OU offense sputters in season debut
The Sooners struggled with consistency vs. UTEP, but have time to fix problems
EL PASO, Texas -- This was not supposed to be the same Oklahoma offense that fell apart without Ryan Broyles late in 2011.
Turned out, the Sooners still have a ways to go.
While its Big 12 rivals unloaded otherworldly point totals in their openers, OU's offense continued to look rather ordinary in its 2012 debut Saturday night.
The Sooners defeated UTEP 24-7, but clung to a 10-7 lead into the fourth quarter. This against a Miners defense that ranked 104th nationally last season playing the likes of Stony Brook and New Mexico State.
"Little bit rough," coach Bob Stoops said. "We had some inconsistencies."
"We had inconsistencies all over the board," Jones said. "We didn't come out flat. It was just one of those deals where we didn't put it together."
The Sooners better put it together fast.
West Virginia, which followed up its 70-point Orange Bowl performance with 69 points on Saturday, looks capable of scoring five touchdowns against anyone.
Oklahoma State, even with true freshman quarterback Wes Lunt now running the show, could have scored 150 against lowly Savannah State.
Even the Longhorns looked improved offensively, which is not saying a lot, but more than can be said for the Sooners attack after the first weekend.
"Everybody took their turn being a little bit off tonight -- out on the perimeter, tight ends, running backs, quarterbacks, everybody," offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. "That's why we had the performance that we did. But we don't have all year -- we have to have some urgency."
The silver lining in such a dismal showing is that the Sooners have a trio of individual performances to build off.
Out of his new position in the slot, junior Kenny Stills played like his true freshman self when he broke the OU freshman receiving record. He repeatedly bounded past the UTEP secondary, including on a 68-yard touchdown reception along the sidelines in the first quarter. Only three times did Stills go over 100 yards receiving last season. Saturday, he finished with 121 yards on six catches, and could have had more had another long reception not been wiped out by a Dominique Whaley chop block.
"Kenny was open down the field all game," said co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell. "We just couldn't get the ball to him."
In the backfield, junior college transfer Damien Williams showed why USC wanted him, too. Williams led the Sooners with a team-high 104 yards on nine carries. He capped his night by going off tackle to the right, then cutting back across the field for a 65-yard touchdown that put the game away in the fourth quarter.
"Damien is a strong, physical guy," Stoops said. "We're excited to complement Dom with Damien and the two of them."
But perhaps the most exciting development was Jones' improved footwork and quickness in and out of the pocket.
In the first quarter after the pocket collapsed, Jones rolled to his left, then pulled up and delivered a strike to the opposite hash to a streaking Stills for the Sooners' only touchdown through three quarters.
"After that TD, I told Landry, 'You look great,' " Stills said. "He worked really hard in the offseason, and he looks great and has a lot of confidence."
Jones could have had another ad-lib touchdown. After making a defender miss, Jones slung a pass that hit Whaley in stride. Had Whaley not dropped the ball, he might have gone on to score a 76-yard touchdown.
Whaley's drop, however, proved to underscore a night of miscues for the Sooners.
"We were off in some areas," Stoops said. "But I still feel positive about my team."
OU was good enough to outlast UTEP. But Saturday's effort won't be good enough against Oklahoma State and Texas and most definitely West Virginia.