Another game against a tough, physical opponent, another loss.
Saturday night against Notre Dame, it was the same song and dance for the Oklahoma Sooners. Just like in the Sooners' game earlier in the season against Kansas State, the Sooners lost to the better, and more physical team.
This problem is an intriguing one, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, because the offense is predicated on anything but physicality.
Since the Sooners implemented a no-huddle, fast-paced offense before the 2008 season, the primary objective of the offense is to utilize speed to create passing and running lanes for skill position players. While it's still important for the Sooners to be able to line up and pound the ball down an opponent's throat, that's not always in the cards.
The Sooners know they have to be physical to win football games despite the emphasis on the passing game in the offense. I asked OU center Gabe Ikard Monday if he subscribed to the idea that physicality wins over speed and finesse every time.
"That's one of the mainstays of the game: the most physical team usually, if not always, is going to win the football game," Ikard said. "I think we're very physical, but we throw it around a lot so we have to be physical in pass protection as well. I'm not going to say we don't have the schemes to be physical because we do."
Ikard is right. The Sooners are a very physical football team, but has simply lost to two teams that were more physical than they were. Of course, it's something the Sooners can always improve, but it's not like they're getting pushed around week in and week out.
The main problem is the Sooners' offense is most effective in rhythm and at a quick tempo. However, it's impossible for the Sooners' to maintain that tempo for a long drive because of the physical exertion. Not only that, but just a simple incompletion causes the offense to pause and slow down to the point where it uses almost the entire 40-second play clock.
I asked OU head coach Bob Stoops at his weekly press conference Monday about why an incompletion caused the offense to slow down so much, particularly because linemen have to move down the field quickly when the offense is moving at top speed. Why couldn't receivers move quickly back to the line of scrimmage after an incompletion?
"When you run a route, you have to run all the way down there and all the way back," Stoops said. "Linemen don't do that. They block and then walk to the line of scrimmage. They're in a different mode. They aren't sprinting down the field running a go route."
Ok, that makes sense. But it still doesn't explain why it happens when it's an incompletion on a five-yard pass that doesn't allow receivers to get more than 15-20 yards down the field. Maybe I'm just putting too much confidence in the thought that wide receivers are more conditioned than offensive linemen.
Obviously the Sooners can't be expected to snap the ball in 10 seconds on every play. That's practically impossible unless you're replacing the whole offense on every play. However, the Sooners know they're conditioned to run with the best of teams.
"There's few teams, if any, that are better conditioned than us in the country," Ikard said.
The Sooners have to use that to their advantage since the physical nature of the offense has been proven to not be among the elite teams in the country. Again, it's impossible to expect the Sooners to go at a break-neck pace all the time, but maintaining at a solid rhythm is how the OU offense functions most efficiently.