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Posts of category  "Oklahoma Football"

GameDay Final: Kickoff Week lives up to the hype

 

The start of the 2016 college football season was billed as the greatest opening weekend in the sport’s history.

It delivered everything we wanted — and then some.

The action started at the crack of dawn with the first kickoff in Dublin, Ireland, and ended well past midnight PT in Wyoming. We were treated to surprising upsets, exciting finishes, incredible comebacks, inspiring returns by injured players and another dominant performance by the defending national champions.

We hadn’t even reached nightfall on the East Coast before seeing two top-5 teams fall. No. 3 Oklahoma lost to giant-killer Houston 33-23, and No. 5 LSU lost to unranked Wisconsin 16-14 at Lambeau Field. Not since 1972 have two top-5 teams lost during the first week of a season.

It was a resounding statement by the No. 15 Cougars, who look like a legitimate College Football Playoff threat. They’ll be an overwhelming favorite to win the American Athletic Conference for the second season in a row, and they’ll get another chance to impress the CFP selection committee when they play at No. 19 Louisville on Nov. 17.

It also wasn’t a bad audition for the Big 12, which is considering adding Houston as a new member.

“We were prepared to win,” Cougars coach Tom Herman said. “We expected to win. We train to win. It wasn’t about making a statement, it was about going 1-0 the first week of the season.”

As for LSU, once again, the Tigers’ offense was the team’s undoing, and coach Les Miles is right back on the hot seat, after he barely survived a push to fire him last season.

“We knew what was at stake this season,” LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White said. “Our goal is to win it all and go undefeated. It’s a hurtful feeling.”

The top-5 upsets did not extend into prime time. No. 1 Alabama steamrolled No. 20 USC 52-6 in Arlington, Texas. The Crimson Tide struggled on offense early, but then turned to freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more.

 

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Oklahoma can get back in the playoff mix, but not without fixing some big issues

HOUSTON — The Oklahoma Sooners know better than most that a single loss doesn’t necessarily doom a season. After all, they rebounded from a seemingly disastrous defeat to Texas last October to surge into the College Football Playoff.

But after starting this season with a dud, Oklahoma’s margin for error these next 11 games is now zilch. Which, given the defects that surfaced Saturday, means that returning to the playoff is an undertaking that will require an almost immediate turnaround.

“Had nothing to do with coming in ready to play or playing hard — we didn’t play very smart,” coach Bob Stoops said after his team fell to Houston 33-23 in a game the Sooners never were really in after the third quarter.

“We’re not where we want to be.”

Oklahoma had better get back there — and fast.

In two weeks, Ohio State will arrive in Norman with an explosive offense and an elite quarterback in J.T. Barrett, who just set a school record this weekend with seven touchdowns. After the Buckeyes, the Sooners travel to 13th-ranked TCU, then get Texas in the Red River Showdown.

Those three consecutive marquee matchups give Oklahoma an opportunity to quickly climb back into the playoff conversation. Or they could sink the Sooners before the first playoff rankings even come out.

“We’ve got a heavy schedule coming,” Stoops said. “But I still have a strong belief in this team that we’re going to come out and be OK and continue to improve. We still have a chance to have a great year.”

To do that, the Sooners must replicate their resurrection last season. As rough as Oklahoma looked Saturday, that held nothing to the egg the Sooners dropped off in the Cotton Bowl last year. The week after that loss to Texas, however, Oklahoma recommitted to the running game, made tweaks to the secondary and grew up in the trenches. And in turn, went on to run the remainder of the table.

Coming off this Houston loss, the Sooners face a similar to-do list.

Stoops was quick to point out after the game that the field-goal-return touchdown was “the big turning point.” Without a doubt, it was just that. The Cougars seized the momentum and refused to relinquish it.

But well before the kick-six, there were troubling signs for the Sooners, who could’ve easily been down big at half. Houston had scored on every first-half possession but settled for three field goals in the red zone.

Going into the game, OU’s strength seemed like it would reside in a secondary headlined by preseason All-Big 12 picks Jordan Thomas and Steven Parker. But the Cougars exploited the one question in the Sooners’ defensive backfield.

From the start, Houston repeatedly picked on 5-foot-10, 170-pound cornerback Dakota Austin with 6-foot-3 receiver Steven Dunbar. This was a mismatch from the beginning: Austin looked lost at times, including one curious sequence in which he mistook two different blockers as ball carriers on the same play. Whenever isolated on Austin, Dunbar easily worked his way open, which forced the Sooners to quickly sub in their next option, true freshman Parrish Cobb, who didn’t fare any better.

“We were trying to find someone to hold down that side of the field,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “They made a lot of contested plays, and when you don’t make your share, you’re going to lose the war.”

