Oklahoma Football: 10 Things We Learned from the Sooners' Win vs. Texas
So much for a game filled with excitement and tension. The No. 13-ranked Oklahoma Sooners just laid a beatdown on the No. 15 Texas Longhorns for the second season in a row.
The final score read 63-21, but it really shouldn't have even been that close. Texas backup quarterback Case McCoy threw two touchdown passes in garbage time against Oklahoma's second-string defense—the only time Texas' offense scored in the game.
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops deserves some sort of award, as this is a completely rejuvenated squad from a season previous. Texas finished with 289 total yards, but over 100 of those yards came in the fourth quarter after nearly all of Oklahoma's starters went out of the game.
Because both teams came into this game with one conference loss, BCS and conference implications were very much on the line. Now with two losses, Texas will have a steep hill to climb to get back into any sort of competitive state. Oklahoma, on the other hand, just has to keep winning.
The win should vault the Sooners into the Top 10, but that also depends on how the current BCS Top 10 performs today. The loss for the Longhorns should put them in the No. 20—No. 25 range.
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops has now tallied nine victories in 14 games against Mack Brown and the Texas Longhorns.
This Is a New and Improved Team
If we learned anything from this game, it's that the Oklahoma Sooners are a vastly improved team since their Week 4 loss to Kansas State. Even though the offense, led by fifth-year senior quarterback Landry Jones, was impressive in its own right, the defense is what really made the difference.
I mentioned this last week after the Sooners' victory over Texas Tech, as well. However, one solid performance against an average competitor didn't completely convince me that the Sooners had made a turnaround. I needed to see consistency.
I'd say a shellacking of a seemingly much-improved Texas squad does that argument some justice. From the opening drive, the Sooners completely dominated the Longhorns in every aspect of the game—even where they weren't supposed to.
Oklahoma's depleted offensive line did a tremendous job against a Texas defensive line that is supposed to include two premiere NFL-caliber defensive ends. Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor rarely got pressure on Jones, and he was able to deliver passes in the pocket with confidence rather than fear.
I don't know what happened during practice in the last two weeks, or what the coaches may have said, but it's obvious that this Oklahoma team is more focused and more prepared. The Sooners are finally meeting their lofty expectations.
Trey Millard. Just. Wow.
The coaches wanted to make it a point to get Trey Millard the ball more often. This started last weekend against Texas Tech, but it was highlighted Saturday against Texas.
The do-anything-back was on the field for the majority of the snaps and never disappointed. He was constantly productive, which isn't new, per say, but he got to do more today than just lay monstrous blocks on defenders.
Millard finished the game with three rushes for 45 yards and five receptions for 119 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown catch. Whenever he has the ball in his hands, it's going to be a positive play. At 6'2" and 256 pounds, Millard is a load to bring down.
He was able to showcase both his power, speed and agility today as he plowed through defenders, beat them to the outside or hurdled them with ease (see: picture). Millard was the offensive MVP today, and he may just be the best all-around player the Sooners have to offer.
He needs to keep taking the majority of the snaps.
Damien Williams Will Continue to Start, Who Is the Backup?
It was clear even last week that Oklahoma had elected JUCO transfer Damien Williams as the full-time starter. This was the right move all along, and, once again, Williams didn't disappoint.
Williams had his best game in a Sooners uniform on Saturday. He ran the ball 22 times for 167 yards and one touchdown. Had Blake Bell not vultured four rushing touchdowns within the 8-yard line, Williams' stat line may even look more impressive.
His performance was highlighted by a 95-yard scamper that really propelled the momentum fully to Oklahoma's side. Williams ran tough all day, and even though the Longhorns have been terrible against the run all season, it was clear that Williams was the best running back on the field.
The question remains, though, who is the primary backup? Last week, it was without a doubt Dominique Whaley. This made sense due to the fact that Whaley's starting job was usurped by Williams, but Whaley didn't even see the field until the third quarter. He finished with six rushes for 51 yards.
Instead, junior Brennan Clay was the first running back off the bench, finishing with eight carries for 59 yards and a touchdown. Even though he only had two more carries than Whaley, it seemed as though Clay was on the field quite a bit more.
This isn't a pressing situation by any means, as the Sooners have four or five running backs that are capable of producing yards, it was just a weird situation. Has Whaley really fallen to third string, or am I reading too much into this? Does it matter?
Probably not, but it's still interesting to think about.
Landry Jones Owns the Longhorns
Go on, wear that golden hat, Landry. You deserve it.
To go along with Steve Davis, Jimmy Harris and Jamelle Holieway, you have become just the fourth quarterback in Oklahoma history to go undefeated against Texas. Jones just keeps piling on accolades for his legacy, yet two weeks ago a healthy amount of Sooner fans wanted to bench him for sophomore Blake Bell.
It's crazy what winning can do for a person's image, isn't it? Jones played his best game of the season last weekend against Texas Tech. I noted after the win that Jones played with confidence that I had rarely seen from him before.
He carried that attitude over to the Red River Rivalry and never second-guessed himself. He stood in the face of what was believed to be a powerful pass rush, stayed poised in the pocket and continued to deliver aerial strikes to multiple receivers.
Jones completed 21 of 37 passes for 321 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. His interception was a bad read, but it was legitimately the only time he ever looked like the unconfident quarterback that played the first three games.
This game could be a turning point for Jones, as it was his first 300-yard game since the Baylor game last season—the first game that the Sooners played without Ryan Broyles.
Maybe Jones is getting more comfortable with his receivers, maybe the offensive line deserves more praise. Whatever the case, he is getting the job done at a high rate.
