WEEK 8 REPORT CARD
Quarterback – First, let’s focus on the positives. Gabriel has shown tremendous growth this season in not only decision-making but his ability to move inside the pocket. Multiple times in this game, he either stepped up or side-stepped the rush to complete a pass, some in very critical situations. He has also elevated his late-game play as he converted on multiple throws to Stoops and a monstrously important third-down conversion to Nic Anderson. That being said, the interception (Yes, Stoops should have caught it) was the result of holding on to the ball a “beat” too long. Stoops was able to cover so much grass and the DB could lock in on where the play was going, resulting in an injury-risking hit and a turnover for the Sooners.
That being said, he was one of OU’s best runners out of the backfield and made huge plays in crunch time, yet again, and finished with a solid stat line of 25/38 for 253 yards, 3 touchdowns, and one interception.
Wide Receiver – It was obvious from the onset that Oklahoma would miss Andrel Anthony. His ability to get open on the slant, curl, and go-balls gave Dillon Gabriel a safety net, particularly early in games, allowing him to get into a rhythm. That being said, Oklahoma’s receiver room continues to drive the bus for this offense. Nic Anderson hauled in five catches for 105 yards with two huge touchdown plays while Drake Stoops led the team with seven receptions, some coming at critical junctions of the game. Farooq had a quiet game by his standards but still was a major piece in the offensive scheme utilized to defeat Central Florida. Also feel like I need to acknowledge Jayden Gibson’s 17-yard grab to help move the sticks. If the blocking on the perimeter was better, and a few more missed tackles occurred in the open field, you’d be looking at another A-level game. However, the bar is set extremely high for this group going forward.
Running Back – It is arguable that Tawee Walker’s absence today was more critical to the offense than the loss of Andrel Anthony, at least as it relates to this particular game. Marcus Major continues to see a large share of the snaps but other than a handful of runs, struggles to break tackles, make people miss, and get the tough yardage you need a back to get. On a number of plays, you will likely have one unblocked defender, but in OU’s case, he’s been the player who consistently makes the tackle. The bright spot keeping this from being even lower than it is was Gavin Sawchuk’s late-game exploits. It seems he may have found himself a bit and if that is the case, a backfield with Sawchuk and Walker is one that the Sooners can lean on as they try to punch their ticket to Arlington, Texas.
Tight Ends – The film review of this game will be interesting as it felt like the Sooners ran the ball better with Stogner in the game as opposed to running with Gavin Freeman as the “little Y” but there are still a number of plays where he is simply outgunned by a more agile defender. However, his onside kick recovery was so critical that we must consider it when grading out the tight-end performance for today’s game.
Offensive Line – Oklahoma entered this game with the objective of dominating the line of scrimmage against a team that got obliterated multiple times on the ground this season. Coach Bedenbaugh has his work cut out for him in order to get this group performing at the level of his Joe Moore award-winning units. Lee Hunter absolutely worked Andrew Raym in today’s game. We thought Texas would be the biggest and baddest unit they faced all season but UCF rolled out some big boys who played with good technique and seemed to even “want it more” during specific stretches of the game. Tyler Guyton, who has been a fairly consistent player for Oklahoma looked defeated at times dealing with their pass-rush. Tre’Mon Morris-Brash showed why he was voted first-team all AAC last season as he bullied the Sooners offensive line to help clean up the perimeter run game and hurry Gabriel’s throws. OU sees Kansas next week and that game can be interesting if this same O-Line shows up to Lawrence, Kansas.
Defensive Ends – As it is with a number of games, this feels like a tough position to grade without going back and reviewing what happened, play-to-play, but it felt like the edge players for Oklahoma made life difficult on Plumlee and were contributing by handling their duties. Ethan Downs, for the second game in a row, had some highlight plays along with Trace Ford. It seems PJ Adebawore showed some of his youth today but still looks like a “dude” while Bothroyd was consistent for the Sooners as well. However, one player I want to highlight is R. Mason Thomas, who finally looks like he’s getting some burst back on the edge. Again, a tough one to grade but did not feel like they were at the root of the Sooners’ issues today.
Defensive Tackles – This game felt like UCF had far more than 149 yards on the ground with how the Sooners had tough stretches but the interior of Oklahoma’s defensive line continues to hold up well. There were moments where players were entirely bullied out of the play or simply played themselves out of making the tackle but the interior pressure was solid most of the game when Plumlee dropped back to pass. While there was not a lot of flash, OU still seemed to play well enough at DT to win by more.
Linebackers: Stutsman finished the game with 12 tackles as he continues to rack up stats in Oklahoma’s final season of the Big 12. His presence on some UCF drives helped them stall just shy of the red zone area, resulting in field goals instead of touchdowns. However, Jaren Kanak continues to look lost at times. It has been discussed on the forum but his play is very reminiscent of Danny Stutsman early on in his career where the flash plays are great but there are also a lot of plays where he is simply washed down by the guard or runs himself past the ball carrier. He also struggled at times to get depth in his drop which resulted in a Plumlee completion, typically for a first down.
Corners: Baker and Townsend were an absolute handful at times but Oklahoma’s corners never gave up. However, Woodi Washington did have some moments where he stopped trusting his technique, got handsy too early, and did not look back for the ball where the reception would have still been very difficult to make given how good of a position he was in. It also felt like the ability to shed blocks on the perimeter was not as good as it’s been in the previous weeks. However, had Oklahoma lost the game, it would not have come down to how the corners played.
Safeties: We will all be asking, “Where was Peyton Bowen?” His presence was sorely missed for a large chunk of the game. His ability to tackle in the open field and delete space makes him an important piece, particularly in the red zone. Some of the run-fit misses that Coach Venables spoke of felt a lot like areas where the safety was late or not there at all. You also have to look at the late-game touchdown where the DB’s need to switch and Bowman has to recognize that Sooner and squeeze the space on that receiver to force a tougher reception.
Field Goals/Extra Point/Kickoff: There was some criticism because this was not a failing grade against Texas. Why? Because this is what a failing grade looks like. Missing two critical field goals almost got the Sooners beat today.
Punting/Punt Coverage/Return: Splitting these up feels necessary going forward because punting was far better today. Freeman did a solid job of fielding some sky-balls today but did have one at mid-field where he needs to call for a fair catch instead of taking that hit. Prevent the fumble and prevent the head trauma, young man.
The Sooners’ victory felt like it could have easily been a loss. At the end of the day, 7-0 is 7-0, regardless of what the score was. Fans must feel hopeful that this might been the annual “dud” game that Oklahoma notoriously lays around this time of the season but instead came away with a victory. Head Coach Brent Venables can now fully move this team past the Texas victory and have some serious attention from the players as this time fights for six more victories. Next week presents another test for the Sooners but this week will be all about the small details keeping this team from reaching its full potential.
Overall grade: C+
Does the board agree with these grades? Too high or too low for some groups?