 

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Oklahoma Sooners offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley couldn't predict the future, but he can learn from it

NORMAN – Baker Mayfield took the blame first Monday afternoon, but that’s only because he spoke to the media before anyone else. Blame was passed around the offensive room Monday evening as the rest of the Oklahoma Sooners spoke with the media.
It wasn’t exactly blame that was the reason for the Sooners’ season-opening loss. But was it even the decisions made by the coaching staff?
A series of misfortunes changed the tide of Oklahoma’s momentum, but decision-making played its part too.
The Sooners only handed the ball off once in the second half before going down 16 points. Once Houston took a 16-point lead, there was still 17 minutes to play in the game. Oklahoma (0-1) handed it off just three more times.
They all but abandoned the run game, and after going back and watching the film Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said that the balance between scoring and saving clock, as well as the unknown of how many plays they’d get after running just a handful in the first half, made things difficult.
“You didn’t know how much you were going to have it,” Riley said. “We were trying to mix scoring with trying to save some clock, too. We called it the best that we could. I’ve never had a game – good or bad – where I didn’t look back. … There’s ones that you wished you had back.”
As the game went along Saturday and the Oklahoma defense started slowing down Houston, it became more apparent in hindsight that Riley would have had more chances. But in the first half, Oklahoma had just five possessions.
Possessions might have been fleeting, but time wasn’t much of an issue. In the first half, Oklahoma never had a possession last longer than 3:17 despite running the ball on at least 50 percent of the plays on every possession.
Even after going down by 16 points, Oklahoma received five more possessions – one ended in a touchdown, one in a fumble, two in punts and one in a turnover on downs. Oklahoma didn’t hand the ball off once in the final 12 minutes, and Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon combined for just two touches.
“It was knowing that we can do it and more of the disappointment of not playing well,” Riley said of the frustration in the second half. “We have to get past that. We have high expectations, and we’ve got to be able to handle it when things don’t go our way much better than we did. And that’s me included.”
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops doubled down on his confidence in Riley – as he should – and called the young coordinator a “bright guy.” Tight end Mark Andrews said Riley is an “offensive genius.”
The one thing no one called Riley on Monday was a prophet.
The loss to Houston on Saturday turned quickly on the offense in the second half by putting them in a hole. Riley saw that climb, but he couldn’t have seen that the Sooners’ defense, which allowed just 73 yards in the second half, would have its own reversal of fortune. On Saturday, Riley made the best of the situation that was put in front of him.
“He’s not out there making plays or not making them,” Stoops said. “I’ll see what some of the opportunities were there. We’ve gotta do a better job executing. He’ll get that done. He’ll get it across to the players, who ultimately have to get it done.”
One glaring hole in Oklahoma’s run game was the injury to Rodney Anderson, which reared its head quickly. Perine and Mixon make for arguably the best running back duo in the nation because they compliment each other so perfectly, but when Perine goes down, no one can fill his role. Daniel Brooks and Abdul Adams aren’t stepping in to run between the tackles, and for all Mixon’s talents, hard-nosed running isn’t his strong suit.
With Perine dinged up, Riley had even fewer options in the run game.
Immediately after the loss, Riley said the offense didn’t make as many routine plays in the second half and forced things. He said that he needed to do a better job, but in the end, he didn’t really have to. Riley, in some ways, just played the hand he was dealt.

 

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NORMAN — Early in the second quarter of the Bedlam game last November, Oklahoma redshirt freshman running back Joe Mixon seemed stonewalled as he took the handoff from Baker Mayfield and kept going to his left.

But Mixon bounced right off Oklahoma State’s Vincent Taylor and cut back to his right, almost immediately hitting full speed and taking advantage of a block by Mayfield to break free for a 66-yard touchdown.

Oklahoma running backs coach Jay Boulware just shakes his head at the suggestion that the Joe Mixon who used his power and speed to score on that play in Bedlam was a showing of what Mixon can be.

“No, no, no,” Boulware said. “I remember coming into spring saying, ‘Wow, he’s there now. He’s there now.’ He wasn’t there at any point in time last season. You look at him now, he’s a different player.”

 

 

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Senior offensive lineman Erick Wren has a special bond with his dad that has allowed him to walk on at OU and to battle for substantial playing time.

Wren only saw the field three times last season but has been garnering praise this camp from high sources.

“He just works really hard, check ” quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “The player that he was when he came in — it’s completely different now. He’s very similar to Nick (Basquine) in that they came in, link and people didn’t think they would ever play, and they worked so hard, and their bodies look different, and they developed the mental part of the game while they weren’t playing, so they were able to step in and take advantage of it.”

Wren credits all of his success to his dad and to God. Wren’s father is a pastor at The Saints Chapel in Mesquite, Texas, and his financial support allowed Wren to walk on at OU.

 

 

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