Season openers for the Oklahoma Sooners in recent years have tended to fall on the sleepy – if not occasionally disastrous – side, but what they did against the Florida Atlantic Owls on Saturday wasn’t that.
With a veteran defense and a high-octane offensive attack, FAU was supposed to at least test a new-look OU team. It didn’t come close to playing out that way, as the Sooners never looked seriously challenged in rolling to a 63-14 win.
While most eyes around the country were fixed on OU’s new starting quarterback, Kyler Murray, the bigger story was a defense that held Lane Kiffin’s offense in check. The Owls accumulated just 133 yards of total offense in the first half. Six of FAU’s nine drives went three and out in the first two quarters – the Owls converted just one of 10 third- and fourth-down conversions.
Notably, FAU’s vaunted running game averaged just a shade over three yards per attempt for the entire game and 2.5 yards per rush in the first half.
Let’s be real: The Owls’ hyped offense was more sizzle than steak. They did most of their damage a year ago versus Conference USA opponents, and FAU QB Chris Robison appeared overwhelmed in his first start.
No one should think Mike Stoops has built some kind of Steel Curtain based on this game. After what OU has done on D for the last two years, it still represents a great start on that side of the ball.
Other odds and ends:
*My biggest complaint about the defense’s performance today is a familiar one: The Sooners’ tackling was shoddy far too often. They look as though they have no idea how to stop anyone in the backfield when they have them corralled.
*Ronnie Perkins and Bookie Radley-Hiles brought a ton of energy and hustle to the field. In particular, Perkins rallied to the ball well and helped finish off plays. Wonder if there’s a way to get him on the field with Kenneth Mann at the same time.
Speaking of which…
*I don’t know if losing Addison Gumbs for the year hurts so much from a playmaking perspective. Nothing I heard coming from OU’s camp in August suggested that he could replace Ogbonnia Okoronkwo as the next great JACK linebacker.
Depth at the position is dwindling quickly, though, with freshman Jalen Redmond also sidelined for the season. If the JACK position isn’t going to be a plus performer, is it worth trying out a four-man front with Mann and Perkins at the edges?
*Ryan Jones got plenty of burn at SAM LB. Goes to show how much that depth chart released on Thursday was really worth.
*The rotating on the defensive line was promising. I think the Sooners have tended to overwork their linemen in the past, especially when they’re facing so many uptempo offenses. Hopefully this is a sign that they feel more comfortable with the depth they have up front.
*Some of the things I’ll look for on the rewatch:
- How did the WILL LBs fare?
- How was Stoops matching up personnel?
- Were there any multiple offenders when it came to bad tackling?
- Just how “multiple” were OU’s fronts?
*What was the degree of difficulty for Kyler Murray and crew? FAU brought back 10 starters from a unit that finished last season ranked 52nd nationally in Defensive S&P+, 73rd in DFEI and 79th in ESPN’s defensive efficiency metric. So somewhere between “OK” and “not terrible.”
With that in mind, OU absolutely diced FAU up. The good guys churned out nearly 13 yards per snap in the first half. They even ended up moving at a clip of about 8 yards per play in the second half while waiting out the string.
*We saw what Murray can do with his feet, but OU didn’t call many designed runs and read plays for him. Given the uncertainty around Austin Kendall now, I wonder how much we’ll see of those calls at all this season.
*As a passer, Murray was about what I expected. The arm strength is clearly there. He drilled a few nice throws on short and intermediate routes. A clear misfire or two, including one where Marquise Brown bailed him out on an underthrow.
All in all, Murray put together a solid day at the office – only 11 attempts to go on. I suspect Lincoln Riley used a skeleton playbook, so we’ll get a better sense of what Murray can do soon enough.
*For the rewatch:
- What happened at the tackle spots?
- What kinds of throws is Murray most comfortable making?
- How did Carson Meier play at H-back?
- Any wrinkles out of the two-back formations?