Oklahoma scored a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half against TCU to take a 31-24 lead. Based on how things went before and since that moment, you could argue that was the high water mark of the Sooners' offense this season.
Since that point, through just under six quarters, the Sooners have gained just 325 yards and scored 24 points. That touchdown was the last OU would score against TCU and it was a full 60 minutes of game time before the Sooners recorded another offensive touchdown, against Texas.
Before that TCU game, the Sooners were averaging 44.75 points per game and 495 yards. But against two good defenses, the OU attack wilted. Every potential problem the Sooners had coming into the year was exposed at the exact same time.
But those potential problems don't explain away issues in areas that should be strengths, such as the run game. Samaje Perine has been bottled up pretty well the past two weeks, thanks to TCU and Texas both stacking the box to stop the run.
“There are quite a few bodies in the box nowadays and that's what we're expecting,” Perine said. “Our receivers are doing a great job on the perimeter in one-on-one protection. Just have to get them the ball and maybe that will free up some holes later in the game. They're (opponents) going to put more people in the box than the line can block so we're just going to have to spread the ball around.”
The only problem there is airing the ball out hasn't been the easiest thing to do for the Sooners, either. Trevor Knight hasn't been above a 60 percent completion percentage all year, and in his past two games, he's just 26-for-55. He's only thrown six touchdown passes through the first six games, a shockingly low number for an offense that used to pride itself on being able to throw whenever and however it wanted.
It's not all on Knight, though. The OU receivers—with the exception of Sterling Shepard and perhaps Durron Neal—haven't stepped up to help him. Besides those two, only K.J. Young has made meaningful contributions at the wide receiver position. But Knight sees the growth, especially amongst that starting trio.
“I think all three of our guys in there are doing a great job,” Knight said. “They continue to keep working and working and I think the chemistry has gotten a little bit better as each game has gone along.
“It's a culmination of things with drops, misreads, and routes and everything like that that may make it not look like that from the outside but those guys continue to progress and we're getting on the same page.”
Bob Stoops mentioned in his Monday press conference there was a possibility of seeing more of the younger receivers on Saturday and going forward. After practice, wide receivers coach Jay Norvell basically said the same thing. The coaches aren't unaware of the struggles and know changes need to be made if the Sooners are to improve on that side of the ball.
“I think a lot of our younger players have been on training wheels the first 6 games, and it's time to take some of those training wheels off,” Norvell said. “The second half of the season, those kids are different players."
One element of the offense that has all but disappeared this year has been the quarterback run game. Knight was named the starting quarterback thanks to his running ability and came into his own last year because of it. This year, though, Knight has carried just 31 times for 132 yards and two touchdowns. He's carried five times or less in every game this season except for TCU (13). He didn't carry a single time against West Virginia.
The disappearance of this element is puzzling, to say the least. Knight is not a pocket passer and his skill set is best utilized when he is a threat to run. For OU to keep him in the pocket, regardless of any fear of injury, is wasting his talent.
The zone read has been used a lot this year, though Knight has seldom pulled the ball and run on his own. He said that's because of the looks the defense has given him.
“I think we're doing a great job,” Knight said about operating the zone read. “There haven't been too many pull reads lately and that's just how the defense is playing it. It's still in the game plan, it's still there and when it happens, it's going to happen, but they haven't given us too many looks at it yet.”
The coaches and players all know what the quarterback run game can do for the offense, and everyone wants to see it more, especially considering just how good Knight is when he is running.
“If it's going to help us get first downs, absolutely,” Knight said when asked if he would like to run more. “Part of that is if the coverage is good and they all sink out of there, tucking and running instead of getting out of the pocket sideways; stepping up and getting out. You get most of your rushing yards on scrambles anyway. We can dial it up and call QB run and everything like that but when nothing is there in the passing game, stepping up and taking off is where you're going to get some of those first downs.”
Oklahoma faces a third straight tough defense in Kansas State on Saturday, which has had an extra week to prepare for the Sooners. Adjustments must be made if the Sooners hope to move the ball on the Wildcats, which ranks No. 15 in total defense, No. 4 in rushing defense, and No. 5 in allowing first downs.
The Sooners know there are problems with the offense. How they fix them could make or break Oklahoma's season.