- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma’s offense has struggled in the month of October.
The Sooners are averaging 20 points per game this month as their offense has taken a few steps backward after a couple of steps forward with Blake Bell under center. It has been disappointing for Sooners fans after the offense looked like it had found its rhythm with Bell at quarterback in wins over Tulsa and Notre Dame, scoring 51 and 35 points respectively.
Bell, who replaced Trevor Knight after two games, remains the starter heading into Saturday’s game against Kansas. The junior is 32-of-57 passing for 285 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in the past two games. Bell is averaging five yards per attempt in those games.
Yet, the Sooners coaches insist Bell is not to solely blame for his lackluster numbers.
“It’s a combination of everything,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “Blake has some things open that he needs to hit. Our wide receivers need to win a couple of times for him as well. He has got to get himself within his progression with what they’re doing defensively and get them in the right spots, too.”
OU has been unable to get the ball into the hands of explosive playmakers Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard in its past two games. Saunders has eight receptions for 48 yards while Shepard has five receptions for 37 yards.
“We always want to get the ball to those guys,” receivers coach Jay Norvell said. “Those are guys that can do big things when they catch it, so we always want to get the ball to Jalen and Shep. We’re just going to keep working.”
OU is averaging 4.8 yards per play in October leading to questions about Bell’s security at QB and Heupel’s ability to put the Sooners’ playmakers in position to succeed. Knight and Kendal Thompson give OU options at the position if Bell's play does not improve, while Heupel simply needs to do a better job spreading the ball around and coming up with creative ways to get the ball in the hands of playmakers like Saunders, Shepard and running back Roy Finch.
“At the end of the day, I’ve got to do a better job of giving these guys an opportunity to win at times,” Heupel said.
OU has the talent to get the job done. Saunders is one of the conference’s most explosive receivers, and the Sooners feature four quality running backs and a solid, experienced offensive line. They don’t think they are too far away from regaining the high-scoring reputation of recent years.
“We haven’t been very good the last couple weeks,” Norvell said. “We just got to tidy up our execution. We got to do a better job of route-running. We got to do a better job of hitting open guys. There’s really no magic to it. We just have to get back to work and get going at it.”
4dBrandon Chatmon and Jake Trotter