Oklahoma kicked the 2010 season off last night in a way that no one ever imagined it would: an ugly, very close and nerve wracking 31-24 victory over the Utah State Aggies.
This isn't going to be the report card of a Dean's List student.
While Landry Jones did not lose the game for the Sooners, he did not do a lot to help them win. Jones finished the game 17-36 for 217 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions. In his defense, were both batted balls on which defenders made diving plays. Jones was very out of sync with all his receivers except for Ryan Broyles for most of the night. The worst part about his performance is that he looked unbelievably uncomfortable in the pocket under pressure—almost as though he had never faced a pass rush before. All reports had pointed to a more mature and much improved Landry Jones in 2010. That person did not show up Saturday night. Jones has to get his act together before Florida State rolls into town next week.
Running Backs: A
Any questions people had about DeMarco Murray's durability were answered last night. Murray ran a career high 35 times for another career high 218 yards and two touchdowns. Based on the offensive game plan from last night, Murray will not be sharing carries much this year as long as he is feeling good. 10 carries were shared amongst five other players with three of them going to Landry Jones on sacks. Murray looked extremely good in the open field and seems to be healthy and ready for a big year.
Wide Receivers: B-
Ryan Broyles picked up exactly where he left off in 2009, catching nine passes for 142 yards and two first half touchdowns. The rest of the receivers still need to step up and help Broyles out. Last night, the problems weren't as much the receivers as it was Landry Jones being out of sync. However, there were times when the receivers needed to make plays and they didn't. Basically, these guys have to work harder at getting open and help Landry Jones make easy throws.
Offensive Line: B-
A very green unit in 2009, this was supposed to be a much improved unit this season. For the most part, the line performed pretty well on Saturday. The run blocking was a major point of improvement, as the Sooners averaged 4.6 yards per carry on the day. Pass protection suffered a little bit, giving up three sacks. However, the line did provide time for Landry Jones to throw most of the day.
Defensive Line: C
The defensive front was fairly inconsistent with getting pressure on Utah State quarterback Diondre Borel. Borel was able to sit back most of the evening and pick the Sooner secondary apart. When there was pressure, the Sooners didn't do a good job of containing Borel and not allowing him to let receivers work their way open. It was good to see Adrian Taylor get some good time on the field and he appears ready to do work this year at tackle. Missing Frank Alexander hurt the line, but there still should have been more pressure up front.
The linebacking corps did a fairly good job of containing the Utah State run game, holding the Aggies to only 80 yards and a 2.1 average per carry. The unit also did a good job of tackling in open space, something the line and secondary failed to do well. The biggest problem with the unit was red-shirt freshman Tom Wort. Wort, who head coach Bob Stoops has said needs calm down at practice at times, was the reason for a couple of excited, freshman mistakes, particularly a couple of personal foul penalties after the play. Wort needs to keep his head and stay about from the stupid penalties.
The youngest unit on the team was inexcusably carved up by Diondre Borel for 341 yards and two touchdowns. The corners and Jonathan Nelson were constantly burned by the Aggie receivers and gave up big plays all night long. The three interceptions, including Jamell Fleming's game preserving pick with four minutes to go, were the lone bright spot. That has to improve or else Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, a dark-horse Heisman candidate, is going to have a field day.
Special Teams: A
Kicking didn't prove to be an issue for Patrick O'Hara yesterday. O'Hara was perfect on all his kicks and although his 32-yard field goal was extremely ugly, it still went in. Tress Way had a solid day punting, although there is no way he was planning on having eight punts on the day. Way's first punt was a booming, 85-yarder, but several lesser punts brought his average down to 46.6 yards a kick on the evening.
The good news about yesterday is that the Sooners discovered they have a lot of problems and things to work on before Florida State came to town. If these problems had been discovered during the game against the Seminoles, it would have been a very ugly affair. So really, this was a blessing in disguise for the Sooners.
Oklahoma has a couple of days to correct a lot of mistakes. Hopefully this was a simple case of overlooking a lesser opponent and looking ahead to a big game in the future. If not, Saturday could see the first loss at Owen Field in five years.
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