For the most part, Oklahoma Sooners fans probably saw what they hoped to see out of the team’s defense under interim coordinator Ruffin McNeill in a 52-27 win over TCU.
Despite a few costly lapses, OU’s defense only gave up 20 points. Two of TCU’s scoring possessions started on the Sooners’ side of the field. For the game, the Horned Frogs’ enjoyed excellent field position, starting each drive on average at their own 38. TCU’s average gain of five yards per play will go down as its second-lowest of the season.
Those all count as positive indicators. The fact that this game was close at halftime had more to do with special teams demon Kavontae Turpin than anything TCU was accomplishing offensively. OU also committed a motherload of inopportune penalties in the first half that helped TCU greatly.
The eye test yielded less bullish results – primarily because the TCU offense is a mess. Starting quarterback Shawn Robinson appears to be laboring under a lingering shoulder injury that limits his effectiveness significantly. Backup QB Michael Collins revitalized the team’s downtrodden O once he was inserted into the game, which raised fair questions about why he wasn’t behind center the entire game.
TCU’s usage of its ground game also seemed curious. Although he only rushed for 34 yards on 11 carries, physical running back Sewo Olonilua battered would-be tacklers in the second half. Darius Anderson averaged more than five yards a pop when he toted the rock – on a measly six carries.
Overall, TCU offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie likely did the Sooners a favor by declining to lean more on his ground attack.
The Horned Frogs’ own problems played a big role in the performance of OU’s D on Saturday. The D played with a level of energy and enthusiasm missing in recent weeks, but you could still find some of the same old sore thumbs sticking out. Don’t mistake OU’s defense as being “fixed” after just one game. Nevertheless, it’s a good start.
*I’ll need to go back and watch more closely, but McNeill and the rest of the defensive staff made some tweaks to personnel groupings that seemed to pay off in the short run. Most notably, Bookie Radley-Hiles played most of the game up close to the line of scrimmage at nickelback, rather than sticking him at deep safety.
I understand that playing Bookie at safety means keeping him on the field in all scenarios, but it also means sacrificing an effective nickelback for an average safety. Maybe the answer lies in figuring out how to play nickel against heavier offensive personnel.
*The substitution patterns were very encouraging. More players rotated in while the game was still being contested, rather than in blowout time. Not only were players fresher, but they also got an adrenaline shot from the influx of younger players on the field, such as safety Delarrin Turner-Yell.
*DTY was part of a new rotation at safety. I need to go back and watch to see what the personnel groupings looked like. TCU couldn’t do much to challenge this unit, so I’m going to hold off on any bold proclamations for the time being.
*For the re-watch:
What did the rotations look like for edge players?
Did anything stand out from the play of the safeties?
How did the four-man front with Kenneth Mann and Ronnie Perkins perform?
*While most of the attention will be focused on the D under the new regime, OU’s offensive line actually provided the story of this game. The unit as a whole has hit its stride in the last two outings after struggling to develop chemistry early in the season.
On Saturday, OU’s big uglies mashed out the Horned Frogs, with the Sooners pounding out nearly seven yards per carry. Ohio State had the highest per-rush average in TCU’s previous six games at 4.3.
The emergence of running back Kennedy Brooks helps, but OU is opening some enormous holes up front.
*Kyler Murray doesn’t get enough credit for how well he protects himself. I realize it looks like he’s making a lot of “business decisions” out on the field when he takes off running. The truth is that he’s not built to absorb a ton of punishment.
Having him out on the field should take precedence over a couple extra yards here and there.
*Obviously, Trey Sermon’s injury got most of the attention in the aftermath of the game, but Marquise Brown bears watching. OU’s training staff had to tape up his ankle pretty heavily to get him back on the field, and Murray didn’t look his way very often after he went down.
*For the re-watch:
OK, how the hell does Lee Morris keep doing this?
What kind of coverage schemes were being deployed by TCU to keep OU from going over the top of the defense?
What new wrinkles did Lincoln Riley throw out early to catch the Horned Frogs off guard?