Bad play-calling, sideline penalties and a loss the Sooners deserve

Bad play-calling, sideline penalties and a loss the Sooners deserve

The Game According to Guerin: The Sooners didn’t start well, didn’t finish well and played sporadically over the two quarters in between. That combined with some nasty weather, a couple key injuries and some baffling decision-making by coaches and players to produce Kansas’ first win over the Sooners since 1997.

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

| Oct 28, 2023, 7:22pm CDT

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

Oct 28, 2023, 7:22pm CDT

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Oklahoma got the 38-33 loss it deserved Saturday. 

The Sooners didn’t start or finish well and played sporadically over the two quarters in between. That, combined with some nasty weather, a couple key injuries and some baffling decision-making by coaches and players, led to Kansas’ first win over the Sooners since 1997.

Reason to feel better about the past: OU has its go-to running back

It is of miniscule consolation considering all that the Sooners lost in Lawrence, but Tawee Walker did establish himself as the up-to-now missing go-to ball carrier.

Walker carried 23 times for 146 yards before limping off the field late in the third quarter. He ran with his usual patience and toughness and was the player who rallied OU back from its 14-0 early-second-quarter hole. 

“Played strong, played tough,” offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby said. “I hate that he’s not able to feel a victory after the way he played.”

Note to Lebby and running backs coach DeMarco Murray: Assuming Walker rebounds from Saturday’s injury and is fit for Bedlam, make sure he is much a focal point of your running game as Ollie Gordon is of Oklahoma State’s.

Reason to worry about the future: The Sooners are literally hurting

Already down two starters to season-ending injuries, OU played without running back Marcus Major and cornerback Gentry Williams at Kansas. Walker got banged up and so did Danny Stutsman, the physical, emotional core of Brent Venables’ defense. 

Venables could not specify the extent of Stutsman’s injury in Saturday’s postgame. It needs to be minimal.

Kip Lewis, Stutsman’s replacement, did alright Saturday. He has a bright future. 

He is also in his second year of the program and has a lot to figure out when it comes to Venables’ complex system.

More pressing is how much better everyone feels when Stutsman is active and making tackles. 

“Danny means so much to our football team,” defensive coordinator Ted Roof said Saturday. “Not just our defense.”

Coach who can put up his feet and crack a beer: Lance Leipold

Venables praised Kansas’ third-year head coach extensively last week. Turns out it was for very good reason.

KU didn’t always play better than the Sooners. Jason Bean threw two bad interceptions. He failed to connect on a second-quarter touchdown and a third-quarter 2-point conversion that were both open. 

The Jayhawks fumbled away a kickoff return and got called for a holding penalty to negate Daniel Hishaw’s 20-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

That said, Leipold’s staff outcoached Venables’. Kansas was sounder putting players in position to make plays. Their coaches were more imaginative. 

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Coach headed straight back to the film room: Jeff Lebby

OU’s offensive coordinator had a lousy day.

He called a more conservative game because of the cold, drizzly, windy conditions. Which was fine on its face, with Walker having the most productive game of his career.

But you have to be sound with that conservatism. 

The Sooners were doing all right running between the tackles, mostly thanks to Walker, so why call jet sweeps or straight handoffs to receivers? An ineffective sweep to Gavin Freeman killed the opening drive of the second half past midfield. A handoff to Jalil Farooq led to a third-quarter fumble that Bean cashed into a 38-yard touchdown sprint one play later. 

When Ethan Downs’ interception gave OU possession at the Kansas 38-yard line with 2:29 remaining, the Sooners nursing a 33-32 lead, a Gabriel keeper and two Jovantae Barnes carries netted 3 yards to set up fourth-and-7. 

Then Nic Anderson false-started as OU lined up to go for it, the Sooners punted it away, and Bean drove his offense 80 yards for the win. 

“Running the football, that wasn’t the issue,” Lebby said. “Had chances to go win the game in the (late fourth-quarter) situation and didn’t get it done.”

SportsCenter highlight

Field-rushing KU students and fans celebrating their first win over the Sooners since John Blake coached them. The goal post on the south end of Memorial Stadium came down, and a piece was carried from the scene to nearby Potter Lake for a ceremonial dumping.

The same thing occurred after Kansas beat OSU last year to secure a sixth victory and bowl eligibility. A check of the record shows Kansas is 6-2 and bowl eligible thanks to Saturday’s victory. 

Name to remember: Kip Lewis

He recovered KU’s fumbled kickoff return in the second quarter to set up a 17-yard touchdown drive for a 21-14 OU lead.

After Stutsman got hurt defending a pass in the end zone on KU’s final first-half drive, Lewis played a more pivotal role. Stutsman gave it a go on the first play of the third quarter, then subbed out for Lewis from there.

“Kip got in and did some great things,” Venables said. 

“We all have a lot of confidence in Kip,” Roof said. “Thought he came in and did a nice job.”

Perfectly put 

Venables: “We got punished for a lack of details and discipline, just me having our guys not ready to play at a high level.”

Could you repeat that? 

Venables on the 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called on OU’s bench during KU’s go-ahead touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter: “Can’t talk that way to the officials.”

Venables confirmed a staff member, not one of his players, got flagged, a staggering example of OU’s discipline issues Saturday.

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Guerin Emig is a columnist for the Sellout Crowd network. Read his work at and 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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