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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.

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.

Horns Down? The NFL has figured out what college hasn’t

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A few years ago, you wouldn’t have ever heard me say that the NFL was more fun to watch than college football.

The tailgating. The atmosphere. The tradition.

But now, between 74-72 football games and conference rules stifling even the most modest of player celebrations, I find myself at the end of the college football season eagerly awaiting its end — and it’s been like that for at least the past five years. Mind you, when the Sooners make the College Football Playoff, I’ll be gung-ho if but for one more day.

Today’s decision by the Big 12 Conference to penalize Oklahoma if a Sooner player, or coach presumably, makes a “horns down” gesture just cements the conference among a sea of snowflakes in an over-sensitive universe. Of course, the rule-follower that I am, I’m not overtly among those who are suggesting the Sooners as a team do it at the beginning of the game — but the conference has practically begged for it, and I bet we see something a la Georgia-Florida a few years ago.

Lol, this was awesome, btw.

Georgia went on to win 42-30, fwiw.

This isn’t even an OU vs. Texas issue. We both agree.

Are we going to ask Longhorns fans not to chant, “OU Sucks!”? Never. If I don’t hear “OU Sucks,” how am I to even believe it’s Texas?

It’s part of the game. Heck, does anybody remember that once upon a time, Longhorns and Sooners would line up along Commerce and basically drunkenly yell at each other for hours?

My capacity for caring about this topic hasn’t even lasted as long as the writing of this post, except to say this: The NFL figured it out. In desperate need of a PR boost in the wake of Anthem Kneeling ’17, the league decided to let their players have fun again.

They allowed them to celebrate touchdowns.

The horror.

And, trust me: there is plenty of shade being thrown in some of these celebrations. It just takes a little sleuthing.

But besides it being the right thing to do, it’s smart marketing. If we’re going to have to sit through a four-hour 59-56 game, let’s see these guys bring their best celebrations. Heck, get the audience in on it and have a vote for the celebration of the game in the fourth quarter for $25,000 to a worthy charity?

Lighten the heck up already.

Cover photo is from soonersports.com.

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.

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.


Baker Mayfield’s Cleveland Browns debut was about what I expected

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It’s tough being a Cleveland Browns fan.

I’ve been one for only one game, so maybe it’s not so tough. The Brownies are 1-0 on the young preseason thanks to a good first drive by Tyrod Taylor and two super solid quarters from No. 1 draft pick Baker Mayfield, resulting in a 20-10 win over the New York football Giants.

For the record, I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan by birth, but I’ve wandered like Jimmy Swaggart over the years. I’m currently following the Los Angeles Rams because I like their uniforms, the Jacksonville Jaguars because of their unis and the fact that they nearly dethroned the Patriots last year.

And the Browns.

Because Baker.

Because I’m a Sooner, and that dude was the greatest Sooner of them all.

Was he a better quarterback than Sam Bradford? Don’t know about that.

Was he a better passer than Jason White? Don’t know about that.

But Oklahoma fans had prayed and prayed for somebody with a transformational spirit about him, somebody whose energy was as contagious as Tim Tebow’s — and we got him in Baker Mayfield. I’d guess that 95% of all Cleveland Browns fans are in Ohio (where Baker’s flag is already planted, ha ha).

The other five are in Oklahoma. Seriously. There’s Browns gear in every sports store in the Sooner State.

What makes Baker a hell of an NFL prospect was on display tonight. The dude can place the pig where nobody else but you can catch it, and he can do it in a way that doesn’t risk your body and that leads you into the clear.

Mayfield’s first touchdown pass came with 6:43 to go in the half, a 10-yard strike to David Njoku, who caught two touchdowns against the Giants. The tight end from the U was all about the scores Thursday night, finishing with 46 yards on two receptions, both scores. However, it was Mayfield’s pass into triple coverage that attracted all the attention.

He put it where only Njoku could have gotten it.

It was the same deal when Mayfield fired an across-the-middle strike to Antonio Callaway for a 54-yard touchdown with 13:37 left in the game to give the Browns their final margin of victory, 20-10.

Sure, Baker showed off his legs a couple times on crucial third downs, but he didn’t look like Cam Newton running the ball.

And it’s hard to tell the extent to which Baker has the ear of the rest of the club. At Oklahoma, Mayfield had a way of getting everybody around him on board with the plan, and those guys would have taken a bullet for him.

That very well could happen in Cleveland.

Having watched HBO’s first episode of “Hard Knocks,” I’m not 100 percent sure Hue Jackson is the type of coach who’s going to turn around an organization like Cleveland. He’s not rah-rah enough. I recall watching the Cardinals’ season on “Hard Knocks” and thinking, “Bruce Arians is a guy who can affect change.”

We’ll see.

What’s particularly exciting for Browns fans and even me, a first-time Cleveland Browns rooter, is that if they could get Josh Gordon back (and keep him off drugs) and if they could somehow lure Dez Bryant to the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland would be set up quite nicely at the receiving corps.

Njoku is solid, and Jarvis Landry is already fantastic.

I’m sure Tyrod Taylor is a talented dude, and he seems to be a terrific guy.

But Baker Mayfield demonstrated throughout his college career an uncanny ability to place a football precisely where it needs to go. And then he turns around and does it for two scores in his NFL debut, albeit preseason.

What will eventually separate Mayfield from his competition, however, is that he’s a transformational leader. People flock to him. They want to play with him, play for him and will get on board (eventually) with whatever he wants to do on the field.

Even though it was just a preseason game, tonight’s effort against the Giants was a fantastic start to the NFL career of Baker Reagan Mayfield.

I’m not crazy. I don’t have him booked for Canton already.

But of all the people on planet Earth, Mayfield is probably the last dude I’d bet against.

Cleveland should be very excited to have this guy on their team.

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