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2 reasons why the Cleveland Browns could win their next 6 games

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Like the rest of Sooner Nation and Browns Backers worldwide, we toasted the weekend performance of not only Baker Mayfield but also Nick Chubb, Antonio Callaway, Duke Johnson, Joe Schobert, David Njoku, Rashard Higgins, Myles Garrett and the entire Cleveland Browns organization.

This wasn’t Thursday night magic against the Jets.

This was a complete team win, a whipping put on a good Atlanta Falcons club.

There is no doubt that Baker Mayfield showed enormous improvement this weekend: decisive passing, better improvisation and world-class play action. However, Mayfield also had much better protection Sunday than at any other point this season. Heck, watching Oklahoma’s 48-47 win over Oklahoma State, we Sooners fans bemoaned the protection for Kyler Murray, something we don’t typically have to worry about.

The Cleveland defense with Joe Schobert and Denzel Ward both back in the lineup is a different beast altogether, especially Schobert. They take on a completely different identity with the third-year linebacker from Wisconsin. He clogs the middle.

Dare I say that if Cleveland were to play like they did in their 28-16 win over the Falcons, they could win any or all of their remaining six games.

The Browns have two games against the Bengals, who are at the bottom of the NFL in passing yards per game and two spots lower than the Browns in points given up per game. Cincinnati and Cleveland are No. 30 and 32, respectively, in yards allowed per game.

And come to find out this week that the Bengals plan on hiring former Cleveland coach Hue Jackson?

Who is that supposed to help? Seriously, I’m asking.

Cleveland has a shot to win both of those games, as they do the Baltimore game. The Browns have already beaten the Ravens once, a 12-9 thriller at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 7. That game was one of four overtime games the Browns have played this season, and if you think about it, there is every possibility that the other three could have fallen Cleveland’s way, meaning they’d be 7-3 right now.

The Browns are not a bad football team fundamentally; they’re just learning to put it all together and to do it with consistency.

Cleveland has a tough two-game stretch at Houston, a team that has figured out how to put it all together, and against the Carolina Panthers at home. Both of these opponents currently sit at 6-3, and on the development scale, they’re seemingly far ahead of the Browns. However, the Texas notoriously under-achieve, and we get Cam Newton in front of the Dawg Pound.

No guarantees, but definitely not for-sure losses.

When you looked at the Browns’ chances against a Steelers team in Pittsburgh or even a hot Kansas City team at home, you had to think any win would be a significant upset. When faced with the task of beating the Texans or Panthers, the thought is — if the Browns execute like they did against Atlanta.

And if they were to somehow get past the Bengals, Texans and Panthers, a trifecta that could absolutely land the beloved orange-and-brown at 0-3 for the set, Cleveland would head to Denver for a Saturday-night showdown against the Broncos that could decide the Browns’ playoff fate.

No, I’m not drinking. This is a schedule that provides some room for hope for a club that is improving under Gregg Williams the way they’ve shown over the past couple of weeks.

Cleveland absolutely could run the table and finish 9-6-1.

If they did that, Baker Mayfield wouldn’t just be Rookie of the Year; there would be serious conversation about Baker as MVP.

But he’s not even the reason I think there’s hope for such a run.

It’s this: Cleveland’s takeaway-giveaway ratio is +12, second only to the Chicago Bears.

It’s also this: The Browns are third in the NFL in total rushing yardage and sixth in yards per game at 133.2.

It helps when your running back is also an awesome rookie:

Forget what the crazy blogger man here thinks. Take those two stats seriously. Being able to run the ball and being able to force some turnovers will keep you in ball games.

And then you have a coach who nobody believes would be given a shot at the gig full-time, a Kansas City boy named Gregg Williams looking for redemption after running afoul of league rules in New Orleans. You watch him make a speech like this and wonder if, really, Cleveland hasn’t found their guy:

Williams didn’t add “in miracles” to the end of his question. He just asked the team, “Do You Believe?”

In the process. In the details. In the coaching staff. In each other.

Belief is a powerful drug. Add that to a +12 takeaway/giveaway ratio and an ability to run the ball well, and the Browns are going to have more of a chance in each of these games than virtually anybody will give them credit for.

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.

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


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.


Fitness Hack: Using sports to pile on the steps

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Since I’ve downloaded the Pedometer++ app, I’ve become a bit obsessed with checking my steps. Considering I have an iPhone and an Apple Watch, I’m not sure why I’m just now really attuned to how much movement I can produce in a given day, but there you go.

I topped 20,000 steps Saturday.

Weekends aren’t lazy for me. I’m go-go-go, whether it on personal projects or chores, and I tend to get more exercise, too.

If you read my blog last week, you’ll know I’m focused on walking at the moment to help ignite some weight loss and strengthen my Achilles tendons. I need to get in leg shape before I get back to running, and I’d like that temperature to get down a bit more, too. We’ve been enjoying upper 80s and lower 90s here in Oklahoma, quite the change from typical 100-degree days this time of year.

My Mom’s treadmill that I inherited is upstairs, and I’m using it every chance I get. I’ve found an easy, easy weekend hack to getting my steps up, too!

Walk during your favorite sporting events.

In my case, I follow Tottenham Hotspur, whose Premier League season started a week ago with a 2-1 win over Newcastle. Spurs won 3-1 over Fulham this weekend to top the league table.

And I walked on the treadmill for the entire match at an easy 2.8 speed.

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By 10:30 a.m., I was at 11,000 steps on my way to 20,000.

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Sure, I mowed the yard later in the day, which means I probably would have hit 10,000 regardless. However, I’ll take any opportunity I can get to push myself well beyond 10,000 steps — especially for those days when I can’t come close.

Sometimes work and life come first no matter what your fitness priorities are.

But what I’ve found is that if you have time to watch sports, you’ve got time to walk — and a soccer match at 90 minutes is totally doable, halftime and all.

#COYS

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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