Depth at Wide Receiver Is Obvious
The notion that the Sooners have a lot of wide-receiver depth has been a well-documented sentiment since the offseason. However, since the offseason, the wide-receiver position has seen the most controversy.
While nobody ever expected a new Ryan Broyles to appear out of nowhere, the idea that Kenny Stills would jump into the No. 1 receiver position seemed obvious. Even if he couldn't play up to his potential, the Sooners still had a plethora of other options.
Then the suspensions happened. Suddenly, Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson were all out of the picture. Jackson ended up transferring, while Reynolds and Franks have still yet to see the field. Then junior college transfer Courtney Gardner was declared ineligible for this season.
The Sooners still had talent, but Stills was the only wide receiver on the roster with any experience. Finally, the Sooners caught a break when Justin Brown decided to transfer from Penn State following the Sandusky scandal. Brown brought size and experience to a group that desperately needed both.
Throughout the first few games, the receivers (except for Stills) seemed off. Their timing with Landry Jones was terrible, and it was really slowing the offense down. The last two weeks have been completely different. Jones and the receivers are firing on all cylinders.
Jones completed at least one pass to six different wide receivers against Texas, and that didn't even include freshman Durron Neal, who came into the spotlight for the first time last weekend against Texas Tech.
Brown is the Sooners' only senior receiver, and that makes things really scary.
Josh Heupel Called the Game of His Life
I think the coaching staff is finally understanding how to utilize the amount of talent the Sooners have on their roster. While the Sooners remain a spread offense, the running game is starting to shine through much like Sooner teams of old.
Then again, it could just be because Texas' run defense is below subpar, but Josh Heupel, the Sooners' offensive coordinator, was even mixing up the run and pass in the early going. This is the best bet for the Sooners, as the running game will open up passing lanes for Jones and vice-versa.
The Sooners are too talented at too many positions to solely be a spread attack that throws the ball twice as much as runs it. Plus, the way that Heupel utilized Trey Millard makes me think that he is even more-so realizing what he needs to do to put the Sooners in the best position possible.
I can't even remember the last time the Sooners ran the ball more than they passed in a Big 12 conference matchup. Alas, they finished today with 51 runs as opposed to 39 passes.
More of this, please.
Nobody Stops the Belldozer
Trust me, this isn't a new concept. The idea that "nobody can stop the Belldozer" has been forced down opposing defenses' throats since last season. Today, though, the Belldozer went above and beyond what is normally expected.
The Sooners' offense was clicking and routinely getting inside the 10-yard line. Enter: Belldozer. Goal-line situations are his bread and butter, and he found the end zone four times today. If it's not broke, don't fix it, right?
That's mostly my feeling when it comes to the Belldozer package. It's hard to argue otherwise, as it's virtually unstoppable. However, the "if it's not broke, don't fix it" attitude never lends itself to innovation that could possibly make something even more unstoppable.
I understand why the Sooners don't want to switch things up, but why is Bell not passing out of the Belldozer package? He never does. We know he can pass—we watched him throw a few passes on the last series of the game; they were nice throws.
Wouldn't adding a Tim Tebow-inspired jump pass make this package even more lethal? Just food for thought.
The Defensive Line Can Be Good When It Wants to Be
For the most part, the Sooners' defense has looked great this season. However, the depleted defensive line has left us wanting more.
Getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks has been an issue all season, especially with the departure of Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis to the NFL. I'm not exactly sure what changed, but Saturday, the defensive line looked like a new group of guys.
Led by senior defensive end/tackle David King (see: picture), the defensive line was constantly getting pressure on Texas quarterback David Ash. Even though Ash did a good job of avoiding a few sacks, the pressure was relentless enough to cause him to miss throws, leading to two interceptions.
Ash came into the game as No. 2 in the nation in terms of QB rating. Needless to say, he's about to drop a few spots thanks to Oklahoma's pass rush.
Oklahoma May Not Lose Multiple Games After All
Following the Kansas State loss, the idea that the Sooners could lose three or four games this season seemed like a good possibility.
Following the Texas victory, the idea that the Sooners could lose three or four games this season seems like an unlikely scenario. However, the Sooners have to stay consistent, because the competition in the Big 12 won't just give away games.
The Sooners' remaining conference schedule is daunting, to say the least: Kansas, Iowa State, Baylor, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, and TCU. With the exception of Kansas, all of these teams are going to be competitive.
West Virginia, who looked like the cream of the crop, just fell to Texas Tech by 35 points. Oklahoma still has a chance to run the table and win the conference and earn a BCS-bowl bid. Of course, Kansas State still remains an issue.
Regardless, Oklahoma's performances over the past two weekends have provided evidence that the Sooners are not done. They are going to continue to fight until they achieve the goals that they have set for themselves.
Now the Sooners Are Back in the National Picture
After a 41-20 victory over the Texas Tech Red Raiders, some were quick to say the Sooners were back in the hunt for a national championship. I didn't want to go that far, but the victory against Texas has solidified things.
As long as Oklahoma continues to play at this level and win football games, there's no reason that it can't work its way back into the national-championship picture. There are surprises every week—No. 5 West Virginia falling to Texas Tech was this week's surprise.
Every team that is currently ranked ahead of the Sooners still has at least one or two tough games on the schedule. For teams like Alabama, South Carolina, Florida and LSU, playing each other is going to lend itself to Oklahoma's favor. The Sooners' matchup with Notre Dame in two weeks suddenly becomes huge if both teams can win their "trap" game that falls before.
The win against Texas should bounce the Sooners back into the Top 10 of the BCS, and from then on, it's up to Oklahoma to keep climbing the ladder. It's definitely not impossible.