Oklahoma Football: Winners and Losers from the Sooners' Win vs. Missouri
The Oklahoma Sooners looked like they were poised to lay an egg and give up their No. 1 ranking after falling behind to the Missouri Tigers, 14-3, in the first quarter.
Luckily, the Sooners remembered why they were ranked No. 1 in the first place. The Sooners scored 28 unanswered points to take a 31-14 lead, and by that point, the game was in the bag.
Still, the Sooners left the game with some definite questions to be answered. Their mostly underwhelming performance, coupled with LSU's dominating victory at West Virginia, resulted in the Sooners giving up their No. 1 ranking anyway.
Personally, I don't know if that's such a bad thing.
LSU deserves to be ranked No. 1 after their impressive start to the season, so there are no complaints there. However, by dropping to No. 2 in the rankings, the Sooners have ultimately taken the "No. 1" target off their back.
In order to keep their No. 2 ranking, though, the Sooners will have to get more help from their defense than they did on Saturday against Missouri.
With that being said, here are the winners and losers from the Sooners' weekend victory.
Losers: The Defense
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"The sharks," as they like to be called, is a term used to describe Oklahoma's secondary.
On Saturday, "the sharks" looked more like shark bait... assuming the Missouri receivers were the actual sharks in this scenario.
Regardless, they didn't play well—or at least, as well as they have been playing. The same could be said for the entire defense.
After hearing that his team gave up over 500 yards of offense to Missouri, head coach Bob Stoops said, "For whatever reason, there just wasn’t quite as much energy or emotion... That’s disappointing in my eyes, because I thought we were more mature than that."
Missouri QB James Franklin looked like the real deal on Saturday, as he threw for 291 yards and rushed for another 103 yards against a defense that had more or less shut down Florida State a week prior.
Franklin had all the time in the world to throw the ball, as the defense was hardly able to get any pressure on him. Senior DE Frank Alexander had the most luck getting into the backfield, but even that was scarce.
I noticed the Sooners had the same problem against Florida State QB E.J. Manuel, as well. They were certainly able to get pressure on Manuel's backup, Clint Trickett, as soon as he came into the game. Maybe the Sooners just weren't showing the blitz as much in order to compensate for Franklin and Manuel's running ability?
Whatever the case, it didn't work against Franklin. By having time to stand in the pocket, Franklin was able to cut the secondary up. Five Missouri receivers were able to catch passes of at least 22 yards.
This means Franklin was easily throwing the ball down field.
Oklahoma did have a few blown coverage mistakes, but it really just looked like the Missouri receivers were finding holes in the zone coverage or beating their man in one-on-one coverage. When Franklin received pressure, he normally ended up just throwing the ball away.
The Sooners will have to do a better job at getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks in the following weeks, and "the sharks" will have to stop blowing their coverages. Blown coverages have happened in each of Oklahoma's games this season, and that's not going to fly when they play Oklahoma State or Baylor later in the season.
Winner: Ryan Broyles
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Ryan Broyles is the MVP of the Sooners, and should really be getting more Heisman consideration. However, as long as QB Landry Jones is putting up big numbers—largely due in part to Broyles' play—Jones will continue to be a more likely candidate.
It seems like Broyles never misses a catch, and that's because he really doesn't.
Broyles had zero drops last season, and the only "drop" I've seen him have this season came against Missouri, and he was halfway out-of-bounds when the ball touched his hands anyway.
He is easily the best receiver OU has had since former star Mark Clayton, and he might actually be better than Clayton. His stats would say he is for sure, but Broyles is also part of a more pass-heavy offense than Clayton ever was.
That debate could go on for days, but one thing is certain—Broyles had a monster game against Missouri. He finished with 13 receptions for 154 yards and three touchdowns. Two of his touchdown catches were ridiculous, too.
Jones threw a great pass on Broyles' first touchdown grab, as he placed it in a spot where only Broyles could catch it. However, in order to catch it, Broyles had to contort his body into an awkward position and fight off a defender right in his face to look it in.
This is nothing new for Broyles, though.
He does this week in and week out. He is always going to be a "winner" when it comes to looking at winners and losers from a game, and his performance against Missouri is proof.
