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3 reasons why the Oklahoma Sooners fell flat against Kansas State

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The last time the Sooner Schooner tipped over, Oklahoma lost. To Kansas State.

Deja vu.

And the Sooners totally deserved it. The final was 48-41, but I’m here to tell you that this was a butt-kicking. I thought Oklahoma was out-coached and out-classed in every department.

The defense was obviously terrible.

Special teams couldn’t figure out pooch kicks.

And the offense had zero spark.

My wife asked me what I thought went wrong, and the first thing I thought was that the Sooners just aren’t nearly as good as we thought. I didn’t think they were that great against Houston, and it appears that both Texas Tech, West Virginia and Houston are beyond terrible.

But I came up with three specifics:

  1. The Sooners defense has suddenly lost depth. The injury to Jon-Michael Terry apparently cannot be understated. Where was the rush today? Where was the aggressiveness? And then Parnell Motley lost his mind and kicked a Kansas State player, getting himself disqualified.

    I don’t believe these are the only injury issues on the team either. My understanding though is that, today, OU had a whole bunch of second- and third-teamers playing.

  2. Oklahoma abandoned the run game. This one is baffling to me, and it’s 100 percent Lincoln Riley’s fault. The innovative play-caller was anything but today. Check out this box score:

    a. Jalen Hurts: 19 for 96 yards
    b. Trey Sermon: 3 for 9 yards
    c. Kennedy Brooks: 3 for 2 yards

    Riley is well-known for being able to memorize all his play calls and cite them on his radio show. Well, he should forget today’s batch because they were John Blake-era trash.

    I’ve read some folks comparing Jalen to Vince Young. I can see it a little bit in terms of his running style, but I can also see why he ended up second-string at Alabama. The drop-off from Baker and Kyler to Jalen, to me, is pretty significant.

    That Kennedy Brooks only ran three times, and that Rhamondre Stevenson didn’t even touch the ball is baffling. Unexplainable.

  3. Grant Calcaterra’s absence.

    Going back to the start of the Bob Stoops era at OU, the tight end has been a huge part of Oklahoma’s success.

    No tight end caught a pass today for the Sooners.

    Calcaterra has been out for three weeks with an “undisclosed injury,” and his absence today was killer. No tight end? No running game?

    Anyway, them’s my thoughts. The good news is that Oklahoma has been very resilient after losses in years past, and they lost at a good time of year.

    Win out, and the Sooners will be in the playoffs.

    My hunch though is that this team has 1-2 more losses in them.

Jalen Hurts Named Sooners’ Starter, But D’Eriq King Is The QB Oklahoma Needs To Worry About

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The Oklahoma Sooners named Jalen Hurts starting quarterback on Monday in breaking news that nobody doubted. The Alabama graduate transfer was a shoo-in for the job, it seemed, over the underrated Tanner Mordecai and the future superstar Spencer Rattler.

Hurts has played in three national championship games and helped the Crimson Tide win the 2017 natty.

But come September 1, Hurts might not be the best QB on Owen Field.

D’Eriq King is coming to town, and he’s got a Dana Holgorsen offense in tow.

Everybody who thinks that Week 1 versus the University of Houston is going to be a cakewalk is grossly mistaken. New defensive coordinator Alex Grinch and the Sooners D will get a stiff test in Week 1 against a proven offensive system and a QB who has a puncher’s chance at a Heisman Trophy in 2019.

Deadly serious.

King was leading the nation in touchdowns last November when a torn meniscus sidelined him for the rest of the year.

The website underdogdynasty.com, which covers football in Conference USA, the Sun Belt, the AAC and Independent college football, ranks D’Eriq King as its No. 1 player in the AAC.

They write:
We’ve said it for a while and we’ll say it again: D’Eriq King is the best player in this conference, no question. He was robbed for Conference Player of the Year last year, and deserves more respect from all of college football.

King was one of three players to account for 50 or more touchdowns last year. He did that in 11 games, and might have led all of college football in touchdowns if he didn’t get hurt. Dana Holgorsen’s staff gives him yet another playbook, but that won’t slow him down at all. Holgorsen said he won’t run King as much this year, so his passing numbers should improve. Regardless of what happens, King’s talent is too good to ignore, and we need to give him the respect he deserves.

Check out this pass. This is the type of stuff that killed the Sooners time and time again the past few years, especially against teams that had taller receivers (think Texas and Iowa State):

Let’s check the roster. I’ve got some good news, Oklahoma. Houston doesn’t have any upper-classmen taller than 6’2″ and their one 6’3″ receiver is a freshman.

But to be brutally honest, this YouTube video should scare the devil out of Oklahoma fans. King is a fantastic passer, and Sooners fans know darned well that Oklahoma’s defense of the past two seasons wasn’t really any better than any of the teams you just watched in that video.

There are zero guarantees Oklahoma wins Game 1. The battle versus Houston in Norman on Sept. 1 is basically a Big 12 game from the past couple of years. Winning is surely expected, but by no means should anybody fail to understand how big a test this really is.

This could be a 55-48 type of game.

So, while Monday was all about getting the Jalen Hurts-as-starter news out of the way for the Sooners, OU fans should be getting to know D’Eriq King.

Dude could be the stuff of Oklahoma’s nightmares come Sept. 1.

Photo credit: University of Houston athletics

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.


 

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.

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


Sooners super against Florida Atlantic, but what about that Austin Kendall injury?

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The Oklahoma Sooners were supposed to lose a step after Heisman winner Baker Mayfield took his talents to the NFL.

