Berry Tramel’s OU report card: Dillon Gabriel’s deep ball rates an A

Berry Tramel’s OU report card: Dillon Gabriel’s deep ball rates an A

Gauging a 73-0 victory over Arkansas State is not easy, but the Sooners still did some things well – and not so well

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Sep 2, 2023, 5:38pm CDT

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Sep 2, 2023, 5:38pm CDT

One of the primary complaints about Dillon Gabriel’s first season as the OU quarterback was his deep-ball accuracy. But that was no problem Saturday against Arkansas State.

The Sooners routed the Red Wolves 73-0, and while you can’t learn much from such a mismatch, the OU report card looks at a few things we can ascertain, grading on the curve, of course.

Deep passing game: A. Dillon Gabriel and Jackson Arnold combined to complete a stunning 30 of 33 passes. Gabriel had the three incompletions. One was dropped by freshman Jaquaize Pettaway; the other two were on target but well-defended. Even better, six of Gabriel’s seven deep balls were successful — he nailed completions of 45 yards to Andrel Anthony, 52 yards to Nic Anderson and 33 and 21 yards to Jayden Gibson, plus two pass-interference penalties committed against Anthony.

Short-yard defense: A. The Red Wolves faced only six short-yardage situations (needing less than four yards for a first down) all day. They converted only the final two, and both of those were after the backups for both teams were in the game. You don’t expect a team like Arkansas State to move OU off the ball, and the Red Wolves mostly didn’t try — Arkansas State’s four first-half short-yardage plays were all passes. Three were incomplete and another gained just one yard. Two were poor passes by quarterback J.T. Shrout (who has played at Tennessee and Colorado), but the other two were well-covered.

Running game: C. OU coaches seemed content with the running game, which produced 220 yards on 49 carries. Solid. But 10 of those came on a virtual swing pass to flanker Jalil Farooq. And the Sooner tailbacks combined to average 3.85 yards per carry (40 carries, 154 yards), which against an overwhelmed opponent is not stellar. Maybe the Red Wolf defense was sold out against the run. But still, even counting the called running plays (including Jackson Arnold’s 39 yards on five carries), OU averaged 4.2 yards per carry (195 yards on 46 carries).

Cleanliness: C. The Sooners didn’t commit a turnover (though Gavin Freeman mishandled a punt), but OU did commit six penalties for 65 yards, including a late hit by safety Reggie Pearson, a personal foul by tight end Blake Smith, a hold by tackle Tyler Guyton and a facemask by safety Billy Bowman. That’s four major penalties. Too many. The games are going to get way more intense. Those major penalties must decline.

Pass defense: B. Arkansas State quarterbacks completed 13 of 27 passes for 160 yards, with just one sack. But don’t read too much into the lack of a pass rush. The Red Wolves max-protected much of the game and threw quick swings and out patterns. OU rarely blitzed, using almost exclusively four-man rushes and relying on coverage. The Sooners mostly covered well. Brent Venables was displeased with two plays. Shrout teamed with Courtney Jackson for a 47-yard gain on a 3rd-and-10 seam route, which Venables termed a bust, and hit Corey Rucker for a 28-yard gain off a deep slant, which Venables called a “fundamental” problem.

Pregame video: B. The annual release of the “There’s Only One Oklahoma” jumbotron video is a stadium highlight, and this one was cool, as always. But a couple of quibbles. There were fewer references to the distant past — Roy Williams and Brian Bosworth were the only 20th-century players featured, and Williams played two of his three seasons in the 2000s. The Boz capped the video, telling the crowd that “not everyone can stand the heat, but this is Oklahoma,” then delivering the final — and only — “There’s only one Oklahoma” at the end. Bosworth always is a strong element, but more references to “there’s only one … there’s only one” is best.

Jayden Gibson: A. The sophomore flanker had two circus catches, using his 6-foot-5 frame to leap above shorter defensive backs. One was a 33-yard gain, with Gibson falling to the ground at the 1-yard line. The other was a 21-yard touchdown catch off a juggled, contested ball, as Gibson landed in the corner of the end zone. Sure, OU will play better defensive backs, but not many will be close to Gibson’s height. Gibson was a ballyhooed recruit who didn’t do much last season, then had a notable drop in the spring game. But those kinds of plays will get him in the rotation quickly.

Berry Tramel is a 45-year veteran of Oklahoma sports journalism. Before joining Sellout Crowd, he spent 13 years at the Norman Transcript and 32 years at The Oklahoman. Reach Berry at [email protected] and 405-760-8080.


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Berry Tramel is a 45-year veteran of Oklahoma journalism, having spent 13 years at the Norman Transcript and 32 years at The Oklahoman. He has been named Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Born and raised in Norman, Tramel grew up reading four newspapers a day and began his career at age 17. His first assignment was the Lexington-Elmore City high school football game, and he’s enjoyed the journey ever since, having covered NBA Finals and Rose Bowls and everything in between. Tramel and his wife, Tricia, were married in 1980 and live in Norman near their daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters. Tramel can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected].

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