Ryan Welton

Sports + Digital + Music + Life

Monthly Archives: September 2018

Daily Video, Episode 2: Exercise motivation + Back to the gym!

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Several weeks ago, I had some dental work done that left me in a lot of pain. The work wasn’t the cause of the pain although I wasn’t in pain before I had the work. Instead, the work really just exposed some issues and, somewhere in there, I got an infection in a couple of molars that sure felt like it spread to my jaw as a whole.

Five weeks worth of pain and easily seven or eight visits to the dentist and endodontist.

Well, the pain and a sore mouth makes is super easy to avoid healthier options and, instead, eat softer and more high-calorie foods. In that time, I stopped exercising and miraculously didn’t gain any weight. I had gained some during the time when Mom was sick, but for the entire year, I really haven’t had a good workout routine.

I got back to it today. Did two miles on the treadmill.

It’s important that I not try to make up for every moment of lost time in one workout. I made it a point to stretch both before and after my run, and I neither ran too fast nor too far.

It felt good.

I’m not one to like discomfort, which is what exercise seems to be sometimes. However, this video from Joe Rogan does a fantastic job of explaining the role of exercise in how we feel. As a side note, this video was very well done.

Our physical well-being is tied to our emotional and mental well-being, and those two are tied back to physical. However, if we take care of the physical part of things, we’ll find ourselves off to a good start on the other two. It all works together.

Aside from that, I know I’m not the greatest videographer on my block, much less on YouTube, but damn if I don’t enjoy this process. I just hope to get better at it over time. I’d love any tips you might have for me. I know I need to get a lav mic set up for my iPhone or, heck, maybe just a better camera altogether.

But first priorities first, and that means workout No. 2 happens on Sunday.

Hope you’ll come find me on YouTube at youtube.com/ryanweltonmusic or venture on over to Twitter @ryanwelton. 

The future of ryanwelton.com, aka: Using data to decide what to blog about

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Anybody who knows me knows that I love the digital game. I love the process of creating content, promoting it and growing something from nothing to a lot. In this post, I want to talk about my current efforts and the notion of going wide versus deep.

First, I’ve been posting pretty much everything I do to ryanwelton.com. I have been posting sports columns and recipes, travel photos and personal essays. This is what’s known as going wide, touching many bases in hopes of growing as broad of an audience as possible. This strategy looks for quantity of audience and not necessarily quality. Where that can be valuable is when your business is judged by quantity of people, such as in TV. Sure, there are some demographics that are preferred to others, but at the end of the day, Station A wants to have more people watching than Station B.

The problem with this strategy is that you get a whole bunch of people one day and a whole bunch of people the next, and it’s possible that the first audience and the second are completely different. The people who sampled your product on the first day didn’t come back the second. In my case, the people who read by Oklahoma Sooners blog posts probably didn’t come back when I posted my potato soup recipe — and vice-versa.

At the point where you want to turn visitors into repeat content customers, you have to go deep.

In the news world, that might mean delving deep into a topic such as education, health or politics. Many local TV news stations have a “consumer beat” where the reporter works to right wrongs in the community. That type of deeper coverage can prompt a consumer to come back night after night. In the blog world, this strategy is all about the niche — and niche content and niche marketing are super powerful these days because people have proven to be willing to come back time after time when a topic interests them.

I’m also a YouTuber (http://www.youtube.com/ryanweltonmusic), and creators who teach YouTube channel growth are pretty adamant about only going deep. I heard one self-proclaimed expert say that there are no “variety shows” on YouTube.

Go deep or go home.

Going deep means longer posts. Higher-quality information. Varied types of content, e.g., written word, video and audio.

However, you have to be satisfied with having a smaller audience, reminding yourself that what you really have is the “right audience.” If you’re doing anything like Ad Sense or Amazon Associates affiliate marketing, a niche audience has a higher likelihood of moving the needle than a broad audience.

Why? Because you’re dependent upon each and every blog to convert.

Going deep allows you to suck the user into a rabbit hole of sorts, which translates into an appreciation from the reader and a higher chance of conversion.

Believe it or not, many content trends in 2018 are headed back to 2008. Take email for example: Gathering emails from your readers is probably the most important thing you can do from a marketing perspective because, if they opt-in to receiving a newsletter, you can use that to induce all sorts of sales opportunities.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never solicited email addresses because that’s not ever been my style. It makes me uneasy to do that. However, I should if I ever want to turn a blog into something that makes money.

And let’s talk about that for a second because the reality is you have to be selling something that is super-high-dollar or creating your own product to expect to make much of anything. I’m a musician; perhaps I could move some Korg keyboards through my site.

Not likely.

