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Friday, January 9, 2009
Red zone troubles doom Oklahoma's offense

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

MIAMI -- The red eyes in the Oklahoma locker room were to be expected.

Another loss in a BCS bowl game -- the Sooners' fifth in the past six seasons -- was a bitter pill for a team that felt it was going to shock the world by upsetting Florida.

 
  AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
  Missed opportunities in the red zone hurt the Sooners on Thursday night.

That didn't work out in the Sooners' 24-14 loss to Florida because of one major reason: Oklahoma simply made too many critical mistakes inside the Florida 20-yard line to expect to be able to win.

"We moved the ball well, but just kept shooting ourselves in the foot over and over," Oklahoma wide receiver Manny Johnson said. "It hurts, because we moved the ball but we just couldn't make the plays when we needed them. We felt like it's our own fault."

And it was. The Sooners were turned away on two drives inside the Florida 6-yard line in the first half when they easily could have seized the game's momentum.

Oklahoma was stopped twice inside the Florida 1 midway through the second quarter. Tailback Chris Brown was stuffed on consecutive plays by sophomore Florida defensive tackle Torrey Davis, who had provided only five tackles all season coming into the game.

Brown, who rushed for a team-high 110 yards, might have been tired. He carried the ball on all five plays in the drive until he was turned away on fourth down.

"They bit down on us," Brown said. "They stopped us and they came up with some key plays when they really needed them. It was disappointing because I felt like I could get there [the end zone]."

And shortly before halftime, another big mistake tripped up the Sooners. On first-and-goal from the Florida 6 with 10 seconds left, Sam Bradford attempted to hit Johnson on a quick pass at the goal line. But Florida's Major Wright caught the pass that was deflected by two other Gators for an interception, and another foiled chance for OU deep in Gator territory.

"The thing is they didn't do anything differently to us," Oklahoma wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias said. "We were on the goal line three times. Twice, we didn't get anything. They didn't do anything to us. We thought we could get the scores, but we just ended up beating ourselves."

The Sooners' red zone struggles were unusual for the nation's top-scoring team. Their two trips to the red zone without points in Thursday's game marked the first time this season they had missed scoring chances in the red zone more than once in a game.

And the Sooners' offensive struggles, typified by the two botched goal-line plays, helped explain a miserable night offensively.

Oklahoma scored its fewest points in the season as an attack that had produced 61 or more points in the past five games and 702 points this season. And its 363 yards was the Sooners' lowest output of the season as well.

It left Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson second-guessing his calls on both possessions. Wilson said he contemplated utilizing a play-action pass on Brown's failed fourth-down run.

And he wanted Bradford to pass for the end zone on the batted interception. Johnson likely wasn't deep enough to score and the Sooners would've had trouble kicking a field goal because they were out of timeouts.

"We were close on those two early plays and they just won [the] line of scrimmage twice," Wilson said. "I probably should have got us into a better call. And I thought we had momentum. It was just a hard night."