Glass Half Full: 10 Positives for the Oklahoma Sooners Going Into Week 2
After a drop in the polls following a close win against Utah State, some Oklahoma fans have that sinking feeling.
The media, of course, hasn't helped ease any either, with most having the same knee-jerk reaction. Like the season is now in jeopardy because a lowly Aggie team (and not the good one) stepped onto Owen Field and almost ended the nation's longest home winning streak.
Pay no attention to them, people. Well, pay some attention, but just don't jump ship on an Oklahoma BCS chase just yet. There is not enough evidence to support that claim.
The critics do have a few things to go on. Yes, it was a close win to a team not expected to accomplish much. Yes, at times the Sooners looked sub-par, on both sides of the ball.
The game was far from all bad, though, and actually really good for short periods.
While some can't wait to point out what went wrong, or why the Sooners and staff are in over their heads, I think we should all take a look at ten good things to come out the first game of the Oklahoma Sooners 2010 football season.
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Trey Millard Can Play
Out of Rock Bridge Senior High School in Colombia, Mo., Trey Millard is digging in to his spot as the new H-back at Oklahoma.
Trey came out as the 19th-ranked middle line backer in the country, and now Sooner fans are finding out why he was also the 15th-ranked tight end.
Trey is everything that Bob Stoops looks for in a kid. Not only is he an all-around athlete, but Trey is also an exceptional student, as well as an accomplished writer.
Saturday, in OU's opener against Utah State, Trey showed why the coaching staff has been giving him such great reviews from spring ball all the way through fall camp.
Nothing on the stat sheet is going to jump up and grab you, just 3 carries for 16 yards. It's what the stat sheets don't show that should grab the fans attention.
On DeMarco Murray's biggest gain on the day, a 63 yard dash for a touchdown, Trey showed that he can play with the big boys with first a seal block on a defensive end, then a diving chop-block on a quickly closing safety.
Both held lane integrity for Murray to display his speed, not to mention excite the crowd.
"Awesome block, and he (Trey Millard) was going good for his first game..", Murray said of the young freshman, adding "He's a powerful guy, glad he's on my side."
Trey did also have an 11-yard scamper called back on a hold that won't show up on the stat sheet either, and several great blocks, even throwing up two separate level blocks.
He stayed inside and pounded with the defensive line, and showed speed and versatility with second and third level blocks.
This is something to take notice of Sooner fans, kids like this, making plays like this are what can make a real difference in a win or a loss.
Like maybe a season opener, where the game is close and your team needs a solid blocker to grind out a victory.
That's just a guess, though.
Ronnell Lewis' Star Is Rising
A special teams beast, and as of late last year a punishing line backer, after nabbing OU's first sack of the season Ronnell Lewis can now add defensive end to his skill set.
He did make another appearance on special teams with a nice hit on a hapless Utah State kick returner in the closing seconds of the first quarter, but now Ronnell seems to be turning in to an all-around solid defensive player.
Time and again Ronnell showed he can find his way around an offensive blocker, and looked comfortable in either a downed or standing position.
At times he did get out of position, and made some bad decisions, both of which can be blamed at least partly on the escape ability of Utah State quarterback Deondre Borel.
There has been some growing pains, but Ronnell Lewis still proves why he projects to be a star in the OU defense with every snap.
With the heralded Florida State Seminoles rolling in to town next week, Ronnell "The Hammer" Lewis will get the chance to display his talents against a top-tier offense, with a prime time audience tuning in.
The kind of game that with the right kind of performance, can get you in to the national spotlight.
Offensive Line Play Actually Has Improved
The OU coaches have been telling us how the offensive line play is better. In Week 1, we finally got a chance to see for ourselves.
Two things stuck out for me when looking at their play as a whole. The first is that they showed the ability to create movement at the line. Not every time, but across the line, no one looked out-matched in one-on-ones.
The second was that there were very few substitutions made. That shows both confidence by the coaching staff, and solid play by all.
Along with a minimal amount of penalties, and the fact that they produced the first 200 yard back at OU since the 2007 season, and I would say that for an opening day game, it was good.
