NORMAN Largely responsible for the Sooners’ unprecedented offensive efficiency this season, Oklahoma’s offensive line unit was named the most outstanding in college football for 2018 with the presentation of the Joe Moore Award during a surprise announcement at the Switzer Center on Tuesday afternoon.
The Joe Moore Award trophy, the largest in college football at almost seven tall and weighing more than 800 pounds, will be displayed on OU’s campus until the conclusion of the 2019 college football season. This year’s other finalists hailed from Alabama and Georgia.
This is the first time the Sooners have won the Joe Moore Award, which was first presented in 2015. Past recipients of the award include the offensive lines at Alabama (2015), Iowa (2016) and Notre Dame (2017).
Coached by co-offensive coordinator Bill Bedenbaugh, OU’s offensive line has paved the way for an offense that is on pace to break the single-season FBS record for yards per play. The Sooners are averaging 8.7 yards per snap this year, a mark that would top the record of 8.6 by Hawaii in 2006. The next highest average this season is 7.9 by Alabama, and the third highest is 7.4 by Clemson.
OU also leads the nation with 11.6 yards per pass attempt, and ranks second by averaging 6.7 yards per rush. No FBS team since 1994 has finished in the top two nationally in both categories in the same year.
Additionally, the Sooners are the only team in the country this season with at least 40 rushing touchdowns (40) and at least 40 passing TDs (41).
What makes those numbers even more impressive is the fact that OU had to replace two first-team All Big-12 offensive line starters in Erick Wren and Orlando Brown, two-time All-American and 2017 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield at quarterback, and one of the country’s top running backs who was lost for the year in this season’s second game due to injury (Rodney Anderson led all Power Five players in yards from scrimmage [1,333] and total TDs  from Oct. 21, 2017, to the end of last season).
Despite those losses, the Sooners have been as efficient as last year when they set school records for total offense, yards per play, passing yards per game, completion percentage and passing efficiency rating. The offensive line has been instrumental to OU’s success on that side of the ball, and the team produced a second-consecutive Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Kyler Murray.
“In an unprecedentedly close vote, Oklahoma’s offensive line unit narrowly edged out Alabama and Georgia in what many voters felt was their toughest decision yet,” said Aaron Taylor, CBS college football analyst and co-founder of the Joe Moore Award, and who played guard and tackle at the University of Notre Dame for the Award’s namesake, the legendary offensive line coach Joe Moore. “Coach Bedenbaugh’s unit seemed to separate itself in the eyes of the voters by their attitude, how well they worked up to the second level and finished their blocks.”
“Coach Bedenbaugh’s unit seemed to separate itself in the eyes of the voters by their attitude, how well they worked up to the second level and finished their blocks.”
– Aaron Taylor, co-founder of the award
Oklahoma’s starting line has featured redshirt junior left tackle Bobby Evans (13 starts), senior left guard and Outland Trophy semifinalist Ben Powers (12 starts), redshirt freshman center Creed Humphrey (11 starts), senior right guard Dru Samia (13 starts) and redshirt junior right tackle Cody Ford (13 starts). Redshirt senior Jonathan Alvarez also started two games at center and one at left guard.
Oklahoma leads the country in points per game (49.5) and yards per contest this season (577.9) despite ranking tied for 107th out of 130 teams in plays per game (just 66.1). OU is also averaging 0.71 points per offensive play. Going back to 1996, the highest end-of-season figure was 0.69 by 2013 national champion Florida State.
Five times already this season the Sooners have recorded at least 300 rushing and at least 300 passing yards in a game. The feat had only been accomplished six times in program history entering the year, and has only been accomplished three times this season by the rest of Power Five teams combined.
“All three finalists displayed the award criteria in impressive fashion, but Oklahoma made a statement with how consistently they finished and played through the echo of the whistle,” said Cole Cubelic, chairman of the Joe Moore Award voting committee. “They showed a tone-setting attitude in both pass protection and run blocking that really caught the attention of the 200 plus member voting body that has collectively played and coached this position for over 800 years.”
The Joe Moore Award is named after Joe Moore, widely regarded as one of the best offensive line coaches in college football history, most notably for his work at Notre Dame and the University of Pittsburgh. Moore sent 52 players on to the NFL.
No. 4 Oklahoma will make its 52nd bowl appearance when it takes on No. 1 Alabama in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 29 at 7 p.m. CT. The game will be televised by ESPN.
What Joe Moore Award Voters Said
“They were technical and fundamentally sound. Consistently finished their blocks. Always looking for work, especially on second-level blocks which sprung many of the big runs. Once they had the line of scrimmage secured and displaced, they turned up the intensity and continued tracking and engaging defenders downfield. Beautiful.”
“They exemplified teamwork. They really worked well together in their combination blocks and showed passion to wear their opponents out. Good fundamentals. Finished their blocks. There were a lot of [defenders] on the ground when the play was over and they followed through downfield.”
“A bunch of athletic beasts. The ‘100% Pure Beef, Pancakes on the Side’ motto on the [Joe Moore Award] aprons fits this unit perfectly.”
“Very efficient in both protection and run game. I thought they played with the most attitude. All of the finalists were tough and physical, but it seemed like Oklahoma went out of their way to try punish their opponent any chance they got.”