Oklahoma beating Tulsa by just two touchdowns on Saturday shouldn’t have shocked anyone in Soonerland. Even as 31-point favorites, OU was coming off an emotional win at Tennessee and kicking off a couple hours after rolling out of the rack.
How the Sooners played, on the other hand, undoubtedly raised the hackles of Bob Stoops and gave fans cause for concern. TU’s Baylor-inspired offense gave the OU defense fits, rolling up more than 600 yards in total offense. The Golden Hurricane reminded everyone at Owen Field what it was like watching the Bears get their jollies last year.
In the wake of this performance, the upcoming bye week comes at a great time for the Sooners. They now have extra time to clean up some of the issues that have surfaced in the last three games before conference play starts.
Other thoughts and observations:
*I’ve expressed my doubts about Baker Mayfield, but I’m glad to see him proving me wrong. His record-setting performance was the story on Saturday: 32-38 attempts, 487 yards, 4 touchdowns; 13 rushes, 95 yards, 2 rushing TDs.
Whereas OU’s quarterback gutted out last week’s W, he played nearly flawless ball against the ‘Cane. TU’s defense may bite, but that doesn’t diminish the quality of Mayfield’s execution.
All in all, Mayfield’s presence on the field boosts the entire O’s confidence. His steady play has been the story of non-conference play for OU.
*Rookie cornerback P.J. Mbanasor had a rough outing after getting a surprise start in place of suspended first-teamer Jordan Thomas. Honestly, the fact that Mbanasor would struggle makes sense. TU’s offensive scheme stresses a secondary as much as any in college football, and Thomas’ late scratch meant Mbanasor was coming into the game with limited time in practice.
Judging by how the Stoopses talked about Thomas after the game, I wouldn’t count on him seeing the field in the near future. Assuming that’s the case, I’d expect the coaching staff to focus on getting Mbanasor up to speed in the next two weeks and have him ready for conference play. Alternatively, OU might roll with second-year corner Marcus Green, who replaced Mbanasor in the fourth quarter.
Whatever the case may be, fans should take at least a little bit of solace in the idea that Thomas’ unexpected absence probably played a significant role in TU torching the D.
*In my mind, the bigger issue is OU’s nickel package.
Tennessee’s offensive scheme and personnel groupings allowed the Sooners to use their 3-4 base defense almost exclusively a week earlier. The D is at its best with Eric Striker and Devante Bond on the field – and Hatari Byrd off it.
I just don’t see much improvement in Byrd and starting safety Ahmad Thomas, but I guess there’s still time. Otherwise, maybe some of the highly regarded freshmen on the roster can find their way onto the field later this season.
*The Sooner receivers always block well, but this group takes it to another level.