early stages, it will certainly alleviate some of the pressure off Jones and the rest of the Sooner offense to execute throughout the rest of the game. And it would put the Miami offense in more predictable situations on the game moves on. OU must take the lead in the first quarter in this one.
2. Establish the run game
Yes, the man with the moustache has thrown for nearly 700 yards and nine touchdowns throughout his two starts against Idaho State and Tulsa and part of the first game against BYU after Heisman quarterback Sam Bradford went down with a third degree separated shoulder. But none of those three opponents have the type of athleticism and speed the Hurricanes boast. So, in order for the Sooners to open up some holes in the secondary for Jones to exploit, they must effectively mix up the pass and run. And it's not like OU lacks athletes in the backfield. Both DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown rushed for more than 1,000 yards a year ago, and both are off to good starts so far in 2009. Never will it be more important than this game, especially if the rain starts to fall and the field gets sloppy.
1. Get pressure on Jacory Harris
The Miami quarterback has proven if he gets time to sit back in the pocket, he can and will burn a secondary deep. But it's not only that which makes Harris effective at what he does. Even if the secondary is locked up, he has the ability to scamper for yards on the ground with his great mobility and speed. So, the front four must get in his face early and often in order to keep him from getting too comfortable back in the pocket.
Now, it's time for the three things the Sooners must avoid if they hope to storm into Miami and beat the Hurricanes.
Three things OU must avoid in order to win:
3. Getting in long yardage situations on offense
OU head coach Bob Stoops calls these situations "getting behind the eight ball." Whatever it's called, getting behind the eight ball or well behind the chains, the Sooners must avoid it. Holding penalties and false starts will force the Sooners into these types of long-yardage downs. Once in long yardage situations, the whole offensive playbook changes. It limits the types of plays that can be called successfully. OU must avoid these critical holding, false start or any other procedure calls on offense that might back them up. Otherwise, the offense could be fighting an uphill battle.
2. Special teams mistakes
How often does a game come down to special teams? The answer to that is very often. Everyone in Sooner nation remembers the blown coverage on the Jordan Shipley kickoff return to the house last year in the Texas game. Shoot, ask Miami. At a point when they could ill-afford a special teams mistake, Virginia Tech blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown last weekend. The game could have been completely different had the Hurricanes not committed that special teams mistake. And it becomes even more important on the road because big plays like that ignite home crowds. OU must avoid giving up big special teams plays and must execute all its kickoffs and punts, as well as field goals when it has the opportunity.
Stoops emphasizes this one over and over. Take care of the ball. It seems like there's a pattern forming here. Once again, it's even more important to value possession on the road. Turnovers are another type of big play and can also get the crowd involved more in the game. Most close games come down to who makes the major mistake in the late stages of the game and who doesn't, so the Sooners need to take care of the ball and avoid making a critical turnover.