Rapid Reaction: Grading the Sooners in Their Stunning Loss to Kansas State
With 4:09 remaining in the fourth quarter, the No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners' defense took the field with only one mindset: force a three-and-out and give Landry Jones and the offense one last shot to win the game.
Following a 10-yard touchdown grab by Sterling Shepard, the Sooners only trailed the No. 15 Kansas State Wildcats 24-19.
However, in what was a trend all game long, the Wildcats converted on third down. Twice.
With that, the Sooners' early season mistakes finally caught up with them as they fell 24-19.
Gone was the chance of a perfect season.
Gone was the 14-0 home record against ranked opponents under Bob Stoops.
But most importantly, gone was the chance for the Sooners to control their own destiny.
Earlier this week I listed seven keys that the Sooners had to accomplish in order to win.
Here's how they fared.
1. Stop the Run
The Wildcats came into Saturday's contest averaging 251.7 yards per game on the ground. Compare that to the Sooners' average of allowing 134 yards per game, and it looked to be a huge concern for the Sooners.
Huge was an understatement.
The Sooners defense was burned for 213 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. Running back John Hubert finished with 130 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. Quarterback Collin Klein added 79 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
Even when the Sooners knew it was coming, they just couldn't seem to come up with a solution.
It's an area they will have to address soon if they have any hope of creeping back into the national title picture, let alone salvage the remaining season.
2. Force Kansas State to Become One Dimensional by Jumping
It started out great.
After forcing the Wildcats to punt on their opening drive, the Sooners offense was moving like a well-oiled machine.
Starting on their own nine yard line, Jones and the offense marched all the way to the Kansas State 11 yard line. That’s when Jones found tight end Brannon Green wide open in the end zone—only he misfired with a pass behind the receiver.
The Sooners would settle for a field goal, while the Wildcats defense came away with a moral victory. Couple drives later, they would come away with seven points on the board by way of a fumble recovery in the end zone.
The offense that was supposed to be building up a nice lead, did the complete opposite.
It was that kind of day for the Sooners.
The Wildcats were hardly one-dimensional, finishing with 44 rushing plays and 21 pass plays.
3. Establish the Run
The Sooners came in ranked No. 12 in the nation in rushing yards per game with 277. The Wildcats came in ranked No. 19 against the run, only allowing 93.2 yards per game.
Something had to give.
Unfortunately for the Sooners, it was their rushing attack.
The Sooners finished with 88 yards on 27 carries. Dominique Whaley finished with 51 yards on 9 carries, while Damien Williams only finished with 34 yards on 10 carries.
The Wildcats defense was stout all night.
Besides allowing only 3.3 yards per carry, the largest run given-up to the Sooners only went for 11 yards.
That's not going to get it done for the Sooners.
4. Win the Turnover Battle
In what is the case in the majority of games, whomever wins the turnover battle tends to also win the game.
Tonight was no different.
While the Wildcats stayed turnover free throughout the game, the Sooners coughed up the ball three times—two fumbles and one interception.
The Wildcats made the Sooners pay for each one.
In the second quarter, the Sooners faced a third down inside their own 10-yard line. After scrambling around in the pocket, Jones had the ball stripped out by Justin Tuggle. The ball then popped into the waiting arms of Jarell Childs, who ran it into the end zone, giving the Wildcats a 7-3 lead.
During the following drive, the Sooners seemed to shake off the turnover, quickly making it to the Wildcats' one-yard line. However, back-up quarterback Blake Bell fumbled the snap on the next play and the Wildcats recovered. The Wildcats would settle for a field goal on the ensuing drive.
After taking a 13-10 lead in the third quarter, the Sooners forced the Wildcats to punt. With a chance to turn the game around in the Sooners favor, Jones followed up by throwing an interception to cornerback Ty Zimmerman. The Wildcats responded with a touchdown.
That's 17 of the Wildcats points that resulted by way of three careless turnovers by the Sooners.
Stoops can't expect to win many games when his team is giving away that many free points to the opposing team.
5. Come Up Big on 3rd Down on Both Sides of the Ball
Before this match-up we knew two things.
One, the Wildcats were one of the best in the nation at converting on third down with a 58 percent conversion rate. And two, the Sooners were one of the best in the nation at stopping opponents from converting on third down, only allowing a 18.75 percent conversion rate.
Saturday night, the Wildcats exposed the Sooners' defense as imposters.
Time after time, the Sooners couldn't stop Klein and the Wildcats offense on third down when they needed to. The Wildcats converted seven of 14 third down attempts, as well as one fourth down attempt.
This included a huge 28-yard completion to a wide-open receiver with only 9:12 remaining in the game. The Wildcats took advantage, putting the ball into the end zone for a 24-13 lead.
The Sooners also failed to stop the Wildcats on third-and-11 and third-and-three on the final drive.
The lack of critical stops played a large factor in the end result.
On the other end, the Sooners were a pedestrian four for nine.
6. Keep Landry Jones off His Back
After proving to be somewhat of an Achilles heel for the Sooners through their first two games, Jones finally got decent pass protection.
Although he was sacked twice, only one of them could be largely credited to the offensive line.
The first, which resulted in a fumble and touchdown for the Wildcats, was a poor decision by Jones to hold onto the ball. After failing to find a receiver downfield, Jones would have been better off launching the ball to the sidelines. Instead, he tried to make a play with his legs and wound up paying the price.
Jones was hurried in the pocket on a couple occasions, however, it's a large improvement from the lackluster unit we witnessed during the first two games.
7. Protect the House
It didn't take long for the raucous Oklahoma fans to quickly turn on their beloved Sooners.
After beginning the third quarter with a three-and-out, the Norman fans let the Sooners hear it. Boos rang out throughout the stadium.
You can't blame them.
After spending the week leading up to the game challenging the crowd to step it up, the Sooners forgot to take their own advice.
Following a loss at home to Texas Tech last year that ended a 39-game home winning streak, the Norman mystique seems to slowly be fading away.
The Sooners fall to 77-4 at home under Stoops.