This summer, writers, radio hosts, fans and the like frequently asked me to try to quantify the adverse impact of Bob Stoops’ retirement on Oklahoma’s football program. It’s an impossible question to answer; yet, it’s a natural one when you consider that Stoops oversaw so much success in his nearly two decades as head coach of the Sooners.
OU’s revenge win at Ohio State on Saturday night suggested that the Crimson and Cream might make out alright with Lincoln Riley at the helm.
Dare I say it, but the OU team on the field at Horseshoe reminded me a lot of the early squads from Stoops’ tenure. The players looked loose. They shook off a mistake-filled first half - and OSU’s strong start in the second - to cruise to a 31-16 win that wasn’t even that close.
Young players didn’t blink when they had to step in for injured veterans. A walk-on scored a touchdown. The Sooners razzled and dazzled with Kyler Murray briefly in the game at quarterback to spell a cramping Baker Mayfield.
Riley and his staff implemented a decisive game plan, and their confidence in what they were doing clearly rubbed off on their players. It was Stoops circa 2000 to a T.
The Sooners have a long way to go to prove that this team and the program as a whole have recaptured that same aura. But this was one hell of a start.
*The efforts to draw a parallel between Mayfield and other quarterbacks are futile. He is his own animal - neither a pure system guy nor the platonic Quarterback.
Riley seems to strike the perfect balance of giving the offense enough flexibility within its overall structure to make Mayfield’s moments of improvisation even more effective.
*OU has a long history of great fullbacks, but Dmitri Flowers has arguably elevated himself above all others with his role in the Sooners’ passing game. You could argue he’s their most reliable receiving threat at this point.
*Although CeeDee Lamb looks poised to supplant Flowers there.
*I actually thought Ohio St.’s vaunted defensive line was as good as advertised. OU’s offensive line more than measured up.
*On a related note, Trey Sermon held up well, especially late in the game when the Sooners were bleeding the clock. Always a good sign when you can run on a defense like OSU’s even when everyone knows what’s coming.
*All in all, the O left plenty of yards and points on the field, but still played a dominant game.
*Mike Stoops deserves plaudits for coming up with the game plan, but OU’s defenders played their asses off last night. (I will take a closer look at another viewing to see if they did anything out of the ordinary schematically.) In particular, they did a good job bottling up J.K. Dobbins and speedy receiver Parris Campbell. They have clearly upgraded the athleticism and speed across the board.
My one note of caution: Ohio State’s passing game is a mess. This was a far different test from what the Sooners will see weekly the rest of the way this year.
*OSU offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson probably did the D a favor by not running Dobbins more.
*Ogbonnia Okoronkwo gave the OSU offensive line and J.T. Barrett the blues. He ended up notching 2.5 tackles for loss, but that doesn’t measure just how disruptive he was.
Ogbo made some NFL money last night.
*Parnell Motley also had a hell of a game. He probably got screwed out of a second interception.
So far, it looks as though secondary coach Kerry Cooks has done a fantastic job developing Motley in the span of a year from a super-raw prospect into a physical cornerback with great instincts.