OU V Kansas Football

OU’s Drake Stoops takes a hit as he pulls in a pass Oct. 23 during the Sooners’ game against Kansas at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

Oklahoma has a lot to focus on entering its final game before the bye week.

Despite a tough showing against Kansas last week, The Sooners (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) are 20-point betting favorites over Texas Tech (5-2, 2-3 Big 12). A comfortable win over the Red Raiders would provide the Sooners with much-needed momentum heading into the bye week before a tough three-game stretch featuring Baylor, Iowa State and Oklahoma State.

Here’s three keys for the Sooners to improve on their performance last week and secure a ninth-consecutive victory.

1. Avoid another slow start

It’s been a trend for the Sooners this season, and it happened again in Lawrence.

The Jayhawks got the ball to start the game and took more than nine minutes off the clock before capping off a 14-play, 80 yard drive with a score. The Sooners ran just six plays in the first quarter and went into halftime trailing 10-0.

The Sooners have averaged 8.6 points per game in first quarters this season, way below the 13.7 they averaged in 2020.

During his press conference Tuesday, Lincoln Riley emphasized the need to play better early against the Red Raiders.

“Other than the TCU game, here as of late we haven’t gotten off to very many fast starts,” Riley said. “So, we need to get in a fast start. We need to get off to a fast start on all sides, put some pressure on people. and then obviously when we get a chance to get off the field where we get a chance to stay on the field offensively, we’ve got to do a better job. Especially early in games.”

2. Pressure the quarterback

The Sooners’ defense sacked Texas quarterback Casey Thompson three times earlier this month, bringing the team’s season sack total to 19.

In the two games since, the defense has recorded one sack.

Early in the season, the Sooners were able to compensate for their struggling secondary with great defensive-line play. But the Sooners haven’t been able to generate quarterback pressure consistently in recent weeks.

OU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said part of the reason is defenders have not been able to fight off blocks from opposing offensive linemen consistently.

“The willingness to be blocked has been evident on film, which has to be corrected,” Grinch said Tuesday. “Again, there are a lot of examples of us doing it right. We have to get back to that. We have to challenge the guys, and we have and will continue to do during the course of the week of practice.”

3. Continue to finish strong

While Oklahoma has struggled in first quarters, they’ve made up for it with strong fourth quarters.

Over the last four weeks, the Sooners have averaged nearly 16 points per game in fourth quarters. They were able to steal wins against Texas and Kansas by scoring a combined 46 points in the fourth quarter.

“We’ve tended to finish pretty well,” Riley said. “This group finishes as good — at this point in the season eight games in — we finish as good as anything I’ve ever been around. So if we can connect all the wires, we might have a squad here.”

If the Sooners can start games as well as they’re finishing them, that could be a huge difference maker entering the final stretch of the season.

Jesse Crittenden is the sports editor of The Transcript and covers OU athletics. Reach him at jesse@normantranscript.com or at 405-366-3580

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