If I had just kept my original ryanwelton.com around from the early 2000s, who knows where I could have taken it. I used to write about American Idol and Big Brother and other reality shows, and I was getting terrific traffic.

ryanwelton-2008

Since restarting my site, the growth has been slow although it really jumped right about the time Mom died and I penned the tribute to her. That gave me some momentum, and you need that. Here’s a look at my stats for this year so far per month:

blog-stats-2018

However, what that chart doesn’t show you is that I only get decent engagement when I write about certain topics such as food, travel and health. My posts about the Oklahoma Sooners or Cleveland Browns only get consumed; nobody follows, comments or reacts.

This is key.

People are much more willing to follow a blog if it’s about a single topic of interest to them. Although food, travel and health are different topics, they do fall generally under lifestyle — and when the information comes from a certain demo, such as a man approaching 50, it has the potential to attract a certain audience.

So, if you’re interested in starting a blog, how do you choose a topic? You do keyword research, and my current favorite tool for keyword research is Keywords Everywhere. What you want to do is import some keywords for topics you’re interested in and see what the monthly average search volume is like.

keywords-everywhere-2

Ideally, you want to blog about a topic that somebody searches for, and you don’t want it to be so competitive that you’d never be able to break through the noise. There is a sweet spot to be had, and a tool like Keywords Everywhere can help you feel it out. It’s a process that I’ve gone through the past couple of nights in fact in hopes of moving away from a ryanwelton.com blog that is about everything.

Because when your blog is truly about everything, then it’s about nothing.

Focus is needed.

I narrowed my search somewhat based on search volume and competition stats. Keywords Everywhere measures a keyword phrase on a scale of 0 to 1 based on how aggressively advertisers pursue it. You’ll notice here that for whatever reason, the term “Cleveland Browns” gets ridiculous search volume but is also wide-open competitively. Based on what I see here, a person could break through on that term.

keywords-everywhere-3

However, more goes into it than this. Do I really want to start and cultivate an entire blog about the Cleveland Browns? I mean, really, the reason all of us Okies are such fans of the team now is because of the great Baker Reagan Mayfield.

I’m truly all-in at this point, but it’s possible I get bored at some point down the road. Alas, the thing that makes us love Mayfield so much is that he was a great Sooner — and that’s why I’m reviving thenormanfiles.com, which was a hyper-local blog of sorts that I tried to get going back in 2013, soon after I left KOCO.

Take a look at these keyword stats below:

keywords-everywhere-4

That indicates to me that there is enough global search volume between the Oklahoma Sooners, the Oklahoma City Thunder, Oklahoma basketball, football and even the Oklahoma City Dodgers to make thenormanfiles.com a worthwhile-go as a sports-centric blog on topics that would be of interest to people in Oklahoma.

But what else?

I already have beamediacompany,com, where I write about digital communications, social media and trends in the industry as it relates to 21st Century public relations and corporate communications. A post like this one here would ideally go there.

I’ve also revived my 80s music blog, but with a new URL: http://www.1980s.blog. Before I solidified the dot-blog top-level domain, I did some Google SEO research to see how Mother Google felt about non-dot-coms as TLDs — and what I found is that they don’t really care.

It’s the content, stupid.

And my thought was that in a mobile world, it’s about URL length, so 1980s.blog as a domain name really appealed to me.

I also have outandaboutokc.com as a blog that Kristi and I have talked about working on together with a focus on what businesses have available for families, for example: play areas and kids menus, vegetarian options and parking situations.

Just tonight I created two more: bunnygap.com and crazyforcaps.com. The former is a reference to the phrase, “The Rabbit Hole,” except that on this blog, I’d take the reader simply down a li’l bunny gap, not the full-on rabbit hole. I’ll write about YouTube and audio, movies and TV. It’s basically a pop culture site.

The latter is a site that would capture my obsession with baseball caps, and not just caps from baseball teams but all kinds of caps and, really, hats. Let’s go back to the keyword analysis here:

keywords-everywhere-3

Notice that both the term “baseball cap” and cap(s) are scored as ‘1’s. There is decent search volume for both, but advertisers attack it hard, which means that a person would have to really stand out — and my thought is that I could do that by taking a “Uni-Watch” approach to headwear, especially as it pertains to sports teams.

Boy, that sounds like a lot of work, right?

Well, one does have to create opportunities for efficiencies, and I study the subject pretty religiously. Plus, I’ve always been one to let the data drive the bus, meaning that if one of the sites really took off, there I’d focus.

All of this serves as a scratch to the itch that is for me ‘mass communication’ through digital. Well before social media came along, I preferred the blog. As I develop each of these new ones and re-tinker with the old ones, I’m going to have to think long and hard about social amplification.

  • Do I need separate Facebook and Twitter sites for each of these?
  • Or do I use the blogs to build more of an audience for my own Facebook and Twitter pages?
  • This doesn’t even consider Linked In, where a post like this must definitely live!

The tactical strategy end of this should never trump the formula that will never steer you wrong, and that’s to serve an audience. If you’re going to write about 80s music, make sure it goes deep and appeals to the geekiest of the geeky 80s children. And if you’re going to write about digital strategy or ball caps, delve into as much detail as you can, either taking the consumer down the proverbial rabbit hole or giving them something they can take away and use for real.

