You knew an emotional letdown was coming and that it was going to be impossible for OU to be hyped for Tulane after the celebrations in Columbus a week earlier.
Just one look at Tulane’s film on offense, and you knew that an unfocused OU defense with little practice time would be vulnerable early. And that’s exactly what happened.
If there is one legit concern three games in, it might be the lack of facing a legit passing threat so far. Lots of defensive prep has focused on QB-heavy run games.
He was on his way to the best ever performance by a freshman wide receiver for the Sooners before getting tossed for targeting. He’s becoming a go-to target for Baker Mayfield and is probably the best intermediate WR on the roster. A thousand-yard receiving season is definitely in his sights, even with this shortened game. (Does anyone really doubt Lamb was going for two bills if he had stayed in the game?)
We will get to the penalty later.
Mayfield’s execution level is at such an absurd place that a line of 300-plus yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions seems average because he left at least 14 points on the field and another 100 yards easy.
The bomb fest in the third quarter bomb was puzzling when the middle of the field was there to exploit with passes to backs and tight ends.
After the fumble in the Ohio St. game, it was nice to see Abdul Adams get going again. He flashed the moves and speed from the UTEP game and had a big time run of 50 yards to set up an OU score. It was also nice to see him get his first TD from a Mayfield pass in the second quarter.
Brown was a huge pickup in recruiting, with OU battling West Virginia and USC for his signature. He’s been off to a bit of a slow start, but we are starting to see how his elite speed should be used to stretch defenses. Beyond the bomb from Kyler Murray for the TD, Brown made a number of smaller plays that were enhanced by his great speed.
Remember that Brown is only a sophomore. The rest of the Big 12 should be worried.
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Neville Gallimore, in particular, took over in the second half, forcing tackles for loss on early downs and crushing the pocket on some of Tulane's third-and-long attempts. Once OU got Tulane off-schedule, the OU defense dominated.
Defensive score/forcing turnovers
Most of the time last year during OU's defensive woes, the Sooners just had no one able to make a key defensive play.
Last week, Parnell Motley made the first of hopefully many game-changing pick-sixes. Kenneth Murray flashed some of his ceiling when he stopped an option QB pitch, forced a fumble and then recovered it. It was the kind of play making that could turn momentum around in a place like Manhattan or Stillwater.
In previous years, OU has emptied the bench late and sometimes watched leads evaporate. This time, we got to see players like Jon-Michael Terry, Mark Jackson, Addison Gumbs, Tre Brown and Kenneth Mann flying around making plays. OU is building depth and experience again on defense.
The team came out flat.
The bizarre offensive pass interference and fumble by Mark Andrews early in the game did not help matters. The fumble led to fast start by the Tulane offense, featuring missed tackles by OU defenders.
The Sooners OU looked like they had an Ohio St. hangover.
Quarter-and-a-half of defense
Quick OU scores both and defensive struggles led to a serious time of possession issue. The OU defense was on the field for almost the entire first quarter and most of the second.
The other big problem was that Matt Romar got hurt almost immediately, while Du’Vonta Lampkin was serving a suspension. Marquise Overton had to man the nose guard spot by himself, and Tulane kind of smashed him around a little while the linebackers and defensive backs were missing their gap assignments – and tackles.
Lampkin and Romar don’t get the pass rush that Overton can generate, but right now, they do a better job clogging up the interior. Throw in some passes completed on Steven Parker to help move the chains, and Tulane's offense had OU on the ropes a little.
Overemphasizing the deep pass
At times on Saturday, Mayfield seemed focused on going downfield when the middle of the field was consistently open. It increased after Lamb was ejected. It appears that Mayfield does not trust Jeff Badet and Marquise Brown as much in the clutch, move-the-chains role as WRs.
Is it time to get Charleston Rambo off the bench at WR?
I won’t belabor the targeting issue that’s gotten massive coverage everywhere. That absurd call was egregious.
But the crew’s failures down after down to call the blatant holding by the Tulane offensive line was perhaps their biggest offense. The Green Wave offense was able to stay on schedule thanks to this hold-everyone-you-can strategy.
Jeff Mead’s game
I hate calling out a single player in the bottom part of the review, but Mead seems to be regressing into a total funk.