|No. 4 Oklahoma moves forward with no-huddle|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 31 August 2008 21:56|
The fourth-ranked Sooners (1-0) were efficient and mostly mistake-free in their first game since going to the hurry-up pace, scoring on their first seven possessions en route to a 57-2 rout of their Championship Subdivision opponent.
If nothing else, that sped up how quickly Oklahoma could move their focus to the first big challenge of this season: a Saturday showdown in Norman against Cincinnati.
While the offense was racking up big numbers and a 50-0 halftime lead after discarding the huddle, the defense was equally impressive. The Mocs got only two first downs and completed three passes against a unit that was supposed to be the Sooners' weak point.
But don't count on anyone around Owen Field getting too far ahead of themselves.
``It's game one. You keep it in perspective,'' defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. ``There's certainly things that you still don't know about guys, but it's off to a good start.''
On both sides of the ball, the pleasing part of the Chattanooga tune up for coach Bob Stoops was seeing that his players were indeed where they were supposed to be, doing what they were supposed to be doing, regardless of the opponent.
``I've had plenty of teams, I don't care who we've played against, where I haven't always seen that. That part of it you do feel positive about,'' Stoops said.
The only penalty called against the offense was a delay of game, but not because the Sooners let the play clock run out. They actually snapped the ball too quickly.
``This is the first year we've made as much commitment to try to do it maybe all the time. We'll see how it keeps going,'' offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. ``It is a little bit like a fast break, but if you're throwing the ball away when you're (playing) fast-break basketball, you start slowing down.''
Starter Sam Bradford and backup Joey Halzle combined to go 31-for-38 for 305 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, and the numbers could have been even better if not for a few dropped passes - including two by tight end Jermaine Gresham that gave Bradford his first two incompletions.
Stoops wasn't ready to say he'd be going to the no-huddle exclusively, especially when there's clock strategy to be played, but early signs point to it becoming an integral part of the Sooners' offense.
``You can attack if you've got some confidence in your players, and your players will play smart and sound,'' Wilson said. ``If our guys continue to play smart, we'll continue to escalate what we're doing as far as doing it more and doing more things.''
Stoops said offensive tackle Phil Loadholt and receiver Ryan Broyles will be back next week after serving one-game suspensions. Outside linebacker Austin Box, who missed the opener after having torn cartilage repaired in his knee, is expected to return to practice on Monday.
If Box can't play against Cincinnati - Stoops has said he'd be probable - then Travis Lewis could have the edge to start in his place. While coaches had expected Mike Balogun to get that call, Venables said Lewis started against Chattanooga because he'd been most consistent.
Regardless, Oklahoma will be facing a much stiffer test this time around. The Bearcats chalked up a 40-7 win Thursday against Eastern Kentucky in their season opener, maintaining a shutout until the final minute.
``They get a lot of notoriety on offense, but they're going to be one of the better defensive teams we play,'' Wilson said. ``It'll be a huge challenge. They've got players getting more defensive recognition up there than we've got down here at Oklahoma, so they're going to be pretty good.''
Stoops said he didn't expect to prepare any differently for the Bearcats as quarterback Ben Mauk continues to seek another year of eligibility from the NCAA. Dustin Grutza threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns in Cincinnati's opening win.
``We don't prepare for any individuals,'' Stoops said. ``We just prepare for schemes and offenses, and you're very aware of individuals, but I don't see that they're going to run a different offense with him.''