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How Oklahoma Hopes a Mentality Shift Will Solve Slow Starts on Offense

Reeling from their first loss, the Sooners are rediscovering their underdog mindset to propel the team forward.

NORMAN — For three straight weeks, the Oklahoma offense has stalled out of the locker room.

It took the Sooners until the final two minutes of the first half to find the end zone against Kent State. OU needed a 61-yard scamper from quarterback Dillon Gabriel to score on one of its first three possessions against Nebraska.

Then last Saturday, Oklahoma was down 14-0 to Kansas State in the blink of an eye.

Jeff Lebby’s offense has proven it can produce lightning-fast scoring drives and pile on the points, but the unit is still searching for a steady baseline of play throughout all four quarters.

Though there are plenty of areas that need improving, developing that standard is something wide reliever Jalil Farooq said the entire offense needs to do over the next few weeks.

“Just being more consistent,” Farooq said after practice on Monday. “I feel like most of the time we beat ourselves with non-playing penalties, jumping offsides and just not being consistent the whole game. I feel like we need to work on that all week.”

Farooq wasn’t the only member of the OU offense who stressed a need to eliminate the needless procedural penalties.

Lebby, tight end Brayden Willis, center Andrew Raym and Gabriel all said cleaning up the mental mistakes has been a major focus this week at practice.

But Gabriel also said that getting behind the chains doesn’t need to be a death knell to drives when things inevitably get off schedule.

“It’s not impossible, right,” Gabriel said on Tuesday. “But it’s definitely more difficult when you’re in third-and-7-plus or a third-and-3 or third-and-2, your odds are a little better.

“But it’s not impossible, but just continue to make more efficient outcomes for us and better possibilities or probabilities. I think that will help us stay ahead of the chains.”

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Oklahoma has the ability to play a clean football game.

Just two weeks ago, the Sooners marched into a snake pit and silenced over 87,000 fans in Lincoln without loads of false starts and unnecessary holding calls.

Somewhat puzzlingly, seven days later OU’s offense stubbed its toes over and over again in its own stadium, where handling crowd noise and the distractions should be easiest.

Farooq said the issues at home boiled down to a poor mentality on Saturday night.

“I just feel like we didn't come in ready to play,” he said. “We came in thinking it was just going to be given to us. We didn't have a straight mindset. We didn't come out ready to play.”

The loss knocked the Sooners back down a few levels, and Farooq said that’ll fuel the entire team into October.

“We felt like the underdogs coming into this season, dealing with all the adversity that we dealt with,” he said. “It just put us back to that. Now we're the underdogs again, so we're going to make them feel us this year again.”

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