No. 20 Sooners treat red zone like red light

Oct 11, 2009 - 9:47 PM By JEFF LATZKE AP Sports Writer

NORMAN, Okla.(AP) -- Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford came back from an injury and got No. 20 Oklahoma running at a fast pace once again.

At least until the Sooners treated the red zone like a red light.

Oklahoma (3-2, 1-0 Big 12) churned out a season-high 592 yards of total offense in its 33-7 win against Baylor on Saturday, but blew chances to put up even more points and settled for field goals on four of its seven trips inside the 20-yard line.

"I think we've got some guys that are pressin' and stressin' and we're supposed to just score every time and every play's perfect. You know, that's not football and that's not life," Wilson said. "At the same time, we've got a lot of good things going. Let's create some positive energy, let's create some enthusiasm.

Points could be at a premium Saturday when the Sooners take on No. 3 Texas (5-0, 2-0) in Dallas. The Longhorns are fourth in the nation in total defense and first against the run.

Settling for field goals could make it difficult to keep up with a Texas offense averaging 47.2 points - the most in the nation.

"We were very fortunate to kick as many field goals and get a win," offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. "With the remaining road games and the challenges coming up, we've got to eliminate that. We're eliminating some glitches. Unfortunately (Saturday), that was a little hiccup we'll have to address and keep working on."

Bradford reported no problems after returning from a monthlong absence and testing the sprained joint in his right shoulder with 49 passes. His presence also helped Oklahoma get off 100 offensive plays in a return to the uptempo pace of last season, when the Sooners scored an NCAA-record 716 points.

But he was 2 for 14 in the red zone, where Cameron Kenney had two drops and fullback Matt Clapp - wearing a cast on his left hand - had one. He also had to throw the ball away several times as no one got open.

"The most frustrating thing was the way we played in the red zone (Saturday)," Bradford said. "Obviously, we can't kick field goals the way we did."

After converting 85 percent (71 of 84) of their red zone opportunities into touchdowns last season, the Sooners are getting into the end zone only 60 percent (15 of 25) of the time this season. That's second-worst in the Big 12, ahead of only Missouri's 47 percent (8 of 17).

On Saturday, Oklahoma was fortunate to come away with even three scores in seven chances. Two of their three touchdowns came after roughing-the-passer penalties on failed third-down tries gave them a fresh set of downs from closer to the goal line.

"It gets down to blocking a little bit better, executing some of the run game. And I felt passing-game-wise, there were some drops. If you don't catch the ball, there's nothing to explain about that," coach Bob Stoops said. "We're look at what we're doing always to see if we can get some other formations if it gives us an advantage.

"A year ago, I think we led the nation in red-zone scoring, so some of it gets down to personnel as well."

Part of the difference is the absence of 6-foot-6 tight end Jermaine Gresham, who is out for the season after surgery on his right knee. Gresham caught eight of Oklahoma's 27 red-zone touchdown passes last season, when no one else had more than five. He was also a presence on the edge when Oklahoma went to its jumbo sets close to the goal line.

"We've really struggled this year in short yardage with our big guys inside the 5-yard line, whether it be two tight ends or three tight ends," Wilson said.

Wilson said he would consider going with a spread formation or using a single running back instead of the usual I formation in short yardage situations as the Sooners move forward. He thought the team got some of the "positive mojo" it had been seeking when Bradford connected with Adron Tennell for a 3-yard score in the fourth quarter, giving the Sooners their first red zone score that wasn't penalty-aided.

That score came after Oklahoma lined up in the shotgun with three wide receivers.

"I thought it was really good at halftime the way we came out and played the second half," Wilson said. "I think the way we finished was a nice statement more than anything else. That showed me that we are pointed and moving in a better direction offensively."

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