Ryan Welton

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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.

2018 Year in review: Just how close is Oklahoma to a national title?

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For most folks across the country, the thought of another Clemson vs. Alabama College Football Playoff game – a fourth – is pretty dull unless you’re in Alabama or South Carolina. But for those of us in Oklahoma, we get what it’s like. We have our own version of Clemson vs. Alabama.

It’s called Jenks-Union.

And for 21 seasons or so between 1995 and 2016, either the Jenks Trojans or the Union Redskins won the state’s top football class. Year after year it happened until Owasso broke through two seasons ago and Broken Arrow last season. Yet Oklahoma’s top flight of high school football is still relatively boring given its lack of parity. It took everything the Rams and Tigers had to win one game against the state’s best.

I’d still lay all my dollars on either Jenks or Union next year.

That’s what we have in college football right now, with no reason to believe that next year’s championship game won’t be Clemson-Alabama.

Despite the fantastic seasons Oklahoma has had the past four years, having gone to the CFP in three of them, the Sooners are more like Owasso or Broken Arrow pre-2016 than they are Jenks or Union. The breakthrough is going to come, but we’re going to have to be patient and wait out Trevor Lawrence and Tua Tagovailoa.

The 2018 season got awfully frustrating at times until Mike Stoops was dismissed. We got two weeks of decent defensive play, and then the bottom dropped out. Oklahoma gave up 46 to Texas Tech and 47 to Oklahoma State and 40 to Kansas.

Yet we won every one of those games in a stretch of pure grit we haven’t seen since last season when the Sooners did the same thing.

I totally get it. Oklahoma has to get more physical. The Sooners have to get bigger. OU’s focus has to be on defense.

But with the hindsight that the end of the season gives us, can we muster some appreciation for the resiliency this team has shown for two consecutive seasons? It’s actually amazing that despite periods where it seemed as if none of the Sooners players even knew how to tackle that this squad pulled out win after win after win.

It speaks to the bond they have as brothers. It also speaks volumes about their head coach, Lincoln Riley, and his predecessor Bob Stoops, who was equally known for his gritty teams.

Riley got an extension and some more coin today, deservedly so. He’s running a great program, making tough decisions when the need arises and appears to be as aboveboard as it gets in the sometimes nasty world of college sports.

The truth is: Oklahoma might come in third or fourth the next five, six years in a row.

However, the Sooners are also THIS close to becoming the next Alabama.

I think Lincoln Riley is going to be obsessed with defense this offseason. While we might have to wait a couple years for it all to come together, the 2020-22 seasons look prime for at least one and likely multiple national championships.

Hallelujah & Hollywood: Marquise Brown practiced today for Sooners

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We’re three days from college football’s playoffs, a pair of semifinal matches stuffed in between relatively meaningless bowl games.

Oklahoma fans learned today that Heisman winner Kyler Murray wasn’t feeling well and missed media time. They also learned that Marquise Brown practiced.

“Thank the good Lord,” it was proclaimed even by the most agnostic football fans in the Sooner state.

Hollywood! And Hallelujah.

If only it were that easy. If dressing out for practice meant anything for sure. If Marquise’s injury was to his shoulder and not a lower extremity.

I’m not overly confident that Marquise Brown is going to be close to full-strength come Saturday night versus Alabama in the Orange Bowl.

But he doesn’t have to be to help Oklahoma. Mostly, he needs to be on the field and drawing Alabama’s best coverage. He’ll be the deadliest decoy in the sport, for one night.

Maybe Hollywood plays dead for a quarter and then busts out in the second. Maybe the third. Or the fourth.

Or maybe Marquise is good for a few possession catches and to free up other Oklahoma receivers. That’s a damned big deal if so.

Hollywood could finish the Alabama game with only a catch or two and have a major impact on the Sooners’ success.

But from one Sooner fan to another, can I give you some news that has me even more fired up?

Trey Sermon is healthy.

Remember when we lost Rodney Anderson for the season, and we thought all was lost relative to Oklahoma’s ground game?

All I have to say is: Trey Sermon + Kennedy Brooks. Oklahoma is going to have a full-strength running game.

Sermon brings the thunder, and Brooks flashes lightning. They’re both effective tools for the Oklahoma passing game.

And if Hollywood is out there drawing double-teams, whether he’s full-strength or as gimpy as Kerri Strug, he’ll be making opportunities for CeeDee Lamb and Grant Calcaterra and Myles Tease, Lee Morris, Sermon and Brooks.

So, will Hollywood Brown be ready to go at full-strength?

Don’t know.

But it sure looks as if, with three sleeps before kickoff, that Hollywood Brown intends to play.

And that is huge for the Sooners.

Can we agree that Lincoln Riley owns the Oklahoma defense next year?

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They allowed Kansas 544 yards of total offense including 405 yards on the ground.

On the ground, they allowed the Jayhawks 8.3 yards per carry.

