It was not the result that the Sooners wanted, but there are many things both negative and positive that we can take away from this game. True freshman Gavin Sawchuk was the biggest bright spot in this loss in my opinion. Sawchuk in just his second game of the season rushed for 100 yards on 15 attempts and 1 touchdown. Sawchuk was very impressive in what was our first real look at him. Maybe it was just me but the way he runs seemed kind of similar to Rodney Anderson but much faster. Similar to what we saw out of Jalil Farooq and last year’s Alamo Bowl, Sawchuck took this opportunity and ran with it.
Sawchuk was not the only true freshman running back that was impressive as Jovantae Barnes played very good as well. Barnes had 108 yards on 27 attempts with one touchdown. Both Barnes and Sawchuk have elite potential and will both be problems in this offense. DeMarco Murray has done a great job with the running back room, and there will be no shortage of competition in that room this offseason. On a less positive note, the Sooners played many new faces on the offensive line due to them being without 4 starters and it was a bit shaky as expected. Savion Byrd got the start with Chris Murray being out and while he did show the physicality that everyone has been raving about, there were some shaky moments for him. Mostly penalties for Byrd as there were many of them, However, with it being his first start and going up against a good defensive line, you kind of have to expect those mistakes to happen.
Jacob Sexton left the game very early and was seen on crutches. With Sexton out, Aaryn Parks got pretty much all of those reps and didn’t necessarily play well, Not a great situation for Parks to be in as he was essentially a third-stringer in the regular season and was now asked to step in and block a potential first-round draft pick. The whole offensive line in general will need to improve this off-season. For McKade Mettauer I will keep it simple, I just haven’t seen it yet. While there may be some negative takeaways for the offensive line, the Sooners did run for 253 yards which is above average for them on the season.
Keeping it on the offensive side of the ball, I thought it was good to see Farooq get more involved. Kind of crazy that when you get your playmakers the ball the offense starts to get going. Farooq had 4 receptions for 59 yards and 1 touchdown. With star WR Marvin Mims’s decision up in the air, the Sooners may need a WR1, I believe Farooq has what it takes to fill that role. Defensively, I really liked what I saw from Danny Stutsman, 6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass breakup, and 1 QB hurry. Just seemed as if Stutsman played more aggressively tonight which is certainly a good thing to see.
I thought Isaiah Coe played well and made a few good plays. There are two takeaways I had from tonight with the defensive backs. The first one is that only 1 person in that defensive backfield should be guaranteed a starting spot next season and that is Billy Bowman. Secondly, It would be amazing if Key Lawrence was a less polarizing player because the good is there and you can see it but then the bad is there too with the missed tackles. Is the Kicker position a position battle this offseason? I think so.
I’m sure I said some things that many of you will disagree with, but one thing we can all agree on is that there are many moral victories here. To be fair the Sooners had no business being in this bowl game, 6-6 vs #13 in the country. Given the circumstances, I would say there is a lot to be encouraged by with this performance. As Hunter alluded to in his postgame article another 3-point loss is a pretty fitting way to end this season. That officially ends it for team 128. Team 129 will look a lot different next year.
Cover photo credits to Soonersports.com