Oh, what a difference a week makes. The Jayhawks lost a 34-30 heartbreaker to the Buffaloes, while Oklahoma lost not only its game with Texas, but also its Heisman-winning quarterback and potentially its starting running back as well.
It was one more shot to the psyche of a Sooner (3-3, 1-1) squad that
has seen several this season. Just a year after setting all kinds of
offensive land speed records, the Sooners don't rank in the Big 12's
top third in any of the major categories. The 31.3 points per game the
Sooners average is seventh in the league, the same place occupied by
the Sooners' rushing offense and pass efficiency. The Sooners are fifth
in total offense and passing offense, while converting a horrid 36.4
percent of their third downs.
A large portion of those struggles can be explained by the loss of
reigning Heisman winner Sam Bradford to injury. Quarterback Landry Jones (6-foot-4, 216 pounds) hasn't been bad, completing 59 percent of
his passes for more than 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns to five
interceptions. But those numbers represent a huge dropoff from those
put up by Bradford just a year ago. Just a redshirt freshman, Jones is
big and has a strong arm, but he lacks Bradford's accuracy and
leadership at this point.
Running back DeMarco Murray (6-1 214) is listed as questionable for the
Kansas game, and some think he won't be ready to go. Murray leads the
Sooners with 403 yards rushing and has another 261 yards receiving. But
the Sooners are more capable of dealing with that loss, thanks to Chris Brown (5-10 200) and a deep and talented running back unit. Brown has
361 yards and three touchdowns on the year, and is one of the
conference's top runners. Fullback Matt Clapp (6-2 246) is among the
best in college football as a backfield blocker.
The Sooner receiving group lost its biggest threat when tight end
Jermaine Gresham was knocked out for the season. That's not to say that
they don't still have weapons. Brandon Caleb (6-1 186) leads the team
with 382 receiving yards but Ryan Broyles (5-11 178) is the team's top
playmaker. Operating mostly out of the slot, the fleet-footed sophomore
already has eight receiving touchdowns. Cameron Kenney (6-1 190) is the
third starter in the group, but those aren't the only three receivers
the Jayhawks will see. The Sooners love to rotate in fresh legs and
have options with former running back Mossis Madu (6-0 200), Adron Tennell (6-4 199) and Dejuan Miller (6-4 224), who have combined for
another 215 receiving yards. Trent Ratterree (6-3 225) is the starting
tight end, though he has yet to show himself as a major weapon in the
Even with Bradford and Gresham's injuries, the weak link of the offense
has come along the offensive line. Just a year after paving the way for
arguably the greatest offense of all time, the unit returned just one
starter, left tackle Trent Williams (6-5 318). The difference has been
evident even to the most casual of college football fans. Beyond the
consistent pressure applied to Bradford and Jones, the line has only
allowed the Sooners to average 3.9 yards per carry. Starting next to
Williams is left guard Brody Eldridge (6-5 265), a former tight end who
was shifted to center, back to tight end and now to guard. Like a
baseball utility man, Eldridge has great strength and is a wonderful
athlete that Stoops seems to plug wherever he has a hole. Center Ben Habern (6-3 288) and right guard Tavaris Jeffries (6-4 309) make up the
rest of the interior. Starting right tackle Jarvis Jones (6-7 297) is
an LSU transfer with talent.
But the defense is a different story entirely. The Sooners rank first
in the Big 12 in scoring defense, red zone defense and first downs
allowed, while they are second in sacks, rushing defense, passing
defense, and total defense.
Arguably the country's top defensive line has played a major role in
that success. Ends Jeremy Beal (6-3 261) and Auston English (6-3 251)
have combined for 14.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks in six games. A
whopping 9.5 of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy's (6-4 297) 14 tackles
have been for loss, while Adrian Taylor (6-4 291) has excelled as a
space-plugger on a defense that allows just 2.2 yards per carry. Beal
English are among the country's top players at their position.
That defensive line allows a talented trio of linebackers to flow
aggressively to the ball. Travis Lewis (6-2 232) has continued on his
torrid pace from a year ago, racking up 51 tackles, 4.5 of which have
been for loss. Ryan Reynolds (6-2 225) has come back from his knee
injury to serve again as the Sooners' primary run-stuffer in the
middle. Keenan Clayton (6-1 221) is one of the league's top coverage
linebackers. He has two interceptions, but might have had five or six
if not for drops.
One player who has made the most of his interception opportunities is
boundary cornerback Brian Jackson (6-1 200), who has four of them. He
has also been solid in run support with 26 tackles. Dominique Franks
(6-0 192) is more of a silky athlete at his field cornerback spot,
where he has 16 tackles and one interception. Free safety Quinton Carter (6-1 193) is a big hitter who has 39 stops and an interception
on the year. Strong safety Sam Proctor (6-0 208) is a talented and
The Sooners' special teams have been up-and-down. The up? How about
kicker Jimmy Stevens (5-6 159) booting an automatic 11-11 from inside
of 40, punter Tress Way (6-1 215) averaging almost 44 yards per punt
and Franks averaging 17 yards per punt return. The bad? The Sooners
rank 11th in the Big 12 in kickoff coverage, have been unspectacular at
best in the kickoff return game and are 0-3 on field goals 40 yards and
The Sooners may find themselves short on weapons heading into Kansas's
Memorial Stadium Saturday, but that doesn't mean they won't still have
enough to win, and win solidly if the Jayhawks don't bring their ‘A'
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