WEEK 11 REPORT CARD
Quarterback – Obviously going to see a two-part answer here as Sooner fans got to see the Jackson Arnold era begin (and the redshirt official burned) as he helped close the game for Oklahoma. However, Dillon Gabriel started for the Sooners and continued his good play from a week ago, even if it took the offense some time to regain its footing. When he left the game, he was 13/21 for 191 yards with a handful of big third-down conversions. He was moving the Sooner offense, primarily with big chunk plays before taking a hit that sent him quickly to the ground, likely resulting in a concussion or possible neck injury. When Jackson Arnold came in, he was certainly hurried at times but settled down enough to move the offense and pick up some key third downs. Gabriel will obviously be tested throughout the week so it’ll be interesting to see how the staff manages that in a short week.
Grade: Gabriel: B+ / Arnold: C+
Wide Receiver – Once again, the ball was spread around the field and a number of receivers made some critical catches to help move the chains. There is not any egregious drop that stands out as remember back and there was quite a bit of YAC yardage picked up by the Sooner receivers. Gibson stood out as the star today with two huge plays, one going for a critical score when OU needed to convert. Once again, Drake Stoops is the consistent playmaker and Farooq got in on the action with 5 receptions. As we stated after the KU game, it has been beneficial to target the combination of Farooq/Anderson/Gibson. If perimeter blocking is better, they probably come up with an A grade on the day.
Running Back – Is it just me or is the run game only as good as Coach Lebby will allow it to be at this point? Sawchuk has become the primary back and finally is running with a rhythm and pace that is reminiscent of the Florida State game last bowl season. Walker has become a true change of pace, bruising back and the shortened rotation has allowed for more success on the ground. Sawchuk, once again, goes for more than 100+ yards and seals the game with a tough touchdown run after Arnold assumed the role of quarterback.
Tight Ends – A couple of plays sprinkled in there by Stogner that keep this from being as bad as it could have been, one being a big third-down conversion but I just don’t understand why Lebby continues to use him so much in space as a primary, play-side blocker.
Offensive Line – The offensive line did have some momentary lapses but the run game has found its groove and part of me really likes seeing Sexton out there, at least when it comes to running the rock. Raym certainly got whipped on a few plays, as did Mettauer, but overall a solid performance where the offensive line was not the reason for OU’s lack of separating in this contest. The talented young players continue to shine to me.
Defensive Ends – I posted on X that my biggest concern with this team is the peaks and valleys from week to week. It’s as if there are two different Sooner teams that can show up. One is an aggressive, confident bunch that plays extremely fast with great technique and another is the bunch that plays on their heels, letting everything come at them and lacking the fight to win one on one’s. A few things that truly stand out is how poor the pass-rushing technique is from some of the players on that side of the ball. Adebawore has made minimal improvement in this area when he should be making jumps each week. He, as well as players like Mason-Thomas aren’t utilizing their length and strength to free their hands or cutting the corners by dipping their shoulders. Now add that even the veteran players struggled on the edge and it was a recipe for a long game today for Oklahoma.
Defensive Tackles – As much as we need to say talent needs to improve, it was pointed out to me again and again by our team here at Sooners360 that BYU is not only awful running the football… they literally came into the game as the conference’s worst rushing team. Yes, there were other areas of issue but because players did not win on the interior, linebackers consistently had to try and make one-on-one tackles where the runningback has any angle of elusive maneuver he would like to get to at his disposal. It is a recipe for disaster if the defensive interior cannot press the issue to some degree and force the back to hesitate in the hole. Additionally, outside of a handful of plays, there was not much pass rush and often the quarterback had a clean pocket to deliver the ball to his receiver.
Linebackers: This group had probably their worst outing of the season in this one and their grade is slightly saved because of Stutsman’s big forced fumble late in the game, as well as some earlier pressures that contributed to poor throws. That being said, I also felt they were not done any favors by the front Oklahoma elected to deploy and when the defensive line did not win, the backers were forced to make difficult tackles in space. However, there were still far too many plays where just getting off a block or taking a better angle would have contributed to lost yardage but the backers failed to do so. Additionally, Kanak had a few awful plays in there but was quickly removed and even Stutsman had a couple of misses in the open field that he usually converts on. Again, this grade is saved by 28’s forced turnover.
Corners: Beginning to see a pattern as the grades keep resembling what this game felt like… average to below average play, and some moments that were downright awful. Oklahoma absolutely misses Gentry Williams and his ability to tackle well on the edge. They are not getting the same aggressive-style nature there when it comes to making plays in space on the edge. They have also really struggled lately breaking on the ball. Even with the bad turf, even in weeks prior there have been issues with leveraging the sideline to help you make the play as well as getting caught flat-footed in space and allowing a receiver to get behind and take a 45-degree angle in whatever direction they would like.
Safeties: Some of the rotations in this one were interesting and it never felt like anybody got comfortable. Far too much air space in the secondary contributed to too many easy throws for the BYU quarterback. Spears-Jennings made some good tackles but partly because he was a beat late in breaking up the pass. Bowman struggled in this contest but also elevated the grade because of his huge play at the goalline to help the Sooners come away with the victory.
Field Goals/Extra Point/Kickoff: “Data Kyle” won’t believe it but dammit I’m going to do it, even in a win… Something needs to change with field goal kicking.
Punting/Punt Coverage/Return: While the BYU punter did sky some punts today, it’s safe to say that Freeman needs a coach to help him dial in on how to assess whether or not a punt is a good take or not. There are far too many occasions where he fair catches it with space or does the opposite, taking a big risky hit when he does not need to. A lot of this is natural ability, spatial awareness, and the like but some of it can also be coached up in a younger player. Staff needs to help him out or look at other options.
BYU is coming off of multiple thrashings from the likes of the Big 12 conference “mids,” yet the Sooners were not able to do the same. Some people will scream, “You cannot use the transitive property to hold a team to achieve a certain outcome,” but what we are talking about here is a football team that was just not good, as well as depleted. This team ranked last in scoring offense, last in total offense, last in rushing offense, and 13th in passing offense. That is what we would call a bad offense and the Sooners struggled far more than they should have.
Another thing I highlighted that leads me to wonder if some of the issues are coaching and game-prep related is the peaks and valleys of each week. Last week, albeit at home, Oklahoma beat a much better West Virginia team and dominated on both sides of the ball for 85% of the game. Following that up with a contest that much more resembled the two weeks preceding the West Virginia game and it leaves Oklahoma fans scratching their head at what could be the issue.
The Sooners got the win, and if the offense had a few more chances with the defense getting off the field more, I believe they would have put up at least 40 points, however, it’s a team game with three sides of the ball. That being said, I’m not going to be in “failing territory but the overall performance does fall into below-average standards.
Overall Grade: C-
Does the board agree with these grades? Too high or too low for some groups?