OU showed signs of a post-Texas hangover before holding on late. Here's what the Sellout Crowd has to say about it.
NORMAN — The record over the years shows OU doesn’t have a Texas hangover.
But the Sooners sure looked off their game against UCF.
OU struggled to show that same swagger and aggressiveness that paid such big dividends against the Longhorns, but ultimately, the Sooners did enough.
Here’s the Sellout Crowd’s rapid reaction to OU’s 31-29 win against UCF on Saturday at Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
Run-game issues rear their ugly head
Jenni Carlson: The Sooners’ run game struggles hadn’t bitten them through the first half of the season.
That changed on Saturday.
With Tawee Walker unavailable (for personal reasons) and Jovantae Barnes still recovering from injury (though he did make a brief fourth-quarter appearance), OU became largely one-dimensional on offense with Gavin Sawchuck and Marcus Major carrying the load. As good as Dillon Gabriel is, UCF was able to key on him, whether he was passing or running. He was sacked and hurried as much as he had been all season.
And when OU needed to not only move the ball but also score touchdowns, it was tough sledding.
Finally, in the fourth quarter, the run game came alive. The Sooners had four rushes for 37 yards on the touchdown drive that gave them the lead. But those run-game struggles made for a closer-than-expected game.
OU’s offense nearly cost the Sooners everything
Eli Lederman: Where do you want to point the blame?
A wholly ineffective run game? Missing pieces on the offensive line? An off-day from Dillon Gabriel? The absence of wide receiver Andrel Anthony and its broader impact? Zach Schmit’s field goal woes?
It doesn’t matter where you start. OU’s offense, not the defense, cost the Sooners Saturday.
When was the last time you could confidently utter that sentence?
Level with the Knights 17-17 at the half, OU gained 45 yards and only a pair of first downs on its next three possessions, which included Gabriel’s third interception of the year.
UCF, meanwhile, opened a 23-17 third-quarter lead on a pair of made field goals from ironically-named kicker Colton Boomer. Two weeks after it took down Texas, the same Sooners offense was showered with boos late when the punt team emerged for a third time in the period.
OU salvaged the afternoon with the nine-play, 65-yard scoring drive that ended on Drake Stoops’ 11-yard touchdown and restored the Sooners advantage with 9:16 remaining. Gavin Sawchuk crucially padded the lead with his 30-yard touchdown score at the 3:13 mark..
OU’s Big 12 title game and College Football Playoff hopes are still alive and well, but don’t let the outcome deceive you. OU nearly tossed that all away because it couldn’t score on the nation’s 79th-ranked defense, the one that had given up 131 combined points (43.6 per game) to Kansas State, Baylor and UCF before it came to Norman.
Close games build character… as long as you win them
Guerin Emig: Remember all of those one-score games OU played a year ago? Kansas State, Baylor, West Virginia, Texas Tech, Florida State. Here’s the one detail I’ll bet you recall:
The Sooners lost them all.
It didn’t matter that OU did some decent things in those games, or the law of averages worked against them, or that Brent Venables could look back at the fight of his team, be proud of that much and figure that fight would pay off in 2023.
The Sooners still sank to 6-7 because of their inability to win the tight ones. Any hope for a character build was lost in that final record.
One year later OU has beaten UCF and Texas by back-to-back one-score margins to improve to 7-0. It’s easier to see what Venables is building with a record like that.
It’s easier for the head coach to meet with his players on Sundays this season, point to their fight and make it stick. Players absorb the message a lot better when they win.
The Sooners didn’t play well offensively against UCF. They broke down a few key times on defense. They looked like a team that didn’t do a whole lot with their extra week of practice.
But when Dillon Gabriel led his off-kilter offense to back-to-back fourth-quarter touchdown drives to shove OU ahead, and then Kendel Dolby tackled Xavier Townsend on UCF’s 2-point try to tie Saturday’s game…
OU could head to its locker room, absorb Venables’ character-building message and believe it.
Scared the fans, but kept the zero
Todd Lisenbee: This will not be a game film that Venables pops in when he wants to showcase his team’s greatest performances, but championship teams throughout history have had similar hard-fought and ugly wins on their way to special seasons.
The 2000 team that this year’s Sooners get compared to so much had to struggle to win 27-13 against a 7-6 Texas Tech and hung on to win ugly 12-7 in Bedlam against a 3-8 Oklahoma State.
I’m not bringing you some groundbreaking insight when I tell you that Oklahoma’s offensive line must be better. It nearly cost them today and it is the most glaring issue on a team that just snuck by a very average UCF football team today.
Seven and zero. That zero is the most important thing in this last year of a four-team playoff.