You might get a reaction, a comment or a new follower.

And that’s when going deep can help you build that big audience to which you can communicate wide. If any of these blogs in particular will be of interest to you, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Appreciate you reading!

OU 28, Army 21: Mike Stoops’ defense doesn’t look any better on radio either

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When I was 10 or 11 years old, I used to hide away in my room and listen to the radio.

My first memories were listening to WLS radio at night when the AM gods and frequencies allowed, and I listened to a lot of sports. I remembered listening to the 1980 Gator Bowl between Pittsburgh and South Carolina, and I listened to the 1980 Holiday Bowl between SMU and BYU, a veritable shootout by the standards of the day, a 46-45, Cougars win.

And I listened to the Orange Bowl that year, a 24-7 win for the Oklahoma Sooners over the Florida State Seminoles.

I wasn’t being deceptive about it, but Dad didn’t watch sports, and back in those days, parents controlled the remotes. This was the year before Mom and Dad bought me a TV, I believe, so I was huddled in bed with my transistor listening to John Brooks call the game for Oklahoma, his “Jiminy Christmas” the signal that good had come to the Sooners.

Some 38 years later, I’m at it again, listening to Oklahoma football on the radio, a 28-21 overtime nail-biter over the Army Black Knights. The very capable Toby Rowland was on the call, and it was a delight to hear in lieu of a $50 pay-per-view bill. The reason we have a PPV game every year is because of the Big 12 and its contracts with the networks.

They don’t have to do this, but they do — and I think it’s fan extortion. I didn’t buy it, even though I love both the Oklahoma Sooners and the Army Black Knights. CBS Sports Network shows all of Army’s games, so I started following Jeff Monken’s bunch a couple of years ago and kind of fell in love with their style and effort.

They sure as heck didn’t disappoint tonight.

Neither did the radio broadcast. Toby Rowland, Teddy Lehman, Gabe Ikard, Coach Merv Johnson and the highly under-recognized Chris Plank are fantastic. One of my News 9 colleagues, Michael Dean, makes an appearance on these broadcasts, too. Radio is still a glorious medium because it is theatre of the imagination.

But there was no imagining the nightmare that was the Army option game against an unprepared, undisciplined Oklahoma defense. Mike Stoops’ bunch can’t stop a competent passing team, and they can’t stop a competent running team. They need an opponent to stop themselves, truly.

At some point, repeating the same effort and mistakes over and over and over, game after game after game is insanity.

Or Coach Stoops has compromising photos of former President David Boren.

Something.

Coaches often respond to criticism by saying things like, “Geez, I didn’t know I had to teach college ball players how to tackle.”

And I say, “That’s exactly what you should be doing.”

If it were me, I’d obsess over why they weren’t tackling and then work with each player ad nauseam until they figured it out. There would be laps or stair runs for missed tackles, too. Whatever you can get away with in 2018.

But shame on us for saying anything about the obvious, right?

It’d be 1,000 times more acceptable if Mike Stoops showed any kind of emotion that evoked a little empathy, but he doesn’t. Thank God his crew finally got inspired in overtime, or any chance at a playoff in 2018 would be over.

Probably.

College football is a funny thing. A loss to Army might not have done the trick. Even though the Black Knights were a 30.5-point underdog, Army is actually good. They won a bowl game last year in exciting fashion, a 42-35 win over San Diego State. in which the Black Knights won with a 2-point conversion before a game-clinching interception return for a touchdown provided the final margin.

Army is disciplined, focused and prepared. Every game.

Oklahoma’s offense has long been the same way while the defense has been a step behind for years. The Sooners defense is like that co-worker who puts in a half-effort but turns it on, maybe, when the boss yells or when it’s crunch time, doing just enough to not get fired when you really just wish they would show up to work drunk out of their minds so the powers who be would have no choice but to make a move.

Nobody aspires to be a micro-manager, but this is an Oklahoma defense that begs for micro-management. If Mike doesn’t want to do it, let Ruffin McNeill or Calvin Thibodeaux handle it.

I’ll say this though: I don’t hate Mike Stoops; I just don’t think his defense is ever prepared well. Like ever ever.

It is what it is.

He’s a ******** of a coach, but he’s our *********.

The craziest part of this is that I didn’t have to see one second of the game to figure this out. Great radio will do that.

Tonight was a real treat.

We’ll live to curse Mike Stoops another day.

Cleveland Browns: These 4 characteristics make Baker Mayfield a winner

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Cleveland 21, New York Jets 17.

That was pretty much the most entertaining Thursday Night Football game in the history of #TNF. Or that I know of. I don’t know; I don’t typically watch Thursday Night Football, but damn if I’m not a fan of the NFL all of a sudden.

Thanks to Baker Mayfield.

Down 14-0 and having lost their quarterback to a possible concussion, Mayfield came into the game and immediately injected energy into FirstEnergy Stadium. He also led them to a FG to cut into the Jets lead before the half, 14-3.

