Berry’s OU report card: Offensive ingenuity gives Cincinnati something to ponder

Berry’s OU report card: Offensive ingenuity gives Cincinnati something to ponder

If nothing else, OC Jeff Lebby prompted CIncinnati’s staff to make sure it has plenty of midnight oil this week.

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Sep 16, 2023, 8:35pm CDT

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Sep 16, 2023, 8:35pm CDT

OU’s 66-17 rout of Tulsa was a mostly dominant performance, with only a few things to pick on. And we’ll start the Sooner report card with offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby.

Offensive ingenuity: A. Lebby gave Cincinnati gameplanners plenty to chew on. On OU’s first play, quarterback Dillon Gabriel teamed with Andrel Anthony for a 55-yard pass play, out of a bunched set. Lebby also unveiled a two-tailback set for the first time all season, a variety of shovel-pass tricks and empty backfield sets, one with four receivers to one side. If nothing else, Lebby prompted UC’s staff to make sure it has plenty of midnight oil this week.

Disruptive defense: A. The Sooners gave up some big pass plays to Tulsa. But OU’s defense also produced a stunning number of negative or virtually-negative plays for TU. The Sooners had five takeaways and 15 tackles for loss, to go with five incompletions and eight plays that netted zero yards. That’s 33 plays that failed to make a yard, out of 73 Golden Hurricane snaps. Defensive end P.J. Adebawore had a sack and 1½ tackles for loss. Defensive end Marcus Stripling and linebacker Jaren Kanak also had sacks. Linebacker Danny Stutsman had two tackles for loss. That’s dominating defense.

Running game: C. The Sooners ran just 25 true running plays and gained 113 yards on those snaps. But 10 of those plays came in the get-the-game-over-with fourth quarter. So the really-matters stats are 15 carries, 62 yards. Not awful. And clearly, Tulsa was daring the Sooners to throw it deep, which Gabriel was glad to do. But against an outmanned foe like the Golden Hurricane, you’d like to see the Sooners exert their will a little more. Didn’t really happen. One good sign – tailback Javontae Barnes popped runs of 17 and 16 yards.

Tulsa hospitality: A. TU drew rave reviews for its hospitality. With the Sooners in town for the first time since 2014, Tulsa took advantage of the marketing opportunities to make both sides feel welcome. Pop star Sean Kingston performed a free concert at 1 p.m. on Chapman Commons, a greenspace that was turned into a massive tailgate scene, which included free food. TU also provided luxury buses to shuttle fans from parking at Expo Square, 1.5 miles away. Excellent public relations for TU, which would like to lure Golden Hurricane fans, as well as Sooner fans based in Tulsa, to games as much as possible.

Deep passing game: A. A week after rarely challenging Southern Methodist with the long ball, the Sooners threw deep early and often. With spectacular results. On passes that traveled at least 25 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, Gabriel completed five of eight for 186 yards, albeit with one interception. Gabriel put too much air under a couple of his long balls, which sometimes isn’t a bad tactic, since they can lead to pass interference penalties, but not this day. As a bonus, backup QB Jackson Arnold connected on a 50-yard TD play with Nick Anderson via a go route.

Short-yardage defense: C. Tulsa’s offense faced 12 short-yard situations (three yards or less needed for a first down). The Golden Hurricane converted eight of those, and TU was 7-of-10 when running on short yardage. That’s a disturbing ratio for the OU defense. But the Sooners stood firm early in the third quarter, when Tulsa threatened to get within 38-21, with a first-and-goal at the OU 2-yard line. But Stutsman and safety Reggie Pearson teamed to stuff Tulsa tailback Bill Jackson for no gain, then cornerback Kani Walker and tackle Isaiah Coe did the same on tailback Anthony Watkins. On third down, safety Peyton Bowen broke up a pass in the flat, and TU settled for a field goal.

Receivers: A. The Sooners got open for a bunch of big plays. But they also had no drops and made some great snags. Both Jayden Gibson and Jalil Farooq had rare, hands-only catches in traffic on big plays. Nick Anderson dragged a TU cornerback into the end zone after catching a deep ball down the sideline, another rarity.

Tackling: B. Brent Venables bemoaned OU’s tackling at times, but the Sooners mostly got the Golden Hurricane down. A few missed tackles occurred in the secondary, but nothing consistently. Tulsa tailbacks went down not long after first contact. The quarterbacks weren’t scrambling to freedom. Generally, a solid day getting Golden Hurricane ballcarriers to the ground.

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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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