The Sooners' 52-26 win over Cincinnati yesterday almost perfectly encapsulated the reality of OU football in recent years, both good and bad. In fact, it's almost stunning how similar the Sooners' performance mirrored that of recent teams.
OU still boasts a high-powered offensive attack that can run and pass equally well, with plenty of big play potential. If anything, the Sooners might be even more diverse on offense than previous squads. The new no-huddle package looked fantastic against Cincinnati moving up and down the field with ease. It's a nice new wrinkle that gives opponents yet another aspect of the OU offense to worry about. The Sooners still have a dynamic ground game to fall back on when looking to ball-control opponents into submission.
Unfortunately, it was the same old story on defense as well. The Bearcats victimized OU with play-action passing and misdirection to reel off some big gains. Also, the poor tackling that has been so prevalent among OU defenders, particularly in the secondary, was on full display. Oddly enough, this was especially true in kick coverage, an area where the Sooners really haven't had many problems under Stoops.
Until the Sooners can figure out how to limit big pass plays on defense, how can they expect to compete with the likes of USC and Florida? Well, the OU D did offer a few reasons to believe things can change this year.
First, as good as the front four has been in the last few years, this group could be the best in the past five years, in Homerism's opinion. Tackles Gerald McCoy and DeMarcus Granger consistently overwhelmed Cincinnati's interior linemen. End Auston English was his usual disruptive self. However, the story of the day up front had to be defensive end Jeremy Beal. Beal was an absolute terror coming off the edge, and he looked more than ready to play the "spinner" spot, enabling defensive coordinator Brent Venables to utilize him much like he did Dan Cody in the past.
Second, once the Sooners settled down in the second half, the defense played an entirely different game. After drawing to within a score before halftime, the Bearcats had stolen all of the momentum the Sooners had created early in the game. However, the defense answered the bell to start the second half, limiting Cincinnati to just 26 yards in the third quarter.
All in all, the positives far outweighed the negatives on Saturday. Despite the occasional breakdowns, this was a very good win for OU. The Bearcats are a well-coached team with an outstanding defense. That alone is enough reason to think OU simply might be able to outscore opponents all season. If the defense can continue to match the performance of yesterday's second half, we might end up seeing OU playing for the national championship.