CINCINNATI — It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t always pretty. But Oklahoma is 4-0 after the 16th-ranked Sooners bottled Cincinnati’s offense and produced timely scoring drives in a 20-6 Saturday afternoon inside Nippert Stadium.
Let’s talk about it.
Dillon Gabriel: It was an uneven first half. He went 15-of-23 (65%) for 212 yards and a touchdown. He also missed some important throws and fumbled in the red zone on the Sooners’ second series, Gabriel’s second turnover in as many games.
Gabriel went 11-for-15 with 110 passing yards after the break (26-38, 322 yards total) and delivered the Sooners’ lone touchdown after halftime, punching in from a yard out to hand OU the two-score lead it never gave up.
Marcus Major: Got the start in the backfield for the second time this season. Major missed a block that led directly to Gabriel’s first-quarter fumble. He also picked up 19 yards on third-and-19 to extend the second-quarter drive that ended with Zach Schhmit’s 34-yard field goal.
Major did most of his work in the second half and finished as the Sooners’ leading rusher with 63 yards on 15 attempts.
Tawee Walker: Walker provided the charge on the Sooners’ six-play, 66-yard touchdown drive and closed with 15 yards on five carries. It’s not a hot race but the junior college walkon remains the most impressive rusher out the OU backfield through four games.
Andrel Anthony: The first Sooner targeted in the passing game for the fourth time in four games and he finished with seven catches for 117 yards, including a 49-yard grab on the final play of the third quarter.
Anthony has now recorded back-to-back 100 yard games, more in four games at OU than in two previous seasons at Michigan.
Jalil Farooq: Looked the part of a No. 1 receiver early on with a pair of catches for 45 yards. He went quiet as the game wore on but continues to be a yards-after-catch machine.
Drake Stoops: Six catches for 45 yards with a collection of friends and family in the stands playing less than 300 miles away from his dad’s hometown of Youngstown.
Nic Anderson: His first-quarter touchdown reception made it four in two games for the second-year pass catcher. Anderson finished with three catches for 25 yards.
Troy Everett got the start at left guard in place of Savion Byrd (undisclosed injury) and it was his side of the line that broke down on Dorian Jones’ second-quarter sack, only the second the Sooners have conceded this fall. Everett was later flagged for holding.
OU’s pass protection was adequate otherwise but push up front in the run game is still an issue for the Sooners who averaged 3.1 yards per carry.
The offensive line was responsible for four of OU’s offensive penalties on the day.
Ethan Downs (three tackles) led another sturdy, if unspectacular performance. Jonah Laulu made a pair of tackles and picked up his first sack of the season.
Emblematic of the day, the unit made plays when it mattered. Reggie Grimes and Isaiah Coe made a critical third-down stop deep in OU territory before the Sooners turned the Bearcats over on downs in the final minute of the third quarter.
Danny Stutsman: Another productive Saturday for the junior linebacker who led the Sooners again with 13 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss Including his second sack of the season. The Big 12’s top tackler a year ago is on pace for 129 tacklesl.
Jaren Kanak: The sophomore was everywhere on Cincinnati’s second drive, forcing a hurry and tallying two tackles that helped hold the Bearcats to a field goal. He finished with seven tackles and was later carted to the locker room after leaving the field injured in the fourth quarter.
Dasan McCullough: Returned after a two-game absence and looked the part of the impact transfer the Sooners felt they had in the linebacker from Indiana. McCullough got the start in the cheetah role and finished with seven tackles (three solo, 0.5 for loss) in his most significant action in an OU uniform.
Kip Lewis: The sophomore took his season count to 19 tackles with four stops Saturday as he continues to provide valuable depth production for the Sooners at linebacker.
Woodi Washington and Gentry Williams: The Sooners starting cornerback tandem combined for six tackles while limiting Bearcats quarterback Emory Jones to 22-of-41 for 235 yards with two interceptions.
Key Lawrence: Made three tackles and cut off a potential Cincinnati scoring drive with his second quarter interception. It’s his second pick in two games. Lawrence has had a hand in three of the Sooners’ 10 forced turnovers this fall.
Kendel Dolby: Made five tackles (three solo) as his role in the OU secondary continues to grow.
Billy Bowman: Bowman’s fourth-quarter, tip-drill interception put the Bearcats’ comeback hopes on ice and capped an effective, four-tackle performance.
Peyton Bowen: Had a touchdown-saving pass breakup just before halftime. The highlight in a five-tackle performance as the stature of the freshman safety grows with each game.
Zach Schmit: Called on more Saturday than over the previous three games. Schmit was perfect on his pair of field goals of 30 and 34 yards.
Josh Plaster: The Sooners’ punter planted three kicks inside the 20 yard line but a pair of short punts will at least open the door to questions of whether transfer Luke Elzinga could get an opportunity up ahead.
The Sooners were without Savion Byrd, Reggie Pearson, R Mason Thomas and Kelvin Gilliam on the road Saturday.
Cheetah linebacker Justin Harrington (Knee) was also absent, as expected. Freshman running back Daylan Smothers was among those who did not travel in Week 4.
Kanak left the field in the fourth quarter and was carted to the locker room. Brent Venables said postgame that he took a hit to the chest and was evaluated by local medical staff.
“Early results seem to be … he’ll be okay,” Venables said.