NORMAN — There’s a lot of keys to winning on the road, but one very essential ingredient is quieting a deafening crowd. Early offensive success usually does the trick.
Oklahoma, which hits the road at 2:30 p.m. Saturday to face Texas Tech, hasn’t exactly mastered the maneuver. Through three games, it’s scored three points in the first quarter — a field goal in its last game against Kansas State. It was actually a vast improvement over the season opener against UTEP and Florida A&M. OU picked up six first downs on that opening drive. Against the Miners and Rattlers, the Sooners ran three plays and punted.
So, what’s been wrong?
“Just overall execution,” OU coach Bob Stoops said on Monday at weekly press conference. “That’s what it always is. It’s blocking; it’s hitting the guy that’s open. Precision in routes. Just a little bit of everything.”
Fixing it is the hard part.
This problem didn’t suddenly arise. They struggled with it all of last season. They finished with 34 first-quarter points in last season’s five true road games. However, the problem seemed to get worse as the season went along. OU netted a first-quarter field goal against Baylor and was shut out by Oklahoma State in the opening 15 minutes. Those were OU’s final two road games in 2011. It managed a touchdown on its third possession against UTEP this season.
Quarterback Landry Jones didn’t have any simple fixes for the problem.
“I think just being more precise in what we’re doing — receivers, quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends, offensive line — it seems like we’re just a little off and I think just precision in what we’re doing and just really focusing on little things and correcting them from there,” he said.
The early offensive slumber allowed energized crowds to remain stimulated. Scoring early — scoring touchdowns early — can shut off that power source.
“We’ve got to score quick. Especially going into a hostile environment like this, the quicker you get on them, the better it is in regards to keeping the crowd out of it and keeping their energy on the sideline down,” center Gabe Ikard said.
The mantra during last week’s practices was starting fast.
“It’s one of our goals. It’s one of the things we need to do,” Ikard said. “They’ve got a great defense statistically and on tape look really talented, so it’s going to be a good challenge, but that’s one thing we need to do is start the game off well and kind of match that energy that that crowd and that team is going to bring.”
Texas Tech (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) will have a lot of it on Saturday. It’s off to a great start. The only thing missing from its early-season resume is a win over a ranked team. The Sooners (2-1, 0-1) offer that opportunity. Add in that the Red Raiders have won three straight over the Sooners since at Jones AT&T Stadium and there’s no reason for the crowd to lack enthusiasm. Only OU can take it away.
John ShinnFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org