The ‘they’ I’m referring to is 1-10 Rutgers, one of the worst teams in all of college football.

It could have as easily been Oklahoma. The Sooners, despite a 55-40 win, allowed Kansas 524 total yards, 348 on the ground and at a 9.7-yards-per-carry clip. Oklahoma’s pass defense was also on par with Rutgers’, given the common opponent.

Oklahoma is 10-1, and Rutgers is 1-10.

Thank God for the Sooners offense because this team — without Kyler Murray and a brilliant offensive mind in Lincoln Riley — could as easily be 3-9.

The downward spiral of the Oklahoma defense absolutely started with Bob Stoops, the third best coach in the history of Oklahoma football. The man has a national championship to his name, and he brought the Sooners an entire era of winning. However, the move toward the spread offense went from 1999 gimmick to plague for the entire Big 12 conference, whose teams never bothered to learn how to defend against it.

And in the past five seasons, Oklahoma has gone from a modicum of aggressiveness to playing a permanent prevent defense against virtually every team, per the strategy of Bob’s brother, Mike and a full staff of coaches who have supported him, including current interim defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill.

So, what’s the big deal, you ask? We’ll just out-score everybody.

You’re right, but that becomes tougher when you play teams out of conference, especially teams from the SEC, Big 10 or an Independent team like Army. The Black Knights, in a 28-21 loss, held the potent Oklahoma offense to 355 yards and four scores, and they did it with ball control.

Where this philosophical discussion becomes tougher to argue is in discussing Alabama. If you were to poll 1,000 pretty knowledgeable college football fans, I think they’d say (aside from Clemson), the two teams that stand the best chance against the Crimson Tide would be Michigan (because of its awesome defense) and Oklahoma (because of our unstoppable offense).

I firmly believe Oklahoma could beat Alabama under close-to-perfect circumstances, but that score would probably look like 52-49. Maybe as many as three or four out of 10 times.

But Oklahoma could also, potentially, lose to virtually any team in Division I on a close-to-perfect day.

The Sooners are an injured quarterback away, a head coaching change away from reverting back to the Blake years. I think it’s super naive not to see that, and it’s not the end of the world if that were to happen. Makes you appreciate the great years, right?

I’m of the firm belief that Lincoln Riley is at once an offensive genius and quite possibly woefully incomplete as a head coach. But he’s got the opportunity to right that side of the ball.

This year, the terrible defense is on Mike Stoops and, largely, too, Ruffin McNeill.

But next year, can we agree that Lincoln Riley owns this?

The Big 12 needs saving, and Iowa State provides the template

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Two games was all it took for the Oklahoma defense to return to its mediocrity, an underwhelming performance that is all too common in the Big 12.

Except for one team: Iowa State.

Matt Campbell is quietly leading a renaissance that the rest of the conference should pay close attention to. The Cyclones’ 20th-ranked defense was only good enough to hold Oklahoma to 37 points, but they are a refreshing step in the right direction for a conference in desperate need for better optics.

Oklahoma beat Texas Tech Saturday night 51-46, and West Virginia beat Texas 42-41 in games that I would characterize as complete garbage.

On the other hand, Alabama went to Baton Rouge and shut out LSU 29-0.

And that’s why we can’t have nice things.

Before this weekend’s games, Iowa State was No. 20 in total defense, allowing 323.3 yards per game. Against the Jayhawks, Iowa State held Kansas to 332 yards and three points. Oklahoma held Tech to 473 yards and 46 points.

By any standard, that’s poor. I see lots of defense of this type of performance, and it’s enabling and delusional.

After the game, Oklahoma defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill was quoted as saying, “My whole deal with winning guys, for 40 years, my motto has been ‘Win by one, let’s get out of here.'”

And that’s how I know he’s not the right guy for the job.

Defensive coordinators should be obsessed with takeaways and shutouts and bone-crunching hits, not merely giving up 9 on third-and-10. There’s no “bring the pain” mentality in college football anymore, well, except in the SEC.

That might be optics. Sure.

But 51-46 is ultimately bad for the brand, and as a conference, they need to work together to improve national perception of its defense. They need to beg Matt Campbell to stay in Ames because what he’s doing has a chance to flip the script not just in Ames but in Norman and Stillwater and Austin and beyond.

Let’s look at a common opponent.

Iowa State beat Texas Tech 40-31 but held the Red Raiders to 363 yards and 31 points. To be fair, two Texas Tech touchdowns against OU were on short fields after Kyler Murray interceptions. But also to be fair, Alan Bowman didn’t play the second half. If you’re being honest, you know that Tech wins that game if he plays.

So, how does Oklahoma get there defensively?

I don’t know. Ask Matt Campbell. Dude is doing it, and Iowa State is about to become a formidable force in college football if he stays.

A rising tide lifts all boats, and every team in the Big 12 should be borrowing from his playbook.

At this point, thank the good Lord for Iowa State. They’re making us all look better.

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