NORMAN — Oklahoma’s 50-20 victory over Iowa State here Saturday night to set up an OU-Texas battle of unbeatens next Saturday in the Cotton Bowl. Here’s the Sellout Crowd rapid reaction:
A step back for OU’s defense vs. Iowa State
Berry Tramel: Five seconds into the second quarter, Iowa State had 217 total yards. Made you wonder what happened to that vaunted OU defense.
A week after the Sooners beat Cincinnati 20-6 with a dominant defensive performance, OU went the other direction Saturday night against Iowa State. Explosive offense, leaky defense. In other words, its old self.
This was a step back for the OU defense. Against an Iowa State team that scored 20 points combined on Iowa and Ohio U., the Sooner defense gave up far too many big plays – two home-run pass plays that led to 51- and 67-yard touchdowns, plus four double-digit runs, all in the first 20 minutes of the game.
That kind of defense can survive Iowa State, with Dillon Gabriel having another monster game. But that won’t cut it in the Cotton Bowl against Texas.
The Sooner defense stiffened the final 2½ quarters, which is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, but OU needs more than 2½ quarters of serious defense against the Longhorns.
Look who’s Red River-ready
Eli Lederman: Earlier this week on The Lederman Jacket, I asked Guerin Emig for his early season offensive MVP not named Dillon Gabriel. One kind listener asked if that was a joke and informed us that Gabriel is OU’s “least talented guy on the field other than (Austin) Stogner”.
I hope that same listener was watching Saturday night when Gabriel torched the Big 12’s top pass defense and made Cyclones miss with feet.
Gabriel fired deep ball after deep ball — he finished with eight passes of 15-plus yards — and connected with 10 different receivers for 366 yards and three touchdowns on 26-of-39 passing. On the ground, he added 37 yards on eight attempts to go with his third and fourth rushing scores of the season.
A miscommunication with Jalil Farooq that produced Gabriel’s second interception of 2023 marked his only blemish.
Quite a performance for Gabriel seven days out from his OU-Texas debut. Gabriel’s last pre-Texas outing ended with a concussion and a 31-point defeat at TCU. A year later Saturday, he looked Red River-ready.
This should be more fun and competitive
Guerin Emig: It’s going to take OU’s best effort to topple Texas. The 5-0 Longhorns are loaded and they’re playing up to that talent.
At least the Sooners should feel good about their own 5-0 start, Saturday night’s disposal of Iowa State included. They should certainly be in a more hopeful mood headed to Dallas than last year, when back-to-back losses to Kansas State and TCU, plus the loss of Dillon Gabriel, derailed them the two weeks before Red River.
Gabriel is quarterbacking as well as he ever has. He came out firing Saturday and added a pair of touchdowns on the ground. He should feel confident both throwing and running against Texas, strong as the Longhorns’ defense has been.
OU’s receivers dropped a few balls Saturday. That must change in Dallas. The Sooners could use their best rushing effort of the season, though 100 yards against Texas by any of their backs feels like a longshot.
OU’s defense can’t afford to surrender the three big plays Iowa State struck for in the first half. That’s on Brent Venables to fix.
Assuming he does, and the Sooners return to the defensive form of their first four games, and assuming Gabriel and Jeff Lebby’s passing game stays in rhythm with the occasional assist from the run game, OU-Texas 2023 should be a lot more competitive, and a lot more fun, that the beatdown of ‘22.
Gabriel’s running becoming a true weapon
Jenni Carlson: I thought we might have a better read on OU five games into the season, but truthfully, I still don’t quite know what to think. Offense has been hot and cold. Defense has been stout, but then was blah in the first half Saturday. So, it just doesn’t feel like we’re going to know how good these Sooners are until next week.
Here are three things that stood out about Saturday’s performance:
*Defensive adjustments. After giving up 20 points in the first quarter and a half of the game, the OU defense tightened up. Good on the coaches. Good on the players. It bodes well moving forward.
*Dillon Gabriel’s running. Early in the season, I thought the quarterback’s running ability might be a nice extra. Now, it’s turning into a real weapon. Gabriel runs smart and strong.
*Abundant receivers. Double-digit receivers catching passes is something usually reserved for non-conference games. By conference play, the rotation tends to tighten. Not Saturday. Double-digit pass catchers for the Sooners. That depth is encouraging.
Now the rubber meets the road
Todd Lisenbee: Can Dillon Gabriel win a game against a team as talented as Texas without a run game to lean on? Can OU’s defense make enough big plays to keep the Horns at bay? It’s crazy to say, but after five games, I’m not sure. I’m just as confused as you are.
Momentum is huge in rivalry games and the Sooners have shown the ability to make many momentum-changing big plays. But can they keep Texas from answering back with their own big plays?
Next Saturday, we find out if Oklahoma has made a big leap or a small hop.
Next Saturday can’t get here fast enough.
A blowout win leaves questions
Ed Murray: I have to admit I didn’t see that coming, at least the first quarter and a half. Obviously, Vegas oddsmakers didn’t either as the game went over the total before halftime. I’m not sure if we need to worry about the numerous chunk plays given up to what has been an overall unimpressive Iowa State offense or find comfort in the defense tightening things up, especially in the 2nd half, and not allowing another point from the 9:06 mark of the 2nd quarter.
Note- Texas didn’t punt once today against No. 24 Kansas while racking up 661 yards of offense in a balanced attack.
Offensively, the quarterback run game certainly added to the overall ground attack but OU still averaged less than 4 yards a carry. Still a concern.
Bottom line though, OU is 5-0, Texas is 5-0. Time to bring it on.