There has been something missing from the Oklahoma offense for much of the last two years.
The Sooners found success throwing it deep early on in 2019 and have had some success of it early in 2020. Oklahoma, though, hasn’t had those huge back-breaking vertical passes on a consistent basis that the Sooners are accustomed to from 2016-2018 with Dede Westbrook, CeeDee Lamb and Marquise Brown.
Some of that is due to worries about pass protection or limitations within the confines of the offense.
Those worries, though, were alleviated on Saturday. Oklahoma attacked deep and attacked often.
“We hit our share,” said Lincoln Riley said after the game about the vertical passing game. “I thought we had potentially a shot to hit a couple more. But yeah, guys did a good job. Anytime you start to want to put the ball down the field, the first key is protection. I thought our linemen, backs did some really nice things there to give Spencer time and confidence to let him loose. And then guys won some one-on-ones. Which against a Gary Patterson coached defense, you have to. … So when you are able to get those one-on-ones, man, you got to make them. Like I said, we made a few big ones at key times and loosen them up a little bit and helped open up some things in the running game.”
This was new for 2020. It was different.
And it was something they planned all week.
“We had a lot of deep ball plays dialed up in the playbook for this game, just going through this week of practice,” said Spencer Rattler said after the game. “That was a weak part of their defense that we could attack, and we did that pretty well this game.”
This is a bombing offense when the Oklahoma offense under Riley is at its best. Now, the 2020 offense is becoming closer to the one that mirrors the offenses of the past with Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.
In 2016, Riley ran a play that resulted in a major touchdown for the Sooners to Dede Westbrook.
Oklahoma will run two posts (or a crossing route and a post) from the backside part of the field. It will draw the safety circled down onto the first post or crossing route, opening up a one-on-one for the backside post.
Oklahoma will run play-action to keep the players in the box, in the box. The slot receiver to the top side of the screen will chip any defender coming after the quarterback on the rollout.
As that happens, the safety in the middle of the field will take on the post or crossing route. The quarterback will flip his hips and launch a deep pass to the receiver running a post route, who has to win his one-on-one with the corner.
This is a touchdown from Mayfield to Westbrook in the 2016 OU-Texas game.
It’s a staple of Oklahoma’s offense and was in 2016 with the connection between Westbrook and Mayfield being difficult to encounter.
But when it’s run right, it’s a sign that the Sooners’ offense is going to be tough to deal with in the passing game. It’s something that showed up again in 2018 on a pass from Murray to Brown that resulted in a touchdown in the first game against Florida Atlantic.
In 2020, it’s a play that’s in the playbook and one that was run twice by Riley on Saturday.
A sign that the bombs away passing offense has officially arrived in the Rattler era at Oklahoma. The first one is a completed pass to Theo Wease early in the game, the second one resulted in an incompletion to Charleston Rambo.
Then, Riley ran a version of this play, but with two corner routes opposed to post routes on the touchdown to Marvin Mims.
No more time to fret.
The innovation, creativeness and ability to attack downfield has returned. Oklahoma’s offense under Riley is inching closer to turning back into the machine it once was not too long ago.