And then we got the word that Tyrod Taylor was out for the game. Baker would start the second half.

Truth be told, I was a bit apprehensive about that prospect as an Oklahoma Sooners fan suddenly devoted to all-things Cleveland Browns. Bob Wylie’s offensive line had played like trash in the first half, forgive the frankness.

Baker might get killed out there.

But he didn’t. Mayfield’s passes were quickly released, crisp, and he didn’t even really have to stretch the field. Soon-to-be new daddy Carlos Hyde took advantage of the Browns’ success through the air, racking up 98 yards on 23 carries and two scores.

Mayfield caught his first score before he threw for his first, a 2-point conversion reminiscent of Oklahoma’s play against Georgia in last year’s Rose Bowl.

The Philly Special? Naw. This is the Oklahoma Special.

But then Baker Mayfield led the Cleveland Browns on a 15-play, 75-yard game-winning drive that ate up 6:52 off the fourth-quarter clock. It’s a drive the likes of which we saw in Norman, Oklahoma, time after time after time.

Baker was clutch, effective and efficient, finishing the night with a quarterback rating over 100. And to his credit, Mayfield is not an all-heart sort of leader. His accuracy is uncanny. His release is quick. And his teammates would knock over a brick wall for him.

However, that’s not the thing that makes him a winner, and his recipe for success is centuries old.

Credit other people. You’ll regularly hear Baker take the focus off himself and praise his teammates and coaches.

Be situationally aware. It’s clear Mayfield was ready to play tonight despite the insanity of the Cleveland coaching staff giving him no reps during the practice week.

Be competitive. I don’t know that competitiveness has to be the polar opposite of contentment, which is a fine state unto itself, but I’d suggest that a nagging hunger to achieve or win is pretty much a standard characteristic of winners.

Exude positive energy, in public and in private. Brush off your shoulders and don’t let nothin’ affect you.

Will all that mean Baker leads the Browns to the Super Bowl, win Rookie of the Year and never lose again? Of course not.

Tap the brakes.

Not even Mayfield is perfect. We’ve seen the video from Fayetteville, Arkansas. That guy ain’t out-running an NFL defensive end.

But those of us Oklahoma Sooners fans also saw Baker admit his mistake, apologize, move on and not repeat it. Knock on wood. That’s part of the formula as well, to be able to overcome adversity.

Anyway, I guess what I’m saying to Browns fans or anybody who will eventually get sick of an Oklahoma fan telling you that Baker Reagan Mayfield is a winner, it’s not about his Heisman Trophy or the big wins at Oklahoma (a-plenty) or the two trips to the college football playoffs.

It’s not because of the results that people say he’s a winner.

It’s because of the way he takes care of business and how he executes.

And the super sweet thing is that the winner part of this formula is something anybody can do with enough practice.

Beyond Baker: How HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’ converted me to the Cleveland Browns

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When half of Oklahoma decided to become Cleveland Browns fans, we did so out of our loyalty to Baker Reagan Mayfield, the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner and, arguably, the greatest college football quarterback of all time over the course of a career.

Stores in Oklahoma have Cleveland Browns sections now. Seriously. 

I’m a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan who has just grown apart from the franchise in the days after Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson, Texas Stadium and the hole in the roof so God could see through it. I’d largely tired of Jerry and problem players and a lack of success on the field that made their troubles off it pretty unbearable.

Long story short, I started looking for other teams to support, and I landed upon the Rams, moving from St. Louis to Los Angeles. Aside from the remaining gold, I love their uniforms, and I love the fact that Joe Pendleton was a Ram. “Heaven Can Wait” was my late mother’s favorite movie, or one of them.

And I still support them.

But because of Mayfield and especially the HBO series, “Hard Knocks,” I fell for the Cleveland Browns. During the final moments of the Browns’ game versus Pittsburgh, I was white-knuckling it as if the Sooners were playing the Longhorns. And this week against the Saints, I was bemoaning every missed kick from Zane Gonzalez, while at the same time feeling completely sorry for him.

I’ve even made Browns friends on Twitter, which is cool particularly when you figure out that lifelong, die-hard Browns fans are at once bewildered why anybody would join their misery and completely welcoming of the commiseration.

It also feels good to start at the bottom. I don’t feel like I’m bandwagoning anything.

But I also figured out by watching “Hard Knocks” that the Browns organization appears to be fronted by good people. No offense, but I haven’t had that sense with the Dallas Cowboys for 20 years. My only gripe about the show is that all the guys we were pulling for got cut!

Devon Cajuste? Couldn’t there have been a spot for a TE who mostly receives and doesn’t block? Situationally speaking? He’s such a good soul; that kind of positivity with any inkling of ability is an asset.

Carl Nassib? As one of my new Twitter friends noted tonight, he’s got long arms and he gets after it. The 2-0 Tampa Bay Bucs know that now.

