Stoops borrows pages from mentor Snyder's playbook
When asked to identify the lessons he learned from working and playing under Kansas State's Bill Snyder, it's difficult for Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops to narrow it down to just a few examples.
The attention to detail stands out. The importance of consistency in preparation is a staple.
And yet, after being away from his mentor for 17 years, Stoops is still learning from Snyder.
Stoops and the sixth-ranked Sooners (2-0) borrowed from Snyder's playbook last year in creating their ''Belldozer'' short-yardage run package featuring backup quarterback Blake Bell. The power running plays were successful for Kansas State's Collin Klein, and then Stoops turned them against the Wildcats in a 58-17 win last season when Bell ran for one touchdown and two first downs out of the package.
The rematch is Saturday night, when No. 15 Kansas State (3-0) plays on Owen Field.
''We all do that. We all find things that work or little nuances that someone else does and try to integrate them,'' said Klein, who ran for 27 touchdowns last season - tied for second in the nation behind Wisconsin's Montee Ball.
''That's the game of football.''
Klein said he was humbled when Stoops told him at Big 12 media days this summer that he was the model for Oklahoma's offensive set. And Stoops has hearty praise for Klein, who's averaging just over 200 yards passing and 70 yards rushing this season.
''He's a big, physical presence, so you're not going to arm tackle him. So, if you don't have a good square shot on him, he's going to run through it,'' Stoops said.
''And then ... he's got good speed. Just because he's not going to set a record, he's still very effective and it takes you a while to track him down, if you can. Sometimes you can't.''
While Klein was having success, the Sooners were struggling at the time at converting short-yardage situations in the red zone and on third downs. It had come back to haunt them in losses to Missouri and Texas A&M in 2010 and then against Texas Tech last season, the week before Oklahoma played at K-State.
And so, the ''Belldozer'' was born - or stolen from looking over tape of what the Wildcats were doing.
''That's how we built it,'' said Oklahoma fullback Aaron Ripkowski, one of Bell's blockers. ''We didn't originally plan on using it until we were having some problems with the short-yardage in games. Then, when we saw what they had done, we decided to throw it in.''
Bell had played only in mop-up duty against Ball State before being deployed in the new package against the Wildcats, using their own creation against them. Generally, the package involves a heavy set on the offensive line with two blocking backs attacking in front of Bell.
Ripkowski had been primarily a special teams player before becoming a Belldozer blocker, and linebacker Jaydan Bird and defensive end Ronnell Lewis got into the mix.
''I think we had actually planned on working it a week before that. About halfway through the week, we started working it and then that week we drilled it a lot and everything, and we brought it out the first time in the Kansas State game,'' Ripkowski said.
Bell capped the Sooners' first scoring drive against K-State with a 1-yard touchdown run, and that was only the beginning. By the end of the season, 26 of his 44 rushes were for first downs and 13 were for touchdowns.
Stoops has repeatedly said the package can be expanded to include more passing, but that has rarely been the case.
''The actual concept of it hasn't changed too much. It's basically the same plays over and over. It's just nobody's really been able to find a way to stop it,'' Ripkowski said.
''There's been a few foul-ups as far as the plays, but it's basically all the same plays.''
Although the pass threat is always there, the real advantage is in the numbers for the running game. Instead of a quarterback handing the ball off and then watching the play develop, he keeps it and has an extra blocker in front of him.
''When you take a guy like Blake or Collin who is big, strong, and physical, that is advantageous,'' Snyder said.
Or as Oklahoma left tackle Lane Johnson put it: ''I like seeing Blake back there - a 6-6, 250-pound quarterback running the football. That definitely gets me pumped up.''
Linebacker Tom Wort said there's one big difference in his mind between the Belldozer and Kansas State's offense, though. While the Wildcats will have to be ready for Bell to get onto the field from time to time, Klein will be out there for every play.
And while the concept is most definitely borrowed from someone else, Ripkowski has a level of pride in how the Sooners have pulled it off on their own.
''As far as the backs, blocking backs and the quarterback,'' he said, ''you can't find that anywhere else.''