A Bedlam win is never a bad thing for the Oklahoma Sooners, who clawed out a 48-47 victory Saturday over the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
The Sooners held steady in a situation that would have caused many teams to wilt under the pressure. In the process, they captured their fourth straight W in the series and in-state bragging rights for another year.
However, Lincoln Riley the offensive coordinator should probably admit that he hasn’t had the best two weeks. By extension, neither has Lincoln Riley the head coach.
OU saw any number of opportunities to drive a stake through the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday at Owen Field. Instead of thumping OSU’s defense with a grinding running game that the Pokes couldn’t stop, the Sooners insisted on taking to the air whenever they had a chance to separate themselves from the visitors. A prolonged run of misfires and mismanagement by Riley, quarterback Kyler Murray and the rest of the offense in the second and third quarters squandered the best stretch of play in the game by OU’s defense.
As OU’s offense seized up, the Cowboys hung around. The Sooners also racked up 70 yards in penalties in what appeared to be a concerted effort to make life even more difficult for themselves.
The same story played out for the Sooners the week before versus Texas Tech. Not surprisingly, it also resulted in an OU win that was way too close for comfort.
The Crimson and Cream defense got torched again Saturday, which wasn’t unexpected. OSU has one of the more potent offenses in the country, and Ruffin McNeill can’t work miracles. The limitations of OU’s defense are just part of the calculus now.
Unfortunately, in-game strategy and a lack of discipline have emerged as concerns at one hell of an inopportune time. Reaching the next milestone in OU’s 2018 season, a fourth straight Big 12 crown, will require Riley getting everyone’s heads right. Pronto.
*I have no idea what OSU was doing on the back end of its defense, but OU’s skill players all looked more indecisive turning upfield than they have at any other point this season. The Cowboys limited OU’s opportunities to turn shorter gains into chunk plays as well as any team the Sooners have faced this year.
*Of course, Marquise Brown’s health plays into that. The Sooners’ big-play threat has looked hobbled for weeks. He was even a step or so slower than usual on his 51-yard touchdown bomb in the second quarter.
Resting Hollywood versus Kansas next week wouldn’t be a bad idea.
*The Sooners averaged more than nine yards per play on offense versus OSU, the fifth time this year they have put up at least that much on a per-snap basis. That matches last year’s total for 14 games.
*I don’t understand Riley’s aversion to hunkering down and pounding teams when OU’s running game is humming. It’s like he refuses to even consider the possibility of leaning on the ground attack until late in a contest.
Is he doing it to needle me or something? I guess there is one reasonable explanation:
If so, get well soon, T.J. Pledger.
*Clock management at the end of the first half was awful.
*For the rewatch:
What made Murray more reluctant to pull the trigger on his passes?
How did OU’s pass protection hold up against OSU’s barrage of rushers?
What can Murray and Riley do to improve their approach to the pre-snap process?
*Where to begin? Let’s try the defensive line.
It feels as though we see the DL repeat the same pattern over and over. One week, the group takes a couple steps forward; the next, the gains are wiped out.
Even after moving to a four-man defensive front, OU’s defensive linemen just can’t generate pressure on the quarterback with any degree of consistency. Likewise, they don’t penetrate into the backfield versus the run.
I think the defense would benefit from even more substitutions up front. Kenneth Mann played every single snap in the game, for example. That would mean having another four-tech/five-tech defensive end ready to go, though, and there’s little evidence that the coaching staff feels confident in the bench right now. (Makes the news about Jalen Redmond sitting out the rest of the year even more of a blow.)
All in all, OU can get by with this unit, but they need some reinforcements, especially if the other team is going to run 90 plays.
*Back to SAM linebacker for Caleb Kelly after spending most of the year practicing inside. Yeesh.
*OU’s defense forced a fumble, which is akin to seeing a unicorn. Next up: A meaningful interception.
*Tre Norwood had a game to forget, but it also looked as though he wasn’t getting the help he expected from Jordan Parker at times. Parker is still working through some transition costs with that shift from cornerback to safety.
The state of OU’s safeties is just... Man.
*Was there any doubt what was going to happen on the Pokes’ final touchdown when OU dropped eight defenders into coverage?
*The closer Bookie Radley-Hiles can play to the line of scrimmage, the better.
*For the rewatch:
Can McNeill afford to devote more resources on the back end to contend with the deep ball when OU takes on West Virginia?
How did Tyreece Lott play in limited time?
What did Caleb Kelly bring to the table by moving back to SAM?