This season has been a bizarre combination of different quarterbacks, crippling injuries and some of the best road efforts by Bob Stoops' teams in the last 5 years. The Oklahoma State game was no different with surprise heroes, more injuries and a phenomenal game-winning drive.
Saunders keeps saving OU’s season, arriving just in time like some superhero. His punt return versus OSU turned the game around, the same way he did versus Iowa State. It tied the game and erased the poor showing from the offense in the initial series. Saunders' play at wide receiver was huge, too, and OU used him creatively on a key 4th down play and on another well-designed reverse. He was a one-man gang for the Sooners.
Blake Bell’s game-winning drive
Bell showed poise and command not seen since South Bend.
Not quite sure why OSU went to the prevent defense late in the game. OSU defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer had to think that there was no way Bell would accurately string together a series of passes. Bell was decisive, used his mobility and, save for the terrible jump ball thing, he was accurate. His passes to Saunders on the final drive might have been his best of the year (Lacoltan Bester's TD catch at ND before the end of the first half being the main competition).
Bell’s baffling career at QB for OU just added another chapter.
The fake field goal
This was a great call and well designed with three options:
- Holder Grant Bothun could have thrown it to the tight end if he was uncovered;
- Bothun could have run it in if that was open;
- Or he could have flipped it to Michael Hunnicutt if that was open.
The fact that Bothun managed to throw the ball behind the line of scrimmage to Hunnicutt was pretty amazing.
Clay ran tough all day. He didn't have great stats, but he ran tough. He moved the chains and was a key part of the Sooners' offensive drive in the second quarter that tied the game.
When there was room, Clay got yards. His clutch move on the swing pass on the game-winning drive to get OU to the Pokes' 8-yard line and then to get out of bounds was huge.
The Sooner D came to play and held the Cowboys to nearly half their scoring average. Mike Stoops seemed to change things up on 1st down to stop Desmond Roland from gashing the Sooners. That led to more 3rd-and-long situations for OSU where OU pressured Clint Chelf into bad decisions.
OU finished the year with its first top 20 total defense in five years.
Overall, I felt like Julian Wilson maybe had his best day as a Sooner. While other secondary players were giving up big passes or not making plays on the ball, Wilson got the big interception that led to OU's game-tying drive.
Barnett had a very good day punting the ball, dropping the Cowboys inside their own 10 three times. Overall, his punting was solid, and OSU’s punt return game was nonexistent. In bad weather, Barnett made zero mistakes.
The good and the bad
Heupel, like most OU offensive coordinators, has been pigheaded for most of the season. Saturday, though, he seemingly vacillated between genius and moron even more than usual.
The 4th down call in the second quarter? Brilliant.
The scheme design on the reverse in the third quarter? Brilliant.
Having Kendal Thompson throw all over the field? Ignoring Brennan Clay for most of the second half? Not letting Trevor Knight run the read option exclusively? Too many called runs to Clay? WTF?
Maybe the QB shuffle is causing all of this indecision. It’s hard to tell.
Maybe Bob wants to limit how much Knight runs to avoid injuries. It’s hard to tell.
The really bad
The linesman seemed determined to stop the Sooners from getting first downs when they passed to Jalen Saunders. The replay guys never overruled the poor calls on spots.
The almost very bad
When Frank Shannon got hurt and Caleb Gastelum had to play the MIKE linebacker, I started having a horrible flashback to the 2008 Red River Shootout. Time jumping like that can be awfully traumatic.
Where do we go from here?
*A great win by Bob and his assistant coaches, who badly outcoached their counterparts. Thanks to Bowling Green knocking out Northern Illinois, OU now has a date with the Alabama Crimson Tide in New Orleans.
*The talking heads are giving OU no chance at all in this game. It will be a good showing if OU can keep the final score within 14 or 17 points.
Bob will love coaching off this kind of disrespect, and this team seems to thrive on it as well. Still, 'Bama is a very talented, well-coached football team.
*The question of the day/week/month/season still remains: Who is OU’s QB?
Knight wasn’t having a great day before he got hurt. Thompson looked shaky in his first real test. The great enigma, Blake Bell, probably played his best game since the ND victory. But can the coaches realistically know what they are going to get out of Bell at this point?
*My inclination would be to start Knight if he’s healthy. 'Bama has had issues with the zone-read running game and mobile QBs. It seems as though Nick Saban struggles to scheme for the freelancing element.
When you are predictable in personnel and scheme, that’s where Saban will get you every time. But the read option minimizes that preparation advantage, as does mobility at QB. Think about the QBs who have beat Saban at 'Bama – Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, Utah guy, Tim Tebow.