Florida Atlantic was supposed to take their next step toward becoming an elite mid-major football program, with many experts projecting a New Year’s Day 6 bowl game for the Owls.

Well, it was a surprise Saturday for some across college football as Oklahoma dominated Lane Kiffin’s FAU 63-14 in a game that was truly over after one quarter.

I watched from sunny Southern California where I went to the UCLA game later that evening. One question stuck in my head after watching both games yesterday was, which team is better right now — the Bruins or the Owls?

Seriously.

The most beautiful part of Saturday’s football surprise might have been the performance of Kyler Murray’s former teammate at Allen High School, Lee Morris.

Morris is a walk-on at Oklahoma. Doubt he’s that for long.

Rodney Anderson opened the scoring on a 30-yard scamper after the Owls had penetrated Oklahoma territory on their opening possession.

My thought after 3:00 of the first quarter was, “Are the Sooners ready to play?”

Offensively they sure were. Kyler Murray went 9 for 11, throwing for 209 yards and running for 23 more. Murray’s passes were clean, but his protection had a lot to do with that. On one of the rare occasions when his protection broke down, Murray made like little Joe and scampered brilliantly for a first down.

Defensively, I sensed this Oklahoma club was more ready to attack than in years past. Redshirt senior Curtis Bolton recovered a blocked punt in the end zone, courtesy of Lee Morris, to give the Sooners a 14-0 lead.

And then Morris, a former high school teammate of Murray in Allen, Texas, hauled in a short pass and took it 65 yards for the score. To be honest, I figured Morris was a tight end and not a wide receiver. Big dude! Fast legs.

And he’s a walk-on? Wow.

Trey Sermon ended the first frame with a 17-yard score before Rodney Anderson and Hollywood Brown matched 65-yard scores, the most impressive part being Murray’s b-o-m-b to Hollywood. That pass was Jason White-esque in its height and length.

https://twitter.com/BarstoolBig12/status/1035944201396125696

It was a thing of beauty.

After that, in came Austin Kendall and the second-team crew. The game was over, and Lincoln Riley knew it. Lane Kiffin knew it. Oklahoma had gone for the kill early so that there were no issues in the second half.

Well, except for one.

Backup QB Kendall slid out of bounds in the fourth quarter and bashed his knee against the big equipment chest on the FAU sideline. It’s no fault of FAU’s. Every team has this, but it didn’t look good at the end of that play.

As of Sunday morning, there was no update on Kendall other than Riley was “optimistic.” On a conference call Monday, Riley said Kendall was questionable for the UCLA game but avoided serious injury.

Truth be told, his optimism might be simply that Kyler Murray looked super solid. It’s just one win, and we don’t know for sure just how bad this FAU team is.

So it’s possible we still don’t yet know just how good this Oklahoma team is.

Gotta stay healthy though. College football is one part talent, two parts execution and a whole lot of attrition.


New Mexico State bowl win, season a lesson in faith

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You’d think that for me, as a University of Oklahoma alum and diehard Oklahoma Sooners fan, the 2017 college football season would be remembered mostly from Ohio State to an eventual national championship.

Hopefully.

However, strangely enough, I may end up remembering the 2017 season mostly as the year New Mexico State won a bowl game. The Aggies defeated Utah State 26-20 in overtime when Larry Rose III scampered 21 yards to pay dirt in Tucson, home of the Arizona Wildcats, in the Arizona Bowl.

Too many bowls, they say. Man, you should have seen NMSU’s excitement as the student body rushed the field.

Coincidentally, the last time New Mexico State won a bowl game, it was by one score over these same Utah State Aggies. Talk about an Aggie-on-Aggie rivalry in the making. That was back in 1960; this was Friday night.

But the reason this win stands out to me, aside from NMSU being the alma mater of a work colleague, is because I listened to the first New Mexico State football game of the year, a Thursday night affair August 31 against the Arizona State Sun Devils. Kristi and I were set to depart for Albuquerque the next day for one of my stranger-in-a-strange-land sports trips to watch the Lobos dismantle Abilene Christian that Saturday.

I was excited for football, and we had visited Tempe, Arizona as part of a spring training trip, earlier in the year, too. Heck, my interest was as much in Todd Graham’s Sun Devils as it was in any team from the Land of Enchantment. Arizona State jumped out to a 14-0 lead on New Mexico State with 8:26 to play in the first quarter. Kalen Ballage had rushed for a score, and Manny Wilkins had thrown deep to Jalen Harvey.

This was to be expected from lowly New Mexico State, and the radio analyst for NMSU couldn’t contain his disappointment in a season gone so foul so soon, so much so that I was getting a kick out of it, less than half way through the first quarter of the first game of the season. From where I was sitting, as a listener and general sports fan, the hometown radio voice of his beloved Aggies had basically thrown in the towel.

I forgot what he said exactly, but both Kristi and I chuckled that he had gone from excited about college football’s fresh start to ready to step off a cliff.

We stopped listening and ate dinner, and then we went home, excited for our Labor Day weekend trip.

I checked the score before we went to bed: New Mexico State had lost, but they had lost quite respectably, 37-31, to ASU. My thought was, “Way to hang in there.” And I remember commenting to Kristi how impressed I was with New Mexico State’s sense of fight in the face of apparent low expectations.

Long story short, Arizona State ended their season this afternoon getting hammered by North Carolina State in the Sun Bowl.

And NMSU won their first bowl game in 57 years. I’m a sympathetic rooter, and this made my night. It was like the close of a season-long underdog story for me.

It’s also a lesson in having just a little bit of faith.

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