Safety Jonathan Nelson picks off a Zach Collaros pass in the second quarter of Oklahoma's 31-29 win over Cincinnati.
Well, the Oklahoma Sooners have won their first road game of the season, but certainly not in the form that everyone was thinking. The Sooners managed to squeak out a 31-29 victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats on Saturday night, in a game that was close until the very end.
As has been the case with other games this year, Oklahoma jumped out quickly and then decided to relax a little bit, which allowed Cincinnati to stay in the game until Oklahoma recovered an onside kick with less than a minute remaining to seal the win.
However, despite the tension and anxiety that comes with close games, and despite the poor performances on both sides of the ball, it is once again nice to see the Sooners winning close games.
It can't be stressed enough that these three close games that Oklahoma has had this year, against Utah State, Air Force, and now Cincinnati, are games OU probably would have lost a year ago. The wins haven't been pretty, but they have been wins nonetheless.
Breaking down the Sooners' performance this week is going to look a little different than the past three weeks.
Running Game: C-
Oklahoma's running game has basically disappeared since the Utah State game, when DeMarco Murray ran for over 200 yards. Last night was the worst of the past three games, as the Sooners only accumulated 82 yards on 43 carries for an absolutely pathetic 1.9 yards per carry.
Murray and Mossis Madu did both have touchdown runs, but the yards were just not there last night. The offensive line was not able to push an undersized Cincinnati defensive line off the ball and was not able to maintain blocks and allow Murray to find holes to run.
Oklahoma has been unable to take advantage of the past three defenses, all which boasted less than stellar run stopping ability. If Oklahoma is not able to establish a more potent running attack, it could spell trouble for Landry Jones and the passing game as opponents will be able to sit back and play the pass all day long.
Texas, OU's next opponent, gave up over 250 yards on the ground against UCLA yesterday, so the opportunity is there to have a big day on the ground. Oklahoma has got to take advantage of that and avoid becoming a one-dimensional offense.
Passing Game: A-
Landry Jones continued his up and down ways on Saturday by having a very stellar performance against a young Cincinnati secondary. Jones finished the day 36-for-51 for 370 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. While off the mark at times, Jones started out on fire, completing 13 consecutive passes on back-to-back touchdown drives in the first quarter.
Jones also showed great mobility in the pocket, avoiding the pass rush several times and making throws on the run, something he had not done well so far this season. Overall, Jones played an excellent game and spread the ball around quite nicely. His lone interception was a poor throw that cost the Sooners seven points, but aside from that, it was a good day for Jones.
His receivers stepped up as well, led of course by Ryan Broyles, who had 10 receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown. Broyles has easily been the Sooners' most consistent playmaker so far in the 2010 season and they will need him to keep that up in order to be successful.
Freshman Kenny Stills and junior Dejuan Miller had a solid day catching the ball as well. All told, nine different receivers caught a pass and all of them caught at least two.
The Sooners gave up 462 yards of offense, 156 on the ground, 305 through the air, only three sacks, and countless missed tackles. Overall, it was just not a good day for the Oklahoma defense. This was the same Cincinnati team that was held to 15 yards rushing by Fresno State and 75 yards by NC State a week ago.
It was the same offensive line that had given up a nation's worst 15 sacks in three games, including eight against Fresno State. Oklahoma's performance was just listless and because of that, Cincinnati was able to hang on in this game until the final minute.
There is just not a lot to say about that performance. Blown coverages in the secondary led to lots of long gains for the Cincinnati receivers, particularly D.J. Woods, who had 171 yards on only seven receptions.
This unit is not the same unit as last years, however, there is the talent there to be that good. The Sooners will have to work harder to attain that level of performance and that just requires a reliance on discipline rather than sheer athletic ability.
MVP: Jonathan Nelson
The senior safety from Arlington, Texas literally saved three touchdowns in the first half for the Sooners. He saved a touchdown when he brought down D.J. Woods inside the 10-yard line, which led to a Cincinnati field goal.
He saved another when he caught up with Woods on a long pass and punched the ball out, which Quinton Carter recovered in the end zone. Nelson then intercepted a Zach Collaros pass in the end zone to stop another Bearcat drive. It's play like this that the Sooners need to be shooting for.
Oklahoma had 13 penalties for 113 yards on the game, an absolutely ridiculous number. Four of them gave the Bearcats first downs. One was on wide receivers coach Jay Norvell who got into a heated exchange with a Cincinnati player and then referee Scott Novak after a blatant late hit no-call on OU wide receiver Trey Franks. While it was a dumb penalty, kudos to Norvell for standing up for his players.
The freshmen stepped up in a big way in their first road game. Kenny Stills, as mentioned above, had a fantastic game. Fullback Trey Millard caught a touchdown pass that proved to be the difference in the game. Defensive back Tony Jefferson continues to remind people of Roy Williams and had 11 solo tackles, a game high. Bob Stoops has said this is his best freshman class to coach and they are living up to the hype in big ways.
Next week, as everyone knows, the Sooners travel to Dallas to play Texas in the annual Red River Rivalry. Judging by the play on the field, the Sooners have been looking forward to this game for a LONG time.
Wednesday afternoon at practice, "Texas Fight" was blaring over the loudspeaker system as the Sooners went through drills. It's going to be a great game and OU has to come out focused and prepared in order to win and snap the Longhorns' winning streak at two games.