OU team ratings: Tawee Walker and Danny Stutsman star against SMU

OU team ratings: Tawee Walker and Danny Stutsman star against SMU

Tawee Walker carried the Sooners’ run game and Danny Stutsman’s 17 tackles were at the heart of a complete team performance on defense.

Eli Lederman

By Eli Lederman

| Sep 9, 2023, 9:31pm CDT

Eli Lederman

By Eli Lederman

Sep 9, 2023, 9:31pm CDT

Oklahoma handled the step up in competition Saturday night and topped SMU 28-11 to improve to 2-0. Let’s talk about it. 

Quarterbacks: The first snap of OU’s second offensive series went to … Jackson Arnold. He took it for a two-yard run and returned to the sideline.

The first half otherwise belonged to Dillon Gabriel. The passing game struggled and Gabriel’s frustration showed before halftime through a series of miscommunications. His two touchdown throws were good enough for a 14-3 halftime lead

Gabriel added two more passing scores and completed 70% of his passes for 176 yards on the night.  Arnold appeared in a series of short-yardage situations.

Running backs: The run game only came to life when Tawee Walker entered the picture. Walker carried seven times for 59 yards on the 13-play, 94-yard scoring drive before halftime. He finished with 117 yards on 21 attempts, solidifying his status as the Sooners’ most impressive running back thus far.

Marcus Major got the start and finished with 39 yards on eight carries, accounting for Gabriel’s fourth passing touchdown. Opportunities were slim for sophomores Jovantae Barnes and Gavin Sawchuk. They combined for six yards on three carries. 

Wide receivers/tight ends: It’s clear that Andrel Anthony is going to feature heavily in the Sooners’ passing game.

The Michigan transfer made four of OU’s five first-quarter receptions, including his 29-yard touchdown catch to open the scoring. All told, Anthony was targeted a team-high nine times and tallied seven catches for 76 yards.

The rest of OU’s receiving corps kept quiet on the night. Jaili Farooq’s 21-yard touchdown score marked the second of his two catches. Drake Stoops was the only other receiver to log multiple receptions. 

Gabriel hit Blake Smith in the flat for the two-yard touchdown before halftime. Austin Stogner’s first reception in his second stint at OU came in the second half.

Offensive line: The Sooners held up well against an MU pass rush that came in with six sacks.

 OU didn’t allow another sack after Elijah Chatman got to Gabriel in the first quarter.

Left tackle Walter Rouse set the Sooners back on their third series with a holding penalty. Savion Byrd was beaten for Chatman’s sack and was promptly replaced at left guard by Appalachian State transfer Troy Everett. 

Defensive line: The Sooners created more pressure in Week 2, yet can still claim just one sack in eight quarters.  Jacob Lacey and Jonah Laulu started up the middle and combined for five tackles. Rondell Bothroyd led all Sooners defensive linemen with four tackles. 

Linebackers: It was a vintage performance from Danny Stutsman. His 17 tackles nearly doubled that of any Sooners defender, he logged OU’s lone sack and he was there to recover the fumble when Key Lawrence knocked the ball out of Jaylan Knighton’s hand in the third quarter. 

Jaren Kanak produced an important stop with a pass breakup that turned SMU over on downs following OU’s second scoring drive. The first person to meet Kanak on the sideline afterward? Brent Venables. 

Justin Harrington held down the cheetah spot without him and finished with four tackles and a late interception.

Kip Lewis’ place within the linebacker depth seems sturdy. His nine tackles trailed only Stutsman’s.

Secondary: Key Lawrence’s punch forced Knighton’s fumble in the third quarter and the veteran safety was in on everything in his 36th career game. Lawrence led all OU defensive backs with seven tackles, including one for loss.

Gentry Williams exited with the help of trainers following the Sooners’ second defensive snap. He later returned and shared snaps with Kani Walker opposite Woodi Washington (six tackles).

Freshman Peyton Bowen featured heavily in the rotation and had four tackles and a pass breakup. SMU cut the OU lead to 14-11 early in the fourth quarter one play after Bowen was flagged for pass interference.

SMU threw 45 times and found opportunities for big gains in the Sooners’ secondary. OU conceded six plays of 15 yards or more. 

Special teams: Bowen’s first imprint on the win came with his blocked punt after the Sooners stopped SMU on its initial defensive series. OU had its first points of the game on Anthony’s touchdown reception three plays later.

It appears there’s still a punting battle in Norman. Josh Plaster and Luke Elzinga split the attempts and each notched two punts inside the SMU 20. Plaster’s 42.7 yards per attempt outpaced the 37.5 yards Elzinga averaged across his two punts. 

Injury report:  Wide receiver Drake Stoops (shoulder) returned to the lineup. So did running back Gavin Sawchuk and defensive lineman R Mason Thomas. Dasan McCullough (ankle) dressed but did not play. 

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Eli Lederman reports on the University of Oklahoma for Sellout Crowd. He began his professional career covering the University of Missouri with the Columbia Missourian and later worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette before two years writing on the Sooners and Cowboys at the Tulsa World. Born and raised in Mamaroneck, New York, Lederman grew up a rabid consumer of the New York sports pages and an avid fan of the New York Mets. He entered sportswriting at 14 years old and later graduated from the University of Missouri. Away from the keyboard, he can usually be found exploring the Oklahoma City food scene or watching/playing fútbol (read: soccer). He can be reached at [email protected].

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