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December 30, 2011TEMPE, Ariz -- Since the loss of Ryan Broyles, Landry Jones and Kenny Stills have been the two players most talked about when it comes to the inability of the Oklahoma offense to pile up big offensive numbers.
Jones has yet to throw a touchdown pass, while Stills has not been a difference maker as the No. 1 receiver on offense.
But is the lack of production in the passing game his fault? Stills has looked like a player who hasn't been completely healthy. He's looked like a player out of shape, a player with hamstring problems, a player without the fire he showed making big plays against Florida State and Texas earlier this season.
SCOOP HD: SOONERS WILL LOOK TO FIND LEADERSHIP FOR NEXT SEASON
Some of the blame has to be put on the shoulders Jones. Some of the blame has to be put on the injury to Jaz Reynolds, and the inability of other receivers like Dejuan Miller and Trey Franks to step up and help Stills and Jones.
"I kind of feel like people really don't know what's going on," said Stills this week in Arizona. "We're trying out people in the slot, we're trying out people on the outside. We've been trying a few things out and now we kind of have some permanent spots in place and hopefully we can how increase how many touchdowns Landry has thrown this week."
Stills will need to have a big performance tonight in Tempe if the OU offense is going to get back on track against Iowa.
With Roy Finch, Brennan Clay and Trey Millard the only available running backs tonight, they don't want to see a repeat performance of the Oklahoma State fiasco.
In that game receivers dropped several passes, the running game was often non-existent, and the gameplan fell flat.
One player outside of Stills who could give the OU passing game its biggest boost tonight is true freshmen wide receiver Kameel Jackson, who has gotten more and more reps with Jones throughout bowl practices.
"I think Kameel Jackson surprised me more than anybody," said Jones. "Being a young guy, as a freshmen, being able to step in and play some very good ball for us, and fill in that spot."
It's been a whirlwind journey for this Oklahoma team tonight in Arizona. A win against Iowa could get things back on track in Norman if other things fall in place over the offseason.
Stoops has already put his foot down in regards to players not carrying themselves the right way on and off the field. Coaching changes could still be in the works. OU's recruiting class is picking up steam and several young, but very talented receivers will arrive in Norman next season.
But this team came off the tracks, and there has been a lot of turmoil since the end of the regular season. OU players don't want to continue answering the critics throughout the offseason.
"You don't want to lose another game," said offensive linemen Gabe Ikard. "You want to go into the offseason with a good taste in your mouth and you want the modd to be positive. Adding more negativity won't help anything.
"We need to come out and play well, up to our ability, take care of the ball and play solid on both sides.
"10-3 sounds a lot better than 9-4. You want to be able to build on next year and grab a win against a solid opponent."
The attitude seems to be positive heading into tonight's Insight Bowl. But how long will that last if the OU offense remains stagnant? How well will that optimism thrive if the secondary gives up a big play on defense?
This is a team coming in with issues. It's probably not realistic to expect a battered receiving corps and running back corps to fix everything in one game.
But the Insight Bowl can be a building block to bigger and better things for this particular team, at this particular time.
A win gives the Sooners momentum heading into the home stretch of recruiting. It could also set the table for Landry Jones to return next season and rebuild this offense with a new collection of talent surrounding him.
A poor performance tonight, and it will take more time for this program and its fans to lick their wounds. Questions will continue to persist about the direction of this program, offensive and defensive schemes, player development and coaching futures.
But an inspired performance will only serve to bolster Stoops' reputation in Norman. The fire he's shown this week in Arizona has fans ready to believe he has the answers to fix the problems which have derailed this program in 2011.