Thursday, September 27, 2012

What The HEUPEL Is Going On?

It didn't take long to single out the reason for the unexpected 24-19 loss to Kansas State Saturday night.

And it wasn't from the out-of-control blogosphere, rabid, media-punditry or Oklahoma President David Boren.

It came straight from the horses' mouth.

Bob Stoops labled it "bad football" in his post-game comments. Anytime you give up a defensive touchdown early, fumble the ball on the next series at your opponents 1-yard line and then throw an interception on your own 38-yard line late that led to another touchdown, you will lose.

That is a 21-point turnover-driven game-changer that is hard for most teams to overcome.

The fact that all 21-points were results of bad quarterback play is even more defeating.

Anyone who watches Jon Gruden's "QB Camp" on ESPN knows the worst momentum-killer in football is for the offense to give up a pick-six or fumble return for a touchdown.

However, as bad as the turnover battle was, there are other more glaring deficits that were rearing their ugly head Saturday night that we have seen all too often the past year. If this undermanned, suspension-riddled, injury-depleted, youthful team has any chance at redemption, Bob Stoops must implement the following steps immediately:

1) Play Calling

Josh Heupel is calling awful games.

The second year play caller is showing his youthful inexperience and perhaps stubborness in key times during key games that are killing us.

The first commandment of any offensive coordinator is to call plays that give you the opportunity to maximize your players talent.

The second commandment of any offensive coordinator is to put your players in positions to succeed.

Unfortunately, Josh Heupel did neither Saturday night. And, he knows it:

"At the end of the day, if you're not scoring points, that's my job and I've got to find a way to get these guys in position to score points and to play better. That's my job."-- Josh Heupel, September 25, 2012.

Example #1--Give Heupel Some Memory Lessons

First up, with 7:38 remaining in the first quarter of a 3-0 Sooner lead, Heupel calls a three-wide set to the wide side of the field on 3rd and 13 from his own 13 yard line. If the ominous numerology of this play didn't hit home to him, he should of at least had a memory recognition back to last December in Stillwater.

Early in the 2nd quarter facing a 10-0 deficit, Heupel faced a similar situation and called a similar play with similar results. Landry Jones was flushed from the pocket from blindside pressure, scrambled to his right and was stripped of the ball resulting in a 59-yard fumble return to the one yard line that OSU punched in on the next play to make it 17-0. Later in the 3rd quarter down 24-3, flashing back to Saturday night's near fumbled pitch that was ruled an incomplete pass, Jones somehow lost the ball during his throwing motion which was picked up and returned five yards for an OSU defensive touchdown. This was just one of four turnovers by Landry Jones.

Saturday night circumstances were virtually identical. Jones faced blindside pressure, panicked and scrambled to his right when all of his receivers were spread left, was blindsided, stripped of the ball and Kansas State recovered for a 1-yard defensive touchdown.

If you think this was just an unfortunate circumstance you are wrong. Kansas State had noticed this play and tendency and had this to say after the game:

“What we did all week was work on trying to flush him out of the pocket,” defensive end Adam Davis said. “We know he’s not good with pressure. If we get to his blind side he’s going to start getting jittery and try to move out of the pocket and scoot up and stuff. We really tried to cause pressure and get after him.”--Kansas City Star, September 23, 2012.

Think Tommy Tubberville at Texas Tech, Mack Brown at Texas, Brian Kelly at Notre Dame or Gary Patterson at TCU and all the other Big 12 coaches have noticed the same thing?

Landry Jones is awful under pressure. Despite his off-season work on footwork, he still has tendencies during the heat of the moment that can't be coached out of him.

The easy response is to ask what quarterback is good under pressure? See Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers for the answer.

And, for anyone that has hopes that Jones will be pulled in favor of Blake Bell, Coach Stoops answered that question loud and clear during Tuesday's press conference: "No!"

So what to do if the quarterback can't help himself and the head coach just said he won't come out under any foreseeable circumstance? Call plays that don't put him in these situations that have led to such predictable, disastrous results.

Example #2: Simplify Offense

OU ran 70 plays Saturday night to Kansas State's 65. Time of possession was basically even in the first and third quarters of a close game.

In fact, after Blake Bell scored late in the third quarter, the Sooners actually had regained the lead and were up 13-10 with momentum after holding Kansas State and forcing them to punt.

However, right after that score, Bad Landry popped up again and threw a horrible interception off of his back foot. Every Sooner fan in the country had to wince and look away as we have seen this bad play from Jones for four years. Instead of eating the ball or throwing it away, Landry reverts back to his old form and inexcusably tosses a jump ball for the defense.

The result: Kansas State promptly drove the ball 38-yards for a touchdown taking a 17-13 lead that they never relinquished.

Time of possession which was virtually even up until this point soon became a 2-1 deficit as Kansas State used a ball control offense and ran the clock out on the Sooners.

And even more troubling, the pass-to-run ratio was 47 to 23. Why? Because after a dazzling first drive that marched the length of the field to only result in 3 points, Kansas State reacted, put a man in the box and dared the Sooners to throw. The result was a group of inexperienced wide receivers combined with a predictable quarterback and stubborn offensive coordinator equalled: "Bad Landry."

