OU football: With or without Gabriel, Sooners' offense hoping to regain explosiveness

Oct. 5—Statistically, Oklahoma has had one of the most explosive offenses in the country.

Through five games, the Sooners rank 18th nationally in plays of 20 yards or more (30), fourth in plays of at least 30 yards (15) and 14th in plays of at least 40 yards (8). The Sooners rank 22nd in yards per play (6.4).

But that explosiveness was absent in a big way in last Saturday's 55-24 loss at TCU. The Sooners had just two plays go for 20 yards or more, and they finished the game averaging 4.4 yards per play.

For OU offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, that's one of the team's biggest issues that needs fixed heading into Saturday's game against Texas.

"I think the most glaring thing is we did not create explosive plays in the throw game," Lebby said Monday. "We missed some things that were incredibly frustrating, but that's not who we're going to be and not who we want to be. We've got to be able to connect on some of those things down the field to give ourselves a chance to be more explosive offensively like we want to be."

The Sooners struggled to get much going in the passing game against TCU. The lone exception was Brayden Willis' 78-yard catch and run on a pass from quarterback Dillon Gabriel in the first quarter. Outside of that, the Sooners' biggest passing play was a 17-yard connection from Gabriel to Marvin Mims.

The longest play from scrimmage for Davis Beville, who replaced Gabriel late in the second quarter, was a 15-yard pass to Jalil Farooq.

OU running back Eric Gray said it comes down to the team needing to execute.

"Just watching film, looking at the execution, I'm saying it's five to seven plays in both of those games [against TCU and Kansas State] that can change the outcome of the game, whether it's defense or offense," Gray said. "We look at the film, we know we're not that far away. We've got to make sure we execute on certain plays that can really change the game."

One thing that could help is finding ways to get Mims involved.

Mims, the Sooners' leading receiver with 22 receptions for 438 yards, was noticeably absent against the Horned Frogs. He was targeted nine times and caught four passes for a season-low 41 yards, all of that coming in the first quarter.

The wide receiver production behind Mims has been limited this season. Willis is second on the team in receptions with 13, nine less than Mims, while Theo Wease is second in receiving yards with 195. Wease also exited the game against TCU with an injury and his status for this weekend's game against Texas is unclear.

Fortunately for the Sooners, Mims is no stranger to finding success against Texas. Mims has combined for nine catches for 187 yards and three touchdowns in his two career games against the Longhorns, and he played a significant role in the team's 21-point comeback last season.

But Mims is only focused on helping his team bounce back from their back-to-back losses.

"You could tell guys were overthinking a little bit [against TCU], stuff like that, just from watching film," Mims said. "Just a lot of little things. Those little things add up. Right now we're just focused on going out there and playing football. Just like when we were kids, just going out and playing freely."

It might be difficult for the Sooners to regain their explosiveness if Gabriel, currently in concussion protocol, is out against Texas. But Mims and the Sooners receivers are confident they can bounce back regardless of who plays quarterback.

"This is the biggest game," Farooq said. "This is the game to bounce back. Everybody's watching us — all eyes on us — so this is the game to bounce back and show the world we're still here and ain't going nowhere."