Berry’s OU report card: Running game comes alive just in time

Berry’s OU report card: Running game comes alive just in time

The Sooners got Gavin Sawchuk going in the second half. He produced his third straight triple-digit game, 107 yards on 14 carries, and 83 of those yards (on seven carries) came in the second half.

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Nov 18, 2023, 8:26pm CST

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Nov 18, 2023, 8:26pm CST

PROVO, Utah — OU’s 31-24 survival of Brigham Young on Saturday was a monument to getting by. The Sooners excelled in a few areas but made enough plays in a variety of phases to win a tight game.

The game was tied 7-7, 14-14, 17-17 and 24-24, before OU owned the fourth quarter. The report card reflects a tough, but good-enough, day at the office.

Running game: B. The Sooners got Gavin Sawchuk going in the second half. He produced his third straight triple-digit game, 107 yards on 14 carries, and 83 of those yards (on seven carries) came in the second half. Strangely, with Dillon Gabriel’s passing threat in the first half, OU gained just 47 yards on 13 designed run plays. But in the second half, when Jackson Arnold quarterbacked and the passing game curtailed, the Sooners had 118 yards on 16 designed runs.

Run defense: D. BYU entered the game as one of the nation’s weakest running teams, averaging 90.5 yards per game. But the Cougars ran strong in the first half — 70 yards on 15 designed running plays. Then the Cougars ran wild in the third quarter. Tailback Aidan Robbins gained 102 yards on seven carries in that third period, gashing OU with gains of 13, 25, 22, 14 and 18 yards. The Sooners finally began slowing Robbins in the fourth quarter, when he had 31 yards on five carries. But all told, BYU gained 231 yards on 33 designed running plays, giving the Cougars a chance to win.

Finishing: A. In a loss at Kansas three weeks ago, OU had the ball late, failed to make a first down and Kansas rallied with the game-winning touchdown. The Sooner offense finished much stronger Saturday. Armed with a 31-24 lead, OU ground out the final 5:08, making three first downs. Sawchuk’s 19-yard run produced one first down, Arnold’s back-to-back gains of five and six yards produced another and Arnold’s third-and-8 completion to Jalil Farooq for nine yards put the capper on the game. The third-down pass was a far cry from Kansas, when OU ran the ball three straight times, then punted back to the Jayhawks.

Gallery: OU’s 31-24 win at BYU in pictures

No Images found.

Kicking game: D. OU punter Luke Elzinga had a wild two-play sequence in the first quarter. On a fourth-and-7 play, Elzinga took the deep snap, rolled just a little left and pivoted to loft a looping throw that Ethan Downs, normally a defensive end, caught for about a 20-yard gain. Alas, Nic Anderson was called for offensive pass interference, and Elzinga instead punted on the next down. BYU’s Parker Kingston broke free and returned the kick 31 yards before he was tackled in the middle of the field by, yes, Elzinga. Elzinga averaged 46 yards on four punts. But Zac Schmit hooked a 28-yard field goal attempt, with the score tied 24-24. Farooq had a 32-yard kickoff return for the Sooners, but the special teams were mostly a downer.

Jackson Arnold: B. The freshman who long has been billed as a future star was solid but not spectacular in the second half when he was asked to run the Sooner offense in Gabriel’s absence. OU ran just 25 second-half plays before the final three snaps of kneel downs. Just 10 of those plays were pass plays. Arnold completed five of nine for 33 yards, plus a 15-yard scramble. Arnold overthrew a wide-open Anderson on a deep ball that would have been a touchdown, but with the game on the line, he checked to a Farooq slant pattern on 3rd-and-8, connecting for a game-sealing first down.

Setting: A. LaVell Edwards Stadium, sitting hard by the Wasatch Mountains, long has held a reputation as one of the greatest settings in college football. The colorful fall foliage in the two miles between the stadium and the mountains, the majestic Rockies themselves, the iconic “Y” on the side of Y Mountain, the campus itself. Hard to beat. Maybe the best 

Fourth-down defense: F. BYU faced eight fourth downs. The Cougars punted four times, kicked one field goal and converted three times. Those three conversions led to 17 of BYU’s 24 points. Quarterback Jake Retzlaff threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Chase Roberts on 4th-and-1 in the first quarter, connected with Isaac Rex for 13 yards on a 4th-and-2 that set up a second-quarter field goal, and scrambled to find Kody Epps for a 26-yard play on a third-quarter 4th-and-2 that set up BYU’s final TD. This game gets one-sided if the Sooners had made a couple of fourth-down stops.

Share with your crowd
Berry Tramel is a 45-year veteran of Oklahoma journalism, having spent 13 years at the Norman Transcript and 32 years at The Oklahoman. He has been named Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Born and raised in Norman, Tramel grew up reading four newspapers a day and began his career at age 17. His first assignment was the Lexington-Elmore City high school football game, and he’s enjoyed the journey ever since, having covered NBA Finals and Rose Bowls and everything in between. Tramel and his wife, Tricia, were married in 1980 and live in Norman near their daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters. Tramel can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected].

The latest from Sellout Crowd

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; The Oklahoma City Thunder bench watch the final minute of their game against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    Does OKC need more Aaron Wiggins?

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder fans cheer as their team scores against the Dallas Mavericks during the second quarter of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    Thunder-Mavericks: Why these playoffs might spawn a new OKC rival

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives to the basket beside Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) during the second half of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    OKC fans chanted ‘Luka sucks,’ but Doncic’s play said otherwise

  • Tailgating on The Grove on the Ole Miss campus in Oxford, Ms., on Saturday September 15, 2018.

Pre309

    OU’s move to the SEC: Listing the things to look foward to

  • Ireland travelblog: Farewell to the Emerald Isle, which keep Americans coming

The latest from Sellout Crowd

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; The Oklahoma City Thunder bench watch the final minute of their game against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    Does OKC need more Aaron Wiggins?

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder fans cheer as their team scores against the Dallas Mavericks during the second quarter of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    Thunder-Mavericks: Why these playoffs might spawn a new OKC rival

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives to the basket beside Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) during the second half of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    OKC fans chanted ‘Luka sucks,’ but Doncic’s play said otherwise

  • Tailgating on The Grove on the Ole Miss campus in Oxford, Ms., on Saturday September 15, 2018.

Pre309

    OU’s move to the SEC: Listing the things to look foward to

  • Ireland travelblog: Farewell to the Emerald Isle, which keep Americans coming