OU turned yardage into TDs, but also gave up several big plays on defense

OU turned yardage into TDs, but also gave up several big plays on defense

The Game According to Guerin: We settled into the idea that OU would hold Texas well under their 49 points from a year ago at the very least, and give the Sooners a shot to win next Saturday. We might reconsider that based on Iowa State’s first half in Norman.

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

| Sep 30, 2023, 11:34pm CDT

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

Sep 30, 2023, 11:34pm CDT

NORMAN — Oklahoma did what it needed to do against Iowa State, dispatching a 20-point underdog to remain unbeaten heading into the biggest game of the year. 

The Longhorns put away Kansas earlier Saturday, setting up the first matchup of 5-0 Red River rivals since 2008. 

Next weekend at the Cotton Bowl sets up to be special. 

First, let’s break down the Sooners’ 50-20 triumph Saturday night. 

Reason to feel better about the past

OU gained 425 yards last week at Cincinnati, with Dillon Gabriel throwing for 322. The Sooners turned that output into just 20 points, however, and allowed the Bearcats to hang around longer than they should have.

OU cashed in yardage for touchdowns Saturday night against Iowa State. 

Drive No. 1: 10 plays, 75 yards resulting in Gabriel’s short touchdown keeper.

Drive No. 2: 6 plays, 75 yards resulting in Gabriel’s 39-yard TD toss to Nic Anderson.

Drive No. 4: 6 plays, 75 yards resulting in Gabriel’s second touchdown run.

Drive No. 6: 7 plays, 43 yards resulting in Drake Stoops’ back-of-the-end zone TD.

Drive No. 7: 8 plays, 85 yards resulting in Jayden Gibson’s 41-yard score, and OU’s 47-20 lead. 

Reason to worry about the future

Iowa State, not exactly known for its explosive offense, ripped off 67- and 51-yard touchdown passes plus a 39-yard run in a 270-yard first half. The Sooners allowed four plays of 30-plus yards over their 4-0 start, ranking 12th among FBS defenses. So much for that.

Texas got a 67-yard run from Jonathon Brooks, a 30-yard run from Quinn Ewers and a 39-yard catch from Xavier Worthy in beating Kansas 40-14 Saturday. That gives the Longhorns 14 plays of 30-plus yards in going 5-0. 

We settled into the idea that OU would hold the Horns well under their 49 points from a year ago at the very least, and give the Sooners a shot to win next Saturday. We might reconsider that based on Iowa State’s first half in Norman. 

The coach who can put up his feet and crack a beer: OU quarterbacks coach Jeff Lebby

Not that Lebby the offensive coordinator called a subpar game, it’s just that he did his best work last week preparing Gabriel to face Iowa State’s traditionally disruptive defense.

OU’s QB1 came out sharp, hitting Andrel Anthony for 16 yards on his first pass, and wound up 3-for-3 on the Sooners’ opening drive, a 75-yarder to 6 points. 

Gabriel converted a third-and-8 on his second drive with a 10-yard zip to Jalil Farooq, then spotted Anderson behind the defense on the next play for a 39-yard touchdown. 

The Cyclones stopped OU’s third drive but back came Gabriel on number four. He swung a pass to Marcus Major for 8 yards, fired wide to Gavin Freeman for 12, then connected with Farooq for 51 on a 1-on-1 go ball. 

Gabriel was 10-of-13 for 228 yards and a touchdown, with two rushing TDs, by the end of OU’s fourth drive. The Sooners were on their way to a 40-20 halftime lead. 

The coach headed straight back to the film room: Brent Venables

Safety Key Lawrence broke toward Jaylin Noel on Noel’s 51-yard first-quarter touchdown but didn’t make a play. 

Defensive backs Billy Bowman and Gentry Williams collided after Jayden Higgins’ second-quarter catch, giving Higgins free passage to his 67-yard touchdown. 

Linebacker Dasan McCullough could not bring down Abu Sama at the line of scrimmage in the first quarter, and Sama sped for 39 yards. 

Is that OU defenders not making plays when they should? Or OU defensive coaches breaking down in getting those defenders to complete those plays? 

We know how Venables will see it, that he and the rest of his staff must be better during game week to help players finish plays.

We know that with OU-Texas coming in six days Venables will get maybe 15 hours of sleep next week to ensure that his defenders are in the right place and making the right play.

SportsCenter highlight: Jayden Gibson’s touchdown

On fourth-and-7 from the ISU 41-yard line to open the second half, OU sent four wide receivers wide left in a diamond formation. The widest left was Gibson.

Gabriel set up in a pocket that held long enough for him to drop a pass over the outstretched hand of ISU linebacker Gerry Vaughn and right into Gibson’s mitts at the 15. ISU safety Jeremiah Cooper whacked Gibson at the catch point, but the receiver held onto the ball. Then Gibson cut around defensive back Jamison Patton at the 10, churned toward the goal line, and carried safety Beau Freyler and linebacker Carson Willich into the end zone for a touchdown. 

Name to remember: OU wide receiver Brenen Thompson

Thompson showed up for the Sooners’ Media Day as preseason practice began, gave an insightful 15 minutes to reporters, especially about why he transferred to OU from Texas… and then sort of disappeared. He had no catches over OU’s first four games. I don’t remember him being targeted even. That changed on OU’s second play of the second quarter. 

Gabriel fired deep to Thompson from the Sooners’ 25-yard line, just not deep enough. Thompson adjusted to the underthrow when ISU defenders Cooper and Freyler did not. The 54-yard catch was OU’s longest of the night.

Maybe it portends an even bigger moment for Thompson next week against his old program.

(Thompson on why he transferred at that Media Day: “I felt like I just wasn’t truly myself. Thinking about it, praying about it, talking to my family, being from Spearman, Texas, I’m only four hours from home (at OU). Whereas Austin is eight.

“Being a small-town kid, I thought I wanted the big city. But coming here and settling down and getting back to my roots, it’s been amazing for me.”)

Perfectly put 

Venables: “We’re not a championship team right now, but this was another step in trying to get there.”

Could you repeat that? 

“I think I’m cursed.” — OU defensive end Trace Ford, who missed out on a blocked-punt touchdown Saturday night after he couldn’t fall on the ball in the end zone… two weeks after going down at the Tulsa 4-yard line after an interception.

 

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Guerin Emig is a columnist for the Sellout Crowd network. Read his work at selloutcrowd.com and guerinemig.com. Reach out with feedback and/or ideas at [email protected] or (918) 629-6229. Follow him on Twitter at @GuerinEmig and Instagram at @guerin.emig. .

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