One of the biggest gains Oklahoma has made in the 2010 season isn't something that's been talked about at great lengths, but OU's offensive line has made massive improvements during the first six games of the season. In fact, this offensive line hasn't had a holding or motion penalty since OU played Air Force during their third game of the season. Starting center Ben Habern talked about the progress of the offensive line and the challenge facing the offense when they arrive in Columbia this weekend.
Q: Do you think Landry (Jones) learned anything from his two road games this year? He played really well in both of those games, but there were some plays in the fourth quarter that could have cost you guys the game. Do you think he's learned how to manage that final quarter? Habern: I think he's learned from it, I think he understands how important road games are. One of our goals this year was to win all of our road games. So, we know how important this is, and so does Landry. He's been getting in the film room more and more each day. I know that he'll be prepared and won't make those mistakes on Saturday.
Q: He completed 30 of 34 passes. What does that say about him? Habern: It says he's pretty accurate (laughing). But I think it's the receivers too. They're the ones catching the ball. Even if it's a tight window, they're still catching the ball. 30 of 34 is pretty impressive, and that shows how prepared he was on Saturday. He knew exactly where he was going with the ball every time he threw it. He played really well.
Q: It helps that he has a clean pocket too, right? Habern: Yeah, definitely.
Q: Can you talk about the impact that you guys have had on that, and the improvements that you guys have made to the passing game? Habern: We know that we have great talent behind us. We know that our running backs and Landry are great. We know that if we give Landry 3-5 seconds in the pocket, then he's going to make the throws and we'll get it to our playmakers like Ryan (Broyles) and Kenny (Stills). That's definitely huge. Big plays are really important for us because it gets us on schedule, it gets us going. For us to do that against Iowa State, on Saturday night, was really important and we need to carry that over for the Missouri game.
Q: Ben, do you know when was the last time you guys received a holding or false start penalty? Habern: Honestly I have no idea, maybe Air Force.
Q: That's right, the second quarter against the Falcons. You guys talked all spring about making changes in the discipline area. You have to be happy with the enormous strides that you've taken in that area? Habern: Yeah, we're very happy. It just proves that doing the little things right carries over into our games. It's very important for us to limit the penalties. Like I said, if we're getting penalties than it's going to throw us off schedule. But we can still improve on that. I know that we haven't had one of those calls in a while, but we've had some close holding calls or things that could have gone either way. It's definitely important, and it shows that our discipline has definitely improved this year.
Q: You guys have made some significant additions to this offense in the last two games with Trey (Millard) and Roy (Finch). How different is this offense today, than it was six weeks ago? Habern: It's a lot different. We've added a lot of plays and we've obviously thrown in some wrinkles. We also have some young guys who are stepping up and playing well. We have a lot of different ways and a lot of different players that we can go to. It's exciting to see how we can keep throwing guys in.
Q: Obviously, you guys aren't a different team. But when you took the field for practice, at the beginning of the week, did you feel that target of being ranked No. 1 on your back? Habern: We really don't want to talk about it. We know that it's there, but we don't think that's important right now. We feel that we have something to improve. We really just don't want to pay any attention to it because that ranking is still early in the season. We still have six or seven games to play. We know that it's there, but we just want to come out and continue to play good football.
Q: What kind of challenges does Missouri present up front? Habern: They're quick and fast. I know that they're leading the Big 12 in sacks, we've been told that all week by our coaches. On third downs, they bring it. They have a couple of defensive ends on the inside who are their quick, fast guys who use their hands a lot. We know that we will have to lock on them quick. We have to move our feet, and give Landry enough time to get the ball out.
Q: Have you heard the talk from up there, about how they've had this game circled for a while? Habern: Yeah, we've heard. Some of the coaches have told us that they're pumped to play us and they have us circled. They know what we did to them in 2008, so their obviously frustrated with that. They want to come out and play hard, but we're going to do the same thing. We know that Gameday is going to be there and, we know that it's a national stage. So it's going to be a great game, and we're ready to go.
Q: You guys have played well in both of your games on the road. What have you guys learned about how to be successful on the road this year? Habern: Honestly, it's all about staying on schedule. We really struggled on the road with turnovers and penalties last year. That's one thing that we've definitely improved on, we don't have the turnovers like we did. A good example is when we played against Nebraska last year. We don't have those four or five turnovers when we play similar teams. If we can get our offense rolling on first and second down, then we can get our tempo going and maybe catch the defense off guard.