Despite what Josh Heupel might think, this is not the up-tempo offense he inherited from Kevin Wilson. Landry Jones is not Sam Bradford. Kenny Stills is not Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray is nowhere to be found as he is busy knocking heads in Dallas.

So the answer is not to try to continue to run the same offense as we have run the last four years and simplify the game plan.

Play more situational football. Put Blake Bell in the game in packages that play to his strength and try and stretch the defense out eating clock along the way.

Keep your thin defense off the field resting so they aren't gassed at the end of games.

Landry Jones should be used in situational down and distances as well. And, if the up-tempo offense gains momentum, certainly roll the dice and see what happens.

However, keep the defense off-balance with the equal threat run or pass packages designed for Bell and sit Landry on situations where we are deep in our own territory and favor obvious passing situations where Landry has shown a consistent pattern of bad behavior. Sounds simple? It is. Even former coach Barry Switzer has recently said Blake Bell would need a different package of plays than Landry Jones to be successful so just plugging Bell into the same offensive system won't work.

This change will shorten the game by eating clock and force defenses to stop the run before we just give the ball back to the defense after three and outs and place our exhausted, thin defense back on the field.

And before any of the folks say this is not simplifying the offense and will result in more confusion. Just listen to what University of Texas head coach Mack Brown had to say just this afternoon regarding the quarterback shuffle at OSU heading into tomorrow's game:

“It is more difficult because there will be some stunts you would use against a quarterback that’s not very mobile that you can’t use when you have an option quarterback in there,” Mack Brown said. “So it does change a lot of what you’re doing.”--Daily Oklahoman, September 28, 2012.

Case closed.

2) Where Is Big Game Bob?

My last post in December asked this same question along with providing four other Holiday Wishes for Coach Stoops following the OSU debacle in Stillwater.

To his credit, Coach Stoops responded and implemented a couple of my suggestions: 1) He moved Tony Jefferson to Free Safety and 2) He replaced the old Brent Venables 3-man defensive front with a 4-man front inspired by his hiring of his younger brother Mike, who replaced Venables.

Actually, the defense was pretty solid Saturday night if not for the back-breaking offensive turnovers that directly led to points and the last quarter when they were left exposed on the field for 10 minutes and predictably ran out of gas.

The first wish however was compromised when Landry Jones decided to return for this senior season. Since Stoops has determined we would not see Blake Bell in an expanded role this season, Wish #2, he has now paid the price suffering his second home loss in two seasons after running off a 39-game winning streak from 2005 to 2011.

After the OSU game, Stoops acknowledged he had noticed the same thing writers had noticed that despite having a run game advantage against a porous OSU defense, incredibly Josh Heupel had called 38 passing plays to only 8 rushing plays in the first half as OSU ran up an insurmountable 24-3 lead.

He did the same thing on Monday's press conference when asked why leading rusher Damien Williams only had 10 carries on Saturday night by saying they probably need to get Williams more touches.

Perhaps Coach Stoops should insert himself more into the playcalling and demand Josh Heupel be more accountable to him directly?

It's something Stoops has chosen to ignore. And, despite Landry Jones accomplishments and assault on the OU passing record books, if he continues to remain silent, his legacy is going to take a big hit after another season of inexcusable quarterback play. Something, by the way, Stoops doesn't tolerate from any other position.

We all realize Landry Jones was being molded to follow in the Heisman-footsteps of Jason White and Sam Bradford. Stoops certainly realizes his system has resulted in two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks in four years from 2004 to 2008. No other program comes close and adding a third in 2012 would leave a nice legacy.

However, Coach Stoops needs to realize that 2008 was a long time ago and fans have short memories. The Sooners have had 3 seasons of mediocre football as judged by the Sooner Nation. And just this week, incredibly, a Tulsa sportswriter compared Stoops record to that of underachieving Ohio State coach John Cooper in the 1990's. A bit unfair and not believable since Cooper never won a national championship, only 3 Big 10 conference championships and couldn't beat his arch rival Michigan, in his 12-year tenure in Columbus.

Adding a fourth year of mediocrity in 2012 will not help Stoops' cause or quiet the critics.

Coach Stoops recently answered the Landry Jones boo-birds by saying anyone who questioned his playing status was "insane."

I think Coach Stoops might recall that the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results.


These are obvious solutions to a reoccuring problem that we have all seen play out in losses the past four years.

However, as obvious as the solutions sound, it isn't likely to happen.

Because we have a stubborn head coach who is going to compromise his legacy at OU by irresponsibly sticking with a quarterback who has shown severe deficiencies over the years and because of a young inexperienced offensive coordinator who is in denial.

Before the season, many Sooner fans were asking if Landry Jones was going to end his OU legacy closer to the careers of Heisman winners Sam Bradford or Jason White.

Unfortunately, the answer will be closer to Justin Fuente and Garrick McGee if no changes are made in the offensive playcalling.

Bob Stoops is already on the record saying he plans to do nothing and anyone who suggests otherwise is crazy.

Josh Heupel. Are you listening?