No injuries, a positive OU will gladly accept also.
They will need to improve, but this was a solid showing heading into Week 2.
Looking at Patrick O'Hara and his duck-like field goal try, and a few returns by Utah State that looked for a second might go all the way, you can see why special teams play is in question.
Place kicking may be a real problem, as far as the kick coverage, I'm not to worried.
When it comes to punter Tress Ways' special teams play though, it's all positive.
Busting a third-best in OU history punt (85 yards) is no easy task. Oklahoma has had some of the best collegiate punters ever, with guys like Chief Wahoo McDaniel, Indian Jack Jacobs, and more recently, Jeff Ferguson.
Though he ended the game with a more human-like 46.6 average, Way still showed Florida State and their deadly returner in sophomore Greg Reid that he may not get the chance to showcase his world class speed against OU.
Great punting isn't to just flip the field, sometimes it becomes a chess game between punter and returner. This week maybe the two best at these positions will meet as combatants on the field of play.
With the leg that Tess Way has, I see OU winning this battle.
The Freshman Didn't Fold
True freshmen to see the field in the 2010 opener were, LB Corey Nelson, RB Trey Millard, CB Aaron Colvin, WR Brennan Clay and Trey Franks, and TE Austin Woods at long snapper.
Other newcomers Kenny Stills at wide receiver, and Tony Jefferson at safety, were the first true freshmen to start under Stoops since Tommie Harris in 2001. Quite the feat, it would seem.
Redshirt freshmen Gabe Ikard at left guard, and line backer Tom Wort also fit this list.
Tony Jefferson came on strong with a early stop of the Utah State running back, and played well over all, especially late when OU needed some stops.
Tom Wort had to battle back from a few costly third down mistakes that resulted in a pair of Aggie first downs.
He did end the game with 7 total tackles, and showed flashes of brilliant recognition skills which will be crucial to his position in the OU defense.
Trey Millard we already hit on.
The rest had spot duty here and there, but when called upon did hold up well.
Maybe all of them weren't world-beaters, and at times showed their inexperience, but when it came to bend or break, these young kids stayed the course and helped deliver us a victory.
The Oklahoma "Big 3" Made The Difference
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When the OU coaches said that DeMarco Murray would shoulder the load, they weren't kidding.
With a whopping 35 carries (more than Adrian Peterson ever had) on 218 yards (good for 9th best in the Stoops era), Murray proved that he still has that "It" factor.
Cutting and slashing, ending runs with authority, this is the Murray Sooner fans hope will stay around and upright for the whole season.
Murrays' third-quarter 63-yard touchdown dash likely is the key play of the game, giving the Sooners a two-score lead that would be needed later in the game.
His fourth-down run late, where he stuck his arm just over the marker as he was being forced out of bounds, directly saved the game, gaining the first down and allowing OU to keep that slippery Utah State quarterback on the sidelines.
Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles got things going early with a 12-yard, then a 21-yard touchdown connection.
Ryan Broyles ended the day with 9 grabs for 142 yards. He's so good that the feel is that he had a down game, if there is such a thing for Ryan.
Landry looked anywhere from great to ugly, going 17 of 36 for 217 yards. An even 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions. He rarely has bad games following an outing like this, so fans shouldn't worry.
He did hit Cameron Kenney on a tight throw on forth-and-9, and stayed poised late.
A signal caller can make a bad decision, the good ones don't string them together. Landry showed he can battle back, maybe not by throwing touchdowns, but with correcting mistakes.
As the best at their skill positions (Big 3), these three need to carry the OU offense through. They had their struggles against a surprising Utah State defense, but in the end, the "Big 3" came through to claim victory for Oklahoma.
Back-To-Back Bad Games Are Rare at OU
The last time Oklahoma lost back to back games was the end of the 2004 season (USC), and the beginning of the 2005 season (TCU).
Other than that, since 2008, the closest any team has come to beating the Sooners is two touchdowns (2008 45-31 Kansas, after loss to Texas).
