In a strange 2009 season for the Oklahoma Sooners, the strangest game took place on November 21.
OU arrived in Lubbock as a healthy seven-point favorite over a decidedly average Texas Tech team. The Sooners left the humiliated victims of a 28-point drubbing, looking like a shadow of the team that had played for a national championship just a year earlier.
As tumultuous as last season was for OU, most of the individual results were understandable, even if the final sum was disappointing. A drubbing from the Red Raiders? Just didn’t compute.
With a new season quickly approaching, there are plenty of reasons for optimism in Sooner Nation. Still, the Tech debacle sticks out like a sore thumb among the memories of ’09.
Looking back, a host of the major issues that plagued the Sooners last season came to a head in this game. As painful as it may be to re-visit it, let’s look back to see what we can learn from the whole sordid affair.
1. This was not the defense’s fault.
Despite giving up 41 points and getting called out the following week by Kirk Herbstreit on ESPN GameDay, you can’t pin this one on the D.
OU had 13 total offensive drives in the game. Two were kill-the-clock situations to end the half. Three ended in scores. Of the remaining eight possessions, the longest was seven plays. There were four three-and-outs, as the Sooners went three of 13 on third down conversions.
The Sooners averaged 77 offensive plays per game in ’09. Against Tech, the O got off just 62 snaps.
OU had possession for 22 minutes against the Red Raiders, six below its season average.
Bottom line: The Sooners got nothing going offensively all day. When you can’t at least play keep-away from a potent team like Texas Tech, you’re going to give up some points. The OU defense was clearly gassed when Mike Leach and Co. started pouring it on in the second half.
2. The running game stunk.
At the end of the day, OU netted 48 yards and rushing on 26 tries. Factoring in that the Sooners lost 30 yards on three sacks, OU actually had 78 yards rushing on 23 attempts, which is an uninspiring 3.4 yards per carry.
Considering that third-string running back Jermie Calhoun ran for 21 yards on 2 carries in garbage time, OU’s ground game looks even more futile.
Sadly, OU’s putrid rushing output wasn’t even that bad relative to some of the other stinkers the Sooners put up in 2009. All season long, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson struggled to generate production from the run game.
And when you can’t move it effectively no the ground, well, see point No. 1.
3. Landry Jones struggled on the road.
Jones definitely put together worse games last year — throwing five interceptions versus Nebraska in Lincoln, for instance. His efficiency in this game was pretty poor, though, completing 18 of 35 attempts for a total of 260 yards, one touchdown and one interception. That equates to a passer rating of approximately 118, below his season average of 130.
Jones seemed to be learning on the fly all last season, which is understandable. Still, I’d have more faith in him this year had he been playing better in road games late in 2009.
4. The offensive line was a mess.
Remember all that stuff I said about the running game? That starts up front.
The OU o-line failed to live up to expectations from the jump. To be fair, though, a slew of injuries meant the group never really even had a chance to gel. The constant shuffling made the unit look like a Chinese fired drill all season.
Against Tech, guard Brian Simmons was making his first start in seven weeks. Stephen Good was shifted over to the other guard spot, which wasn’t uncommon, as injuries had forced him to move around all season. To top it all off, midway through the game, starting center Ben Habern broke his leg, ending his season.
If someone has suggestions on how to avoid getting linemen injured, I’d love to hear them.