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Where To From Here? A Look At The Path Forward For Oklahoma

It's not quite time for panic mode in Norman, but it's not time to remain calm either. After a second consecutive single-digit away loss has turned a playoff season into a season where the Sooners are fighting to get to double-digit wins, it's time to get introspective for Venables and co. As Oklahoma looks to pivot their trajectory, here's what they'll need to do.

Stop Killing Momentum With Mistakes

Oklahoma had plenty of chances to put this game away and make it a non-contest. After tying the game at 7, the Sooners capitalized, got a stop, and were driving, with an early chance to take the driver's seat. Ensuing this - fumble, allowed TD, punt, allowed FG. The turnover not only killed Oklahoma's momentum, but also created a bunch for Oklahoma State. As a result, for the second straight game, Oklahoma was playing catch-up, and for the second straight time, they fall juuuuust short.

This happened throughout the game - Oklahoma continued to be able to move the ball, and via pre-snap penalties (8 penalties for 55 yards in the game), as well as three very untimely turnovers, any momentum the Sooners generated was quickly self-immolated. This was the same exact story as the Kansas game - Oklahoma allowed three turnovers for the second game in a row and followed up a game with 11 penalties for 101 yards with another mistake-filled game.

Simply put, the Sooners need to take care of the ball and stop shooting themselves in the foot with mistakes.

Ball Control, Ball Control, Ball Control

Oklahoma had a more efficient pass game, and despite the increased hype of Ollie Gordon that ensued after this game, actually rushed at a much higher yards/carry rate than he did. Yet, the two were almost equal in total yards. The reason is simple: Oklahoma State ran a whopping 17 more plays than their in-state counterparts. All in all, Oklahoma lost the ball control battle big time, and only held the ball for 23 minutes to OSU's 37.

A big part of this was the aforementioned mistakes. Turnovers and pre-snap penalties killed promising Sooner drives, as did a combined clip of 5-14 from third and fourth downs. The play calling, which was heavily pass-driven (despite the RBs playing really, really well) and overall lacked balance and aggression was another big issue. On the other side, a balanced attack allowed Oklahoma State to slowly but surely wear down the Sooner defense, with 6 drives of 3 or more minutes (Oklahoma had one), and just one drive under a minute (Oklahoma had 4).

Ball control thwarts opponent comebacks, wears down defenses, and creates consistent momentum. While this margin was much more severe than the previous three, Oklahoma has lost the ball control battle each of the last four games, and lost/tied the turnover battle in each of the last three. To win out, this can't happen, and balance, aggression, and mistake-free play will be the keys.

Distribute The Ball More

Simply put, too much of the burden in the pass game this year has gone on Drake Stoops and Jahlil Farooq. While both have been fantastic this year, a pass game that almost exclusively hinges on two guys, one slot threat and one outside threat, is easy to read. The Sooners have receiver depth, albeit not as much as previous years, but they're not using it properly - to wit, other than Farooq and Stoops, only Nic Anderson, with just three receptions, had more than one catch.

With Andrel Anthony's injury, Anderson is the obvious next man up. He's been quite effective for the Sooners already, with 8 TDs and 497 yards already. The issue is that this has happened on only 20 receptions - with such an obvious playmaker on the team, the usage needs to be higher. Jayden Gibson and Brenen Thompson have also shown the ability to make big plays for the Sooners, but again, haven't been utilized enough.

All four of the running backs have shown sporadic ability to catch, but lately, the pass-catching RB option has not been used enough by OU. Furthermore, TE Austin Stogner, a man who has had three years of experience and has shown plenty of effectiveness in the past in a Sooner uniform, is also not being properly used. A lot of the onus for this distribution goes on Jeff Lebby, who needs to create unpredictability in the Oklahoma offense by getting the ball into as many playmakers' hands as possible.


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