Even though OU didn't lose last week, this is still good news for any Sooner fan. This shows how Bob Stoops and the players he recruits rarely have two down games in a row.
With ten different freshmen, eight true freshmen, getting playing time, not to mention the new formed line, this game could have gotten out of control.
It did for short periods, but even with all this the coaching staff and players alike kept their cool and gutted out the win.
Brent Venables admitted in a post game show that he and some of the players did feel somewhat like the game was a loss. It was really just a feeling caused by the lackluster play.
That feeling will spill over to the game with Florida State, history shows it. The Utah State offense was unconventional with a very mobile and crafty quarterback.
FSU will state no such claim, the OU defense will get more familiar looks with their pro-style offense. Christian Ponder can run for sure, but no where near what Deondre Borel can do.
New Looks From The Playbook
The last few years, the bubble-screen has ruled at OU, with some even calling the Sooners "Bubble-screen U".
The contest with Utah State saw very few of those plays, instead the fans got to see a heavy dose of the running game.
Even though the first half had an even 19 plays a piece, the second half ended with the offense running 45 running plays for the game.
Along with that, there is the new H-back plays with Trey Millard. OU ran a few variations with him in different sets.
There were even a few boot passes thrown in, but nothing to wild.
Who knows what OC Kevin Wilson will break out for Bob Stoops' little brother Mark, who heads the Seminole defense. But whatever it is, Wilson has the horses to run a lot of his playbook.
For Sooner fans that are worried about the speed of the FSU defense, the fact that these new plays, and the players that execute them have looked good, is a promising feature.
The Seminole defense should have some problems come Saturday, and a lot of that is due to some new variations in Wilson's vast playbook.
The Utah State Aggies Are a Good Football Team
Going 4-8 last year, the Utah State Aggies were supposed to come roll over against Oklahoma. I guess no one told the Aggies.
With a very under rated offensive line blocking very well for him, Utah State quarterback Deondre Borel hit eight different receivers for 341 yards.
When the OU defense converged, he almost always found a way out, and when he did, Borel lit up the Sooner secondary.
With probably the prettiest throw on the run at Owen field since Sam Bradford, Borel made seven throws while scrambling that connected for over 200 yards.
Even Beal admitted to being frustrated by his elusiveness saying, "When I went in, he (Borel) went out, when I out, he ran up the gut."
Now it's easy to understand why even Bob Stoops, not just Aggie head coach Gary Andersen, when given the choice, prefer to have dual-threat signal callers.
The defense looked good for the Aggies also, racking up 3 sacks, along with several hurries, and 2 picks.
They held up much better as expected, to the credit of the Aggie defensive coaching staff.
Middle line backer Kyle Gallagher Jr. went head-to-head with Murray multiple times, stopping him in fantastic fashion twice in a row, losing his helmet both times.
Kyle ended with a game-high 11 tackles, and was in on a few of the quarterback hurries.
Got to give credit were it is due, this Utah State team is good. Something many teams on the Aggie schedule will find out soon. Boise State?
The End Result
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Close as it was, the game with Utah State was still a win.
The critics can point, and the fans can complain, but OU is 1-0 and getting ready to play an old non-conference rival on the national stage. A rival that Oklahoma always seems to bring their A-game for.
In this day and age of college football, with parity and all, you got to just win and move on. Don't get wrapped up in all the bad things that arise.
Not that they should be ignored, but with the current circumstances at OU, they are acceptable for Week 1.
"In the end, it's what are we going to do to make improvements in the coming weeks." said Bob Stoops. So OU fans should know that the head coach isn't backing off, and he knows what he has to do now.
Like OU legend Merv Griffin said in the wrap-up show, "Sometimes an ugly win can be the best start to a season." adding in about the way OU won opposed to the way FSU did, "I would much rather play Florida State than the Sooners."
This type of win can catapult Oklahoma in to having a great day against the Seminoles. Either way, at the end of the day, a win is a win.
Better than the way last years opener ended, with a banged up quarterback and a loss.