It’s time for a gut check, Oklahoma.
Last Saturday in the always exciting Red River rivalry with Texas, the Sooners dropped the ball for the first time in a 24-17 loss. But it felt worse than a single possession game, as the Sooners were beat in almost every regard.
The Horns’ performance was a rarity this season, controlling the clock by four minutes and won the yardage battle by 90 yards as well.
Two team identities changed in the span of a couple of hours. Texas is no longer the team that can’t progress the ball efficiently. It abandoned using Jerrod Heard as a pass-first quarterback, instead, leading his offense to 313 yards rushing, picking up 115 yards himself. Even Tyrone Swoopes got in on red zone action, scoring on the ground and through the air.
Still, this leaves the Longhorns on a difficult path to bowl eligibility, having four losses under their belts.
But the real identity change is the Sooners’ inability to get out from behind the eight ball. After a double-overtime, 17-point comeback against then ranked No. 23 Tennessee, this seemed like a team that could take nation by storm — and it did for awhile, rising to No. 9 in the nation.
With each passing week, though, that win which put Baker Mayfield on everyone’s radar (especially yours truly) is looking less impressive. The Vols are now 3-3 and have one of the most porous defenses in the SEC. Oklahoma’s win two weeks ago against another No. 23 team is bound to look even worse, as West Virginia is facing an impending third loss after visiting Baylor.
If last week’s performance is any indication from Texas’ read on Oklahoma, teams are going to catch on to the new offense Lincoln Riley implemented this season. This Air Raid offense is becoming a Catch 22 for the Sooners.
It has propelled them to 37 points per game, but it’s come at a cost to the running game. Preseason Offensive Player of the Year candidate Samaje Perine’s role has diminished greatly, averaging just 4.4 yards per carry with three touchdowns — Mayfield has four rushing scores.
Perine had a season-low 10 carries against the Longhorns, gaining just 36 yards on the ground. For as much of a battering ram he is, it’s becoming difficult to find holes opened up by the inexperienced offensive line — that’s beginning to seep into the passing game as well.
Through two games in October, Oklahoma has allowed a conference-leading 10 sacks (six came against Texas). Compare that figure to just six sacks allowed in its first three games, the offensive line is beginning to wear, and defenses are reading into that.
Rich DeCray of Crimson and Cream Machine pointed out that right tackle Josiah St. John’s stance on the line was giving hints to the Texas defense what the play call was. Coach Bob Stoops acknowledged those problems after the game, “With some of the protection issues we’ve had, our timing needs to be better,” per The Oklahoman‘s Ryan Aber.
Stoops’ plan to remedy that against a fiery Kansas State team is to adjust the routes and play calls, hoping that short patterns will keep Mayfield upright and work Perine into the game more.
The Wildcats are not going to make this an easy week for the Sooners, though. They too are coming off a tough loss, dropping two consecutive games in which they held a 18-point lead. As No. 3 TCU found out last week, traveling to little Manhattan is a daunting task.
Kansas State is one of the most disciplined defenses in the league, and if Bill Snyder can keep the focus on the running game behind quarterback Joe Hubener, the Sooners could have a long trip home for a second straight week.