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Oklahoma Offense Trying To Put New Pieces Together

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

It seems like ages since the Oklahoma Sooners offense racked up 716 points, averaging 51 points per game, and 547.9 yards per game.

In reality, that happened just four years ago, when the 2008 edition of the Oklahoma Sooners went to the national championship game and lost to Florida.

Now, it seems the Sooners are stuck in neutral offensively, and with all the weapons OU has at its disposal, it doesn't make a ton of sense.

"You do scratch your head and wonder and think," quarterback Landry Jones said. "It drives me nuts that we're kind of underachieving right now."

Jones has been at the center of the struggles, reverting to old habits Saturday against Kansas State by throwing an interception off his back foot, and fumbling on the Sooners' one-yard line, allowing the Wildcats to score an easy touchdown.

"I feel especially for myself, I've definitely been underachieving this whole year," Jones said. "For this offense to go, I have to get a lot better, there's no doubt about that."

Despite the mistakes and inconsistency to start the season, OU head coach Bob Stoops is standing squarely behind his senior quarterback.

"It's still a process working with some of the new pieces, but he's got to make a better decision in those places," Stoops said. "We do have confidence in him. The guy's played a ton of really good football. He's a mature guy that everybody has confidence in, and I believe he'll make up for it as we move forward."

Jones' job could be made easier with the emergence of running game. Through three games this season, the Sooners are averaging 214 yard per game on the ground, but that statistic is slightly inflated due to the 349 yards rushing the Sooners rushed for against Florida A&M. OU rushed for just 88 total yards against Kansas State.

"I think our consistency needs to improve the most," fullback Trey Millard said about the running game. "Blocking consistently and making the right reads at running back. I think we do have a lot of shining spots in the games, and we have to make that more consistent."

The Sooners' have several quality running backs in Damien Williams, Dominique Whaley, Brennan Clay and Roy Finch, and spreading the ball around to each of them seems to do more harm than good for the offense.

"It's just how the game's going and sometimes when someone gets hot you keep feeding it to them," Stoops said. "There isn't an exact number (of carries per back). You do want guys like Damien and Dom, between catching the ball and running it, to have their hands on the ball 15-20 times at least."

Stoops understands fans want certain backs to get the ball more, but said it's impossible to please everyone and do what's best for the team at the same time.

People want Roy to get it more, people want Damien to get it more, people want Dom to get it more, people want Sterling (Shepard) to get it more," Stoops lamented. "You do the best you can with the formations and plays you have and trying to play to your teams strengths."

Noticeably absent from the backfield this season has been junior Roy Finch, who started at running back the final five games of the season a year ago after Whaley went down with an ankle injury.

Finch didn't see the field against UTEP, returned kicks and got carries in garbage time against Florida A&M, and carried the ball once against Kansas State.

"He's not it any doghouse," Stoops said in regards to Finch. "He's fine and doing great. We love Roy. As he moves forward, just like anyone else, any guy that's playing or not playing is because of what they do all week (in practice)."

It's no secret OU has a lot of new pieces on offense, and Stoops said the biggest question for the unit is how to play to the strengths of the personnel on the field for the Sooners.

"You're always tweaking things and trying to play your personnel," Stoops said. "We've got quite a few new pieces that we're working with; all the new receivers, new tight ends. That needs to continue to develop. As they develop, we're a better bunch."

When asked how much farther the offense has to go to return to the up-tempo, high-performance machine Sooner fans have grown accustomed to, Landry Jones gave an answer that should raise the fans' spirits.

"A little better to be very good," Jones said.

OU fans are hoping his assessment is correct.

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