Nate Orchard? Not only are the guys not enjoying his wife’s cookies, he got picked up by the worst team in the NFL right now, the Buffalo Bills.

When I first started watching, I didn’t get the sense that Hue Jackson had the gravitas to lead an NFL team with success. By the end of the show, I figured out he had the compassion.

Two games in, and it doesn’t really matter how crusty Gregg Williams is. His defenses play hard, and the Browns have a pretty decent one.

I probably liked Todd Haley the least. Just thought he was unnecessarily mean at times. However, he sure dialed up some offense when the Browns needed it late versus his former team, the Steelers, and the Saints this past week.

And of course, I love that GM John Dorsey and head coach Hue Jackson saw what those of us who love the Oklahoma Sooners saw in Baker — a transformational winner. Truth be told, I’ve come to like Tyrod Taylor, too, indicative of the Browns looking for character above all else.

That showed today when they said goodbye to Josh Gordon.

Participating in publicity gimmicks such as “Hard Knocks” isn’t a dumb thing to do. I just wish they’d keep it going all season. It would turn the season into a season-long drama.

They’d hate it. I’d love it.

Besides, they accomplished what they set out to do: earned a new fan.

Go Browns.

Oklahoma escapes Iowa State with 37-27 win, but old (bad) habits reemerge

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Oklahoma is not going to win every game by 28 or 49, and so Sooner fans are grateful for Saturday’s 37-27 win over Iowa State in Ames, especially after last year’s 38-31 loss to the Cyclones in Norman. Saturday’s win was hard-fought and presented plenty of opportunities for confidence going forward as well as room for improvement.

Lots of room for improvement.

This football game had every opportunity to be a good old-fashioned blowout. The Sooners went on a 10-play, 74-yard drive to end the first half up 24-10 with possession ahead of them to start the second half. After picking up a first down, Oklahoma proceeded to lose yardage on two consecutive plays, setting up a third-and-17 from the Sooners’ 35.

Kyler Murray just missed Hollywood Brown.

And within :47 seconds, Iowa State was back within 7.

Oklahoma missed a chance to go for the kill.

The two things that happened today or that were exposed for Oklahoma should be correctable. First, the Sooners weren’t able to connect deep in the second half. Brown gained 189 yards on seven carries in the first half, 139 of those in the first quarter, an Oklahoma record.

The second half? Two catches, two yards. It looked on TV like Murray had trouble seeing downfield, possibly the result of Cyclone pressure. One exception was this beautiful 50/50 ball to fullback Carson Meier in the third quarter:

That was Murray’s longest completion of the second half by a lot, and note that Meier was in front of his defender, making him easier to see for Murray. When you have a home run threat the caliber of Hollywood Brown, he should be given a deep look at least once a quarter. It opens up the run, the short pass; it opens up everything.

When a receiver the caliber of CeeDee Lamb only catches three balls for 36 yards, you’re not using your best assets.

For the day, Murray finished with 348 yards on 21-of-29 passing, three TDs and a quarterback rating of 90.5. That’s his lowest rating of the season, but he’s consistently been over 90. On the other hand, Murray ran 15 times for 77 yards, his highest yardage of the season and his highest number of carries, by quite a bit. Against UCLA, Murray carried ten times for 69 yards, and he carried four times for 23 yards against Florida Atlantic.

When considering Murray’s feet, one can wonder whether they’re an attack weapon or a weapon of last resort. In other words, the more Murray is running, the more pressure he’s facing and the harder it is for him to find receivers. Credit to Iowa State for adjusting to Oklahoma’s deep threat after the first quarter, but the Sooners need to be able to find Hollywood deep in the third and fourth quarter of ball games on a consistent basis.

The other area for improvement for Oklahoma is on defense, all of it. It felt like Mike Stoops and the Sooner defense regressed this week, going back to old, bad habits such as not blitzing and sitting back on receivers by 10 to 15 yards.

Iowa State had a lot to do with that. Sophomore quarterback Zeb Noland was largely good, finishing with 360 yards on 25 of 36 passing. Receiver Hakeem Butler was terrific with 174 yards on five catches and two big scores that exposed all sorts of tackling issues.

That tied the game at 10, and I counted four missed tackles. Parnell Motley was the first to miss him. Kahlil Haughton was the second. Tre Norwood and Curtis Bolton both went whiff on Butler before he romped into the end zone.

On Butler’s second score, Parnell Motley got victimized again with Tre Norwood left to chase him into the end zone.

For what it’s worth, Motley had a bad day at the office. Got beat, missed tackles and, well, he saved the game.

Look at what that pressure off the end will buy you. Maybe Oklahoma tried to do that more in the second and third quarters and it wasn’t noticeable by the average football fan. To most folks following the game on social media, it sure seemed as if Mike Stoops had been spooked by Butler’s physicality, speed and his ability to break tackles so he decided to play off Cyclone receivers and lay off the blitzes.

I likened it to a new believer backsliding.

