The Oklahoma Sooners are a very different team this year. They have managed to stay relatively healthy, along with winning close games that they would have lost a year ago. However, these close games that the Sooners have won, against Utah State and now Air Force, are games that really shouldn't have been as close as they were.
But for now, a win is a win and the Sooners are 3-0 after a 27-24 victory over Air Force yesterday at Owen Field. The Sooners jumped out to a 27-10 fourth quarter lead before allowing Air Force to score twice and make a ball game of it again. A couple of late first downs iced the game for Oklahoma, but fans still left the stadium wondering what the true identity of this Sooner team is.
This week is a tough one to grade because Air Force is a quality team and runs a very interesting offense. The triple-option is not something that you see everyday and it caused some problems for the Sooners throughout the game. Fortunately, the Sooners contained it enough to get the win. Here are this week's scores.
Landry Jones is the epitome of this identity crisis the Sooners are in. After a romp over Florida State in which Jones looked every bit the Heisman candidate, Jones came back down to earth with a very modest game.
While Jones didn't make mistakes that cost the Sooners the game, he didn't make a ton of plays either and was off the mark a lot, particularly in the first half. It seems that Jones doesn't have the confidence in himself to put the ball on the money against a good defense.
He also needs to learn when to get rid of the ball and stop trying to make a play that isn't there. That's cost Oklahoma several sacks this year. There is no doubt that Jones is a better quarterback than last year, but he still has a long way to go.
Running Backs: B+
For the second straight week, Oklahoma failed to establish a really consistent running attack, rushing for 113 yards on 34 attempts. DeMarco Murray had a big day for the Sooners, with 26 carries for 113 yards and two touchdowns, but no one else really did anything.
Mossis Madu only got three carries and Jones was sacked a couple of times, but did have a couple of nifty scampers early in the game. Murray has proven his mettle at being able to carry the ball a lot during games. However, Oklahoma needs to work harder at establishing the running game, or defenses will begin to sit back more on the pass.
Wide Receivers: A-
A lot could've happened had Jones been more on target with some of his passes, but overall, this unit did a great job of making plays and then fighting for yards after the catch. Ryan Broyles had another great game with 10 catches for 116 yards, but no touchdowns.
Murray caught Jones' only touchdown pass of the day on a screen pass that put the Sooners up 17 in the fourth. There were a couple of drops in the unit, but they stepped up and made plays against a very good Air Force secondary. Their performance was encouraging, to say the least.
Offensive Line: B-
Like many parts of OU's performance on Saturday, the offensive line wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either. The line did a good job of giving Jones time to throw the football, but struggled at picking up blitzes from time to time. Another problem was the fact that Sooners averaged less than four yards a carry on the ground for the second straight week.
Against an obviously smaller and less athletic defensive front, the O-line should have been able to have their way with the Falcons, especially as the game wore on. Things did improve on the ground later in the game as Murray began to pick up nice chunks of yards, but it should have been a lot better than what it was. Still, like Jones, there is no doubt this unit has improved a lot since last year and is continuing to get better.
Defensive Line: C
Air Force's most consistently successful play came on fullback dives right up the middle. The Falcon offensive line was able to push the tackles off the ball and pick up five yards pretty much all day long. That's inexcusable for a talented Oklahoma front. The defensive ends did a solid job of sticking to their gaps and staying disciplined on sweeps, but they too were burned at times by the speed and deception of the triple option offense.
The linebackers did a good job of closing to the football and making stops before the play got out of hand. Consistency on that was a bit of an issue, but not too terrible. It's hard to gauge a defense's performance against such a tough offense. Overall, the linebackers did a good job of closing down and making plays when they needed to be made. Many missed tackles though, but that was the case for the whole defense, not just this unit.
Once again, the secondary was burned constantly. Quarterback Tim Jefferson completed 8-of-14 passes against the Sooner secondary with almost every single pass being nothing more than some form of a slant over the middle.
The Sooners were always caught behind the receiver giving Jefferson a nice window to deliver the football. The corners and safeties have to become more aggressive at defending the pass. Ten yard cushions are plain crazy to give up when you have a 3rd-and-7 situation. That's just not smart football.
Special Teams: A
Jimmy Stevens took over the placekicking duties for injured Patrick O'Hara, who sat out the game with a muscle strain, and performed extremely well, making all three extra points and both field goals. Stevens is a very solid kicker, especially within 40 yards, so it was good to see him get on the field and perform well. Tress Way had another solid day punting the football, averaging 50 yards a boot on his four punts.
Overall, Oklahoma did not play a bad game yesterday. They moved the ball fairly effectively on offense and made stops on defense as well. Like Utah State however, they seemed to mentally check out a bit once they established a 27-10 lead in the fourth quarter. These mental lapses have got to stop if Oklahoma is going to continue to win football games.
The Sooners hit the road for the first time this season when they travel to Cincinnati next week. It should provide a good test for the Sooners who did not perform well on the road at all last year and will be looking to shed that label very quickly.