Oklahoma vs. Houston: Game Grades, Analysis for Sooners vs. Cougars
The No. 15 Houston Cougars scored 14 points in the third quarter, and a kick-six changed the momentum of the game as they took down the third-ranked Oklahoma Sooners, 33-23, on Saturday afternoon. Oklahoma kicker Austin Seibert missed a 53-yard field goal in the third quarter, and that paved the way for Houston's Brandon Wilson to take it 100 yards for a game-changing touchdown.
The total yards for both teams were pretty close, with 393 for Oklahoma and 410 for Houston, but the difference was time of possession and turnovers. Houston controlled the ball for 35 minutes, six seconds, compared to only 24:54 for Oklahoma, and the Sooners fumbled twice. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield put up good numbers, finishing 24-of-33 passing for 323 yards and two touchdowns.
Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. was the catalyst for the Cougars offense. He finished the day 23-of-40 passing for 321 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite target was Steven Dunbar, who caught seven passes for 125 yards.
Houston's defense was the story of the second half, as it held Oklahoma to just six points in the game's final two quarters. Ed Oliver, the 247Sports 5-star freshman, was all over the field, and Houston's pass rush often got the best of Mayfield.
The Sooners (0-1) will return home to face Louisiana-Monroe next week, while Houston (1-0) will play host to Lamar.
You can find the box score for the game here, per NCAA.com.
While Mayfield passed for 323 yards, the Sooners failed to get the ground game going. Running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon had a combined 12 carries in this game, which led to Houston dominating the time of possession.
The grade is a "C" here because the passing game looked good at times, but it was only an average performance from the Sooners after failing to impact the game with two strong running backs.
It would have been nice to see Ward Jr. and running back Duke Catalon get more going on the ground, but Houston's offense took what the defense gave it. Oklahoma's defensive line played well against the run, holding Ward to only one rushing yard.
Ward was able to beat Oklahoma with his arm, though, throwing for 321 yards and two touchdowns. He was accurate on third down and found holes deep down the field.
The Cougars controlled the ball for a little over 35 minutes of game clock, picked up 25 first downs and were 9-of-18 on third down.
This was a tough grade to hand out, because the Oklahoma defense played well for a big stretch of the second half. Drive after drive it held Houston and got the ball back to the offense, but that unit eventually wore down after being on the field so long.
The Sooners defense did not get enough pressure on Ward Jr., and the result was Houston taking a lot of shots down the field. The Oklahoma defensive backs did not play the ball well in the air, and Houston often times picked up third-down conversions through the air.
Houston's defense gets largely overlooked, but today's game will help it get the recognition it deserves. Mayfield and Oklahoma's offense connected on some big plays in the first half, but the Cougars defensive unit overall had a solid performance.
Freshman defensive tackle Oliver was all over the field, and Mayfield was often times running for his life. Houston constantly got pressure in the backfield, and more importantly, it held Oklahoma to just 70 rushing yards. This unit also forced two big turnovers.
The lack of a running game is why the coaching staff ends up with a "D" here. The only reason it isn't an "F" is because of Mayfield's success passing the ball. With two of the most talented running backs in the country, the Oklahoma staff has to find ways to get them the ball. Perine and Mixon combined for only 12 carries in this game.
Also, the kick-six ended up being the biggest play of the game, but it should not have even happened. The Oklahoma players looked as if they didn't even know Houston was returning the missed kick, and that is on the coaches.
For the defensive staff, Oklahoma could have benefited from getting more pressure on Ward Jr. The Sooners coaches also had no answers for Ward Jr. throwing the ball down the field. This is a game the coaches and players will like to soon forget.
Tom Herman and his staff deserve all the credit in this game. The offensive play-calling was brilliant all game because it stretched Oklahoma's defense out. The Cougars were successful passing down the field, and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite put Ward Jr. in a position to succeed.
The defensive coaching was also outstanding because it cut out Oklahoma's running game. After giving up multiple long-yardage plays in the first half, this staff made the necessary adjustments to slow down the Sooners offense to just six points in the second half.