Kind of a typical first game with a new offensive coordinator, new quarterback, a bunch of new wide receivers and a rebuilt offensive line. Lots of first game issues, including an abysmal number of penalties on punt returns, dropped passes by newcomers and early penalties on the OL.
Mayfield had a very good first game at QB and really sparked the Sooners after a rough start. His playmaking at QB was excellent – buying extra time on the wheel route to Joe Mixon, stepping up and lofting a TD pass to Dede Westbrook. He also came very close to hitting Westbrook for another long TD.
Even factoring in the drops, Mayfield had a 70 percent accuracy clip, and for an Air Raid offense, the yards per completion and per attempt were very high.
For all the preseason teeth gnashing about the running game, the running-passing balance was 45 percent to 55 percent. And Lincoln Riley emphasized a number of times that Akron was scheming to take away the run. Akron was daring OU to pass, and the Sooners threw for more than 400 yards.
*Clarity on offense
Saturday saw the return of a cohesive, "all-in” offensive scheme for the Sooners. At times the last two years, it’s seemed like OU has been trying to run several offenses:
- An Oregon-esque zone read QB run game;
- A pistol-based power running attack with no QB run game;
- Morphing back to a four-wide spread passing attack.
Love it or hate it, but OU committed to its new scheme.
Sure, it’s Akron, but save for one pass play and a fumbled punt, it’s a shutout on defense. Dominique Alexander with a good game 10 tackles (even better, 2.5 tackles for loss). The defensive front also played well, getting pressure and stopping the run while playing a lot of bodies.
*More playmakers on offense
OU got big plays from Mixon, Westbrook, Jeffrey Mead and Jarvis Baxter. It’s easy to see how Mark Andrews is going to be a third-down, move-the-chains weapon for Mayfield. Generating 438 yards passing with only 68 yards receiving from Sterling Shepard is a very good early sign.
*Austin Seibert’s debut
Lots of second guessing about having Seibert handle both kicking and punting. So far, so good.
His punting was excellent, and early in the game, it was key because OU was struggling. Even punting into the wind, Seibert did not give away field position to Akron.
His field goals were pure, clean-looking kicks. He looked every bit like the No. 1 high school kicker that he was acclaimed to be.
*Kickoffs and kickoff return coverage
The two kicks that gave Akron any possibility of returns were both smashed. The rest were easy touchbacks.
*OL early in the game and run blocking
OU had new starters in the OL, and it showed. False start penalties hurt drives. Holding penalties hurt drives, too.
Akron focused on stopping the run and was successful, so OU passed its way out of the issue. I think OU will continue to see defenses focus on stopping Samaje Perine, forcing the OU passing game to push the ball down the field. With a huge jump in competition at defensive line coming up, the OL is going to have to play a lot better to protect Mayfield and give him time to attack teams.
*Special teams penalties
Almost every punt return had a penalty, either a block in the back or holding. These penalties wiped out Shepard’s only good returns.
Shepard had two good returns. He also fumbled one, called for a fair catch when a return was there and got smashed going out of bounds on one. Overall, he did not react to Akron’s punter booming the ball and giving OU terrible field position.
Sadly, Mixon was not much better.
With all the skill players on the roster who excelled at this in high school, it’s strange that Bob Stoopskeeps rolling out Shepard.
*Trevor Knight’s pick
If you needed a clear example of why Knight is not starting, that pass should be evidence enough. Despite having a wide open check down to the left for a TD, Knight threw into triple coverage. In fact, that pass makes me wonder if the garbage minutes are not better given to Cody Thomas.
*The attempted reverse in the first quarter
When you aren't executing anything basic correctly, why try and run a gimmick play?
After game one, the biggest question is the alleged improvement of the Sooner secondary. Akron could do nothing in the air, so it’s hard to tell if the defensive backs have made a big leap forward.