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Sooners Can't Explain Early-Game Struggles

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

Getting off to a good start is always a big key in football, whether it's to gain a bit of confidence, rile your own fans up or quiet the rowdy crowd on the road.

This has been a massive struggle for the Oklahoma Sooners this season.

In 10 games this season, the Sooners have been outscored in the first quarter, 48-33. OU has been leading after the first quarter in just two games and has scored three touchdowns in the first quarter over the course of just two games—one against Tulsa and two against Notre Dame.

It's a disturbing trend, particularly with the Sooners playing very tough road games the last two games of the season at Kansas State and Oklahoma State. OU coach Bob Stoops has no explanation for why the team has been starting so poorly this season.

"It's frustrating," Stoops admitted on Monday. "We have done different things. We have practiced the start of practice on a tempo period to try and start fast. We just haven't executed really well right off the bat. It's hard to say why."

While Stoops can't put his finger on the reason why, he's convinced it's not because his team doesn't step on the field ready to play.

"I don't feel that's the case," Stoops said. "Our players are ready to play and sometimes it just happens at a quicker time than others."

There is probably no singular reason why the Sooners have come out of the gate sluggish in all but two games this season. The unsettled quarterback position has obviously impacted the offense's ability to find a rhythm each week. That could continue this week, as it appears Blake Bell will miss this week's game due to a head injury suffered against Iowa State. Trevor Knight will start in his place.

Related Story: OU's Williams Out, Bell Questionable Against Kansas State

Another big issue has been injuries, both long- and short-term. Trey Millard's loss has had a big impact on the OU offense the past two weeks, but there have been plenty of other players who have missed time because of injury or suspension throughout the season.

"It's made it challenging," Stoops said. "I guess it's made it challenging and it's just frustrating that in a couple of games we haven't been as good as I think we could be."

The Iowa State game was especially perplexing. The Sooners rushed for just 66 yards in the first half before finishing the game with 405 yards, the most ever in the Bob Stoops era. Stoops said there was no difference in what the Sooners did on offense from a scheme standpoint.

"In the end, you want to say, ‘Well look at all these runs in the second half, what did we do differently?' We didn't do anything differently," Stoops said. "We blocked them better. So to say there is some magical formula – there isn't one. You have to play better."

OU center Gabe Ikard has had a front row seat to every good and bad thing that has happened to the offense this season. He expressed a desire for the Sooners to continue to build on Saturday's performance, noting the Sooners haven't really played a complete game yet this season.

"We are happy with how we played in the second half but when you look at the first half, what is the difference between the offensive line who played in the first half and second half?" Ikard said. "It is the same guys but it comes down to the little things, the small differences in execution. We need to have that first quarter."

Strong starts are especially important on the road when you're trying to take the crowd out of the game. The Sooners will have to do that in both Manhattan and Stillwater to close the season. If the slow starts continue, it will be very difficult for Oklahoma to close the season with a pair of wins.

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