It’s correctable, but it’s got to get fixed if Oklahoma were to have any thoughts of winning a national title. Alabama’s 62-7 win over a decent Mississippi team after the Rebels scored on the first play from scrimmage should serve as a warning to the rest of college football and especially the Sooners that it would take an extraordinary season with a gutsy, go-for-it, aggressive defense to have any shot at a national title.

Or to beat TCU or OSU or West Virginia and win the Big 12.

Enjoy the win. Here’s hoping that the coaching staff recognizes these issues and fixes them posthaste.

The cover photo is from OU football’s Twitter feed.


 

Sam Darnold shines; Jets may have just ended the Matthew Stafford era in Detroit

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The most impressive first game of the new NFL season goes to the New York Jets, a 48-17 winner over the Detroit Lions.

And that comes after the most disastrous career-opening pass I can ever remember. Watch it for yourselves as rookie Jets QB Sam Darnold passes against the grain into the hands of Quandre Diggs, who returned it 37 yards for a score on the first play of the game Monday night.

Those curse words of anger turned to curse words of joy for fans of the J-E-T-S, Jets Jets Jets. New York turned that 7-0 deficit into a 17-10 lead at the break — and then scored a mind-blowing 31 points in the third quarter, a quarter that could be the moment we pointed to the end of the Matt Stafford era in Detroit.

It was an opener to forget for new Detroit head coach Matt Patricia, too.

That third quarter started promising for the Lions, as Golden Tate caught a 24-yard pass to tie it up at 17-17. However, the Jets struck back quickly with a 21-yard touchdown from Darnold to Quincy Enunwa to make it 24-17.

And then 1:29 later, the game was over.

https://twitter.com/BuckeyeVideos/status/1039323163061112833

Darron Lee picked off Stafford and took it to the house. Stafford finished 27 of 46 for 286 yards, four interceptions and a QB rating of 47.9. Check out this factoid:

I’m not sure about right this second, but as of last summer, Stafford was the highest-paid player in the history of the NFL — and I can’t think of a player less worth it, unless you go back to the rookie contract Sam Bradford got.

On the other hand, Darnold finished his first night in the NFL with 198 yards on 16 of 21 passing and a 116.8 rating. He also joined some fantastic company with his career-opening Pick 6: Brett Favre, who did the very same thing as a member of the Atlanta Falcons back in 1991.

The most impressive part of the Jets victory, however, was the defense and special teams. New York’s secondary accounted for five interceptions in all, including two from Lee. Andre Roberts returned a punt 78 yards for a TD in the third quarter, too.

It might be that the Detroit Lions are all sorts of terrible.

On the other hand, the New York Jets sure looked solid on defense, and their new quarterback looked more poised than a guy who’s been in the league for nearly a decade.

The future is bright, Jets fans. Very bright.

Who steps up for the Oklahoma Sooners now that Rodney Anderson is out?

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The speculation turned to reality Sunday night, and it was just about the worst news imaginable for the No. 5-ranked Oklahoma Sooners. Rodney Anderson had been ruled out for the year, officially.

You see the quotes from Lincoln Riley, shared by Eddie Radosevich, right there: “We’re heartbroken for him. He’s overcome so much in his career, and if anybody can do it again, it’s Rodney.”

Dude broke his leg in 2015.

Broke a vertebra before the season in 2016.

Got falsely accused of rape last year in the midst of his best season as a Sooner.

If anybody is deserving of a little bit of luck to befall him, it’s Rodney Anderson. He was a huge part of Oklahoma’s playoff run last season, and he was going to be the key cog in Oklahoma’s run this season.

What now?

It appears we’l get a steady diet of Trey Sermon, Marcelias Sutton and T.J. Pledger. Here’s what we know about each:

Trey Sermon is a sophomore out of Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Georgia. Last year, he ran for 744 on 121 carries, catching 16 balls for 139 yards. In all, he’s scored eight times in two seasons, seven of those last year. He has bursts of speed but is mostly what I’d call a strong back. He brings the muscle at 6’0″, 224 pounds. He is not afraid of contact.

Of course, I say that and then watch this video. Sermon brings the video game jukes! Here’s two looks at a touchdown he scored against Florida Atlantic:

Marcelias Sutton is a senior out of La Grange, North Carolina, by way of Lackawanna College. Last year, the 5’9″ 192-pound back touched the ball only 22 times for 130 yards, with an additional 32 yards on three catches. So far this year, he’s touched the ball nine times for 71 yards and two TDs. He scored twice last year as well. My perception of Sutton is that he’s a little quicker to the hole, a finesse back for first down whereas Sermon might be the guy you depend on to get one yard when your football life depends on it.

Here’s Sutton scoring against UCLA on Saturday, showing nice balance and a super low center of gravity.

Then there’s T.J. Pledger, the 5’9″ 200-pound freshman from Pacoima, California. He’s the future of the Oklahoma backfield, and that future was here already. In two games, he’s rushed 14 times for 83 yards. No catches out of the backfield yet, and no scores. Yet.

