There were no missing persons reports filed with city of Houston authorities Saturday, but most Oklahoma fans wondered why the team’s running backs disappeared.
Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon are considered one of the nation’s top running back combos in the nation. In Saturday’s 33-23 loss to Houston, they both were practically redshirts.
The Sooners finished with 70 yards rushing. Perine and Mixon combined for 12 carries. OU went to the locker room at halftime trailing 19-17. The running game, according to coach Bob Stoops, was serviceable – 83 yards on 14 attempts.
Mixon and Perine had only two carries each in the second half, and those four attempts produced a total of two yards.
Most of the second half, the Sooners’ offense appeared to be operating in full panic mode. After falling behind 26-17 midway through the third quarter, Stoops said that OU might have abandoned the running game too quickly.
“It goes field goal return, fumble, fumble,” Stoops said. “Now we’re down 16 points. It isn’t as easy to run the football. Maybe we still could have some. In the end, when you’re down 16, it doesn’t lend itself to have a lot of patience.”
Mixon also had a 60-yard reception. His speed gives the running game big-play ability … when he gets the ball. Last season, Mixon averaged 6.7 yards per carry on 113 rushes and 12.7 yards on 28 catches.
“He’s making plays like that, I’d love to see it every time, but we have a lot of weapons,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “He’s not going to be involved in every play. Teams are going to have to game plan for him. There’s times where he’s going to get it and times where he’s not. That’s when I have to take advantage of the holes that he creates.”
The kick-six, revisited
Houston’s 100-yard return of Austin Siebert’s missed 53-yard field goal shocked Oklahoma and gave the Cougars a 26-17 lead. It was reminiscent of Auburn’s Kick-Six that beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl in 2013.
Siebert, a sophomore, lost his timing when he started forward before the snap. On his restart, he lost the needed momentum to get power into the kick.
“Austin’s going to kick that ball out every time within his normal rhythm,” Stoops said. “That ball’s going left or right or through the goal post, but I’ve never seen it short at that distance with no wind.
“We didn’t hit it right. That’s how it goes. You’re covering – the protection group isn’t your best cover group. We weren’t expecting it to not go into the stands at least.”
Oklahoma was aware that Houston had Brandon Wilson back for a potential return, but the unexpected shortness of Siebert’s kick and having five offensive linemen on the field as blockers was a bad combination for the Sooners.
“If you’ve got a bunch of good guys that can go down as a kickoff cover team on your field goal, you wouldn’t protect that many field goals,” Stoops said. “They’d run right over you and block you.”
- Houston’s Kick-Six wasn’t the first against Oklahoma, but you need to go back to 1963 to find the last one. Kansas State returned a field goal – it was partially blocked – 72 yards for a touchdown. The Sooners attempted 887 field goals before the Cougars’ TD return.
- Two numbers from Saturday’s game don’t make sense. Oklahoma averaged 6.6 yards per play while Houston averaged 5.1 After the Cougars gained 337 yards in the first half, they had 73 total yards in the second half.
- Saturday’s home opener against ULM (Louisiana-Monroe) is the first at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium since the south end was renovated. The $160 million project included the bowling in of the south end zone, the addition of 22 suites, 60 open-air loge boxes, 1,976 club seats, and an 8,500-square-foot video board that is the second largest in collegiate athletics. Capacity this season is 83,489.
- Sophomore tight end Mark Andrews is a touchdown maker. In 14 career games, he has nine touchdowns on his 22 receptions. That’s a 41 percent TD ratio.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, asked on the Big 12 coaches’ conference call about covering long field goals like the one Houston returned for a TD against the Sooners:
“We cover that every week when we back up to kicking long field goals that’s something that we focus on having those guys cover. Those big dudes don’t like covering like that very much, I can assure you of that. I think you gotta be pretty careful about how far you kick. That is putting your team in a tough situation having a bunch of O-linemen and tight ends covering kicks.”