He is the main reason Oklahoma was able to win this game.
Loser: Landry Jones
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Don't get me wrong—Jones finished with an impressive stat line: 35-of-48 for 448 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, one of which was a great defensive play.
Not to mention that Jones didn't let a terrible start to the game affect his play for the other three quarters. He showed valuable leadership qualities as he led his team down the field almost every series, eventually taking a commanding lead going into the fourth quarter.
So, why is Jones not a "winner" for his performance? I don't want to be nit-picky, but I'm going to have to be...
Jones' first interception was a joke of a pass. Not only did he under-throw an open receiver down field, but he threw it directly to the Missouri safety. The guy didn't even have to move to make the interception.
Also, I know Jones isn't much of a runner, but it really scares me to watch Jones get any sort of pressure put on him. As soon as a few guys get into the backfield, you can actually see Jones get scared and panic.
He shuffles his feet, his eyes start darting everywhere and he normally avoids the pressure just long enough to make a terrible decision, such as throwing a pass into coverage rather than just throwing it away.
Seeing this makes me really worry about how Oklahoma would compete against a defense like LSU or Alabama. Jones is going to have to learn how to stay calm and poised under pressure, or he'll never be able to win Oklahoma a championship.
So while Jones had a good game statistically, he was still able to show his vulnerabilities as a quarterback. That seems to always be the case.
Winner: Dominique Whaley
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The fact that this guy still doesn't have a scholarship is completely upsetting to me. Through the first three games this season, Whaley has proven to be Oklahoma's most dynamic running back.
He's not as quick as Brennan Clay or Roy Finch, but he's quick enough to make people miss. He's the most powerful running back on the roster, as he routinely drags defenders with him after contact. Ultimately, Clay was considered the best receiver out of the backfield, but Whaley proved on Saturday that he's no slouch himself.
He finished the game with 16 carries for 68 yards and one touchdown, as well as five receptions for 82 yards. This included a highlight-reel catch that had Whaley tip-toeing the sidelines before gaining composure and juking-out defenders.
Unfortunately, that highlight was abruptly ended when Whaley took a shoulder to the face from teammate Dejuan Miller, keeping him out of the end zone. However, that was just one play that Whaley shined on; he had several more throughout the game.
The walk-on from Langston is looking better every game, and Finch—who I, and likely most Oklahoma fans—thought would be the starter this season, continues to only see marginal playing time.
Whaley and Clay have a good thing going in the backfield at Oklahoma, and fullback Trey Millard got into the action Saturday night as well.
As long as they can keep performing on a weekly basis, Jones and Broyles will also continue to have success. A balanced attack is the best way to beat a defense.
Winner/Loser: Kenny Stills
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Kenny Stills, Oklahoma's second-best receiver, had to sit out Saturday for the second time this season.
Stills missed the season opener after serving a one-game suspension for a DUI charge last winter. He made his season debut in Week 3 against Florida State, and the sophomore didn't disappoint.
Stills made what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown catch against the Seminoles, and finished the game with seven receptions for 125 yards, which were the most by any receiver on the field.
Unfortunately, Stills suffered a concussion in the Florida State game, which made him a game-time decision against Missouri. Stills warmed up and was fully suited, but Stoops elected to hold Stills out the entire game.
This makes Stills both a winner and a loser this week. He's a "winner" because the team won, obviously, but also because he gets another week to rest, recuperate and get 100 percent healthy.
He's a "loser" because his absence allowed fellow sophomore Jaz Reynolds to record his first career start, and he played really well. Reynolds finished the game with five receptions for 93 yards, which was second-best to Broyles.
Reynolds had one noteworthy drop in the game, which came in the first quarter as the Sooners were trying to rally to get back into it, but after that, Reynolds seemingly didn't miss a catch. He also made a few really nice leaping catches during the game, showing his ability to be a good red zone target for the Sooners in the future.
When Stills returns to the lineup next week, he is sure to gain back his starting spot, but Reynolds' play definitely didn't hurt his chances to see more opportunities in the weeks to come, and he's not going to be subbing in for Broyles. That much is certain.
That makes Reynolds a "winner," and Stills the only "winner/loser" of the game.