To me, he looks the most like Rodney Anderson. It’s no knock on Sermon or Sutton, but I just have a hunch that if we’re looking for a guy who’s the most like Rodney Anderson to step into this role, my money is on Pledger. Watch this big gain against the Bruins last week, how quick he is to the hole and appears to have break-away speed.

Cleveland Browns 21, Pittsburgh Steelers 21: Recap + stars + disappointments

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Our first game as official Cleveland Browns was quite the experience, and we didn’t lose!

We tied.

Cleveland battled back from a 21-7 deficit against Pittsburgh to send the game into overtime, but then offenses stalled for both teams. Not helped by a rain that was steady for all four hours of Sunday’s season-opening NFL broadcast, the Browns had a chance to win at the end thanks to a Joe Schobert interception that caused an earthquake along Lake Erie.

And in northwest Oklahoma City.

Kristi and I were out of our chairs on that one, reminiscent of Torrance Marshall’s pick against Texas A&M back in 2000. (Oklahoma Sooners) Schobert’s pick should have sealed a win for Cleveland except for a block-in-the-back penalty on Myles Garrett.

Ugh.

Zane Gonzales’ field goal attempt from 10-12 yards back was blocked.

And the Browns would have to settle for a tie, and so would we, their new football fans in Oklahoma.

The reason so many Oklahomans are now Cleveland Browns supporters? Easy. Baker Reagan Mayfield.

He didn’t play a single down against Pittsburgh, and that’s OK. The weather was 58 degrees and rainy, not ideal conditions for a newbie signal-caller. However, I’ll present this: Tyrod Taylor’s box score.

Taylor went 15 of 40 for 197 yards for a quarterback rating of 51.8.

Just sayin’.

He showed some poise at times, and to be fair, he didn’t make nearly the mistakes that Ben Roethlisberger made. Big Ben went 23 of 41 for 335 yards with three interceptions and a quarterback rating of 60.5.

What Baker Mayfield could have brought was some downfield urgency to Cleveland drives at the end of the first half, fourth quarter and overtime periods. Mayfield was used to working super fast at Oklahoma, and his accuracy is uncanny. I get that he’s new, but I’ll stand on this until my dying day: the Cleveland coaches played this week to “not mess it up” today instead of playing to win.

Kudos to Gregg Williams and the Cleveland defense, and major kudos to new cornerback Denzel Ward. Ward signed a four-year contract worth a little more than $29 million, and I think he’s got the early clubhouse lead on Rookie of the Year honors, finishing the day with six tackles and two interceptions for 26 yards.

Todd Haley’s offense failed to capitalize on momentum, I thought. In the third quarter, running back Carlos Hyde went off, leading the Browns to a touchdown and a 7-7 game. While Taylor finished off the drive with a 20-yard run, Hyde accounted for 34 yards on four carries.

And then the Browns pretty much abandoned the run.

Pittsburgh immediately made it 14-7, and while Cleveland attempted a couple of Hyde runs, Taylor threw incomplete on first down deep to Jarvis Landry. Landry finished the day with seven balls for 106 yards. Hyde lost a couple on second down, and then Taylor was sacked by T.J. Watt, who had a monster game for Pittsburgh.

I don’t believe Watt is J.J.’s brother. I believe he’s a clone. Phenomenal player. Watt finished the day with 11 tackles, including four for loss.

The Steelers opened up a 21-7 lead, and Cleveland worked a little magic to tie it up. After a fumble was recovered and then nearly squandered by Jabrill Peppers at the goal line, Hyde rammed it home from the 1 to make it 21-14 with 7:32 to play.

After a pair of quick series, Taylor did his best work with a two-play drive that culminated in a 17-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon with 1:58 left to play. The first play of that series was a 38-yard pass to Rashard Higgins.

Zero complaints there, and from Haley’s perspective, it was the right play-calling at the right time.

Cleveland got the ball back one last time, but Taylor was intercepted on a deep ball to Gordon.

The story of the day was: nice comeback and plenty of chances for the Browns at the end. If there was a disappointment for me as a new fan who absolutely watched the “Hard Knocks” series on HBO, it was David Njoku. The TE from the University of Miami caught three balls for 13 yards, but it sure seems like he dropped a whole bunch of easy balls. I’d also cite end-of-period game management as a frustration.

No, we newbie Oklahoma fans of the Dawg Pound have nothing to complain about. We haven’t suffered like you guys in northeast Ohio, but I wish you would have seen us when Schobert intercepted that ball in OT. We damn near brought the house down.

And you’d best believe we’ll do it again for Cleveland-New Orleans next week.

Go Browns!

Featured photo by Erik Drost

 

Oklahoma 49, UCLA 21: Huge game for CeeDee Lamb; Update on Rodney Anderson

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We should be celebrating a quality, big win over a quality opponent — but Sooner Nation isn’t because the early vibe is that we may have lost running back Rodney Anderson for the year.

The official latest word from Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley is that there is nothing definitive and that they’re hoping for the best.

I knew it as soon as he grabbed his knee, and I have a time-stamped tweet to prove it, not to congratulate myself but to note that, to me, it was pretty obvious. I’ve seen it all too often, an awkward plant and the reach-and-grab.

Damn you, football gods!

From Amazon: Franklin Sports NCAA Deluxe Youth Team Uniform Set

Oh, yeah. Oklahoma beat UCLA 49-21 Saturday afternoon in a game that felt a little flat in parts. The Bruins are not yet close to a good team, especially offensively. However, they improved this week. I should note that as part of my recent vacation to southern California, Kristi and I went to the Rose Bowl to watch Cincinnati beat the Bruins, 26-17. The Bruin offense lacked imagination, and it looked like Chip Kelly was in search of a system that would fit his players.

Last week: Oklahoma 63, Florida Atlantic 14

They still scored more points against the Sooners on the road than they did against Cincinnati at home. Mind you, 14 of those points came in the final frame.

The final score could have just as easily been 63-7, especially if Rodney Anderson hadn’t gotten hurt.

Flashes of Oklahoma brilliance were spotted, first by Hollywood Brown on a 58-yard Sooners’ touchdown to make it 14-7, Oklahoma.

CeeDee Lamb had a pair of eyebrow-raising grabs, one for a touchdown and one that didn’t even count. That “non-catch” was one of the best grabs I’ve ever seen in my years watching football.

It wasn’t Lamb’s first eye-opening moment of the afternoon. Check out this catch he made in the first quarter:

And then how about his 35-yard touchdown grab from Murray to make it 42-7, Oklahoma.

In all, Lamb caught seven balls for 146 yards. In my estimation, he just became a millionaire today because every NFL scout in the country will have their eyes on him for the League. Brown had a pretty good game himself, catching four balls for 88 yards. At one point, he too appeared injured, although the response of trainers stretching him made you think it was just a cramp.

The football gods taketh away, and sometimes they have mercy.

Murray improved, I thought, as the game wore on. He floated some balls early but was crisp and made good decisions late. He ran for two scores and accounted for five touchdowns in all, finishing the afternoon 19 of 33 passing for 306 yards. Murray was also the team’s leading rusher with 69 yards on ten carries.

Defensively, Oklahoma shined for the most part, finishing with six sacks for the afternoon, five of them in the first half. Neville Gallimore and Curtis Bolton were standouts, and Kenneth Murray Jr. was outstanding.

So far, I’ve got nothing but praise for Mike Stoops’ side of the ball. They played with energy, aggressiveness and were smart. Special teams have been terrific thus far, too. After UCLA took an early 7-0 lead, Tre Brown put the Sooners in business with an 86-yard kickoff return.

What you might not know from all this Boomer Sooner talk is that I’m actually a UCLA fan, too. Oklahoma is my alma mater and my passion, but I like other teams as well. I’m just a sports fan, truth be told. My thoughts on UCLA is that the Bruins are headed for a losing season, maybe as bad as 2-9. I’d guesstimate 4-7 is the more likely record for the Bruins.

However, freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson was significantly improved over last week, and that has to make UCLA fans encouraged, at least a little.

Also, they matched up with OU for much of the game quite respectably. Oklahoma is far superior, no doubt. However, UCLA had some periodic success, especially when Kelly focused on the ground game with Bolu Olorunfunmi and Kazmeir Allen. They combined for 98 yards and kept some key drives alive.

UCLA’s biggest success came when Thompson-Robinson was able to find tight end Caleb Wilson, as he did over the middle for a big gain to set up their first touchdown. Wilson finished the day with 92 yards on four catches. I should note that Caleb is the son of 1980s sooner Chris Wilson.

The Bruins host Fresno State next Saturday from the Rose Bowl at 9:30 p.m. CT. I’m counting on that being UCLA’s first win of the year.

Oklahoma heads to Ames, Iowa, to try to exact revenge on the Iowa State Cyclones, who beat the Sooners in Norman last year. I think the Sooners will have their hands full, especially without Rodney Anderson. Ames is a tricky, tricky place to play.

From an Oklahoma perspective, no real complaints: today’s win over UCLA was a workman-like whipping — but sure feel bad for No. 24 if he’s indeed out for the year. We need him badly.

From a UCLA perspective, we saw improvement although we also saw no real indication as to anything that resembled a Chip Kelly-esque system. Not yet. I’d also say, definitively, that the Bruins also didn’t get embarrassed. They had a couple of moments to shine.

And as to Oklahoma’s place atop the college football pecking order, what I’d say is that I’ll take a Sooners team with a much-improved defense and maybe a little bit less of an offense than the alternative. Very encouraged by what we’ve seen so far on defense.

Next week at Iowa State will be a good test for the crimson and cream.

Featured photo credit: By Bobak Ha’Eri – Own work, CC BY 3.0


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