DALLAS – The plan was to double-team Texas defensive tackle Poona Ford as he tried to knife through the guard-tackle gap on the right side of Oklahoma’s offensive line, quarterback Baker Mayfield enough time to convert a crucial 3rd-and-14.
Not much went according to plan for Oklahoma’s front line Saturday in the Red River Showdown. Nila Kasitati and Josiah St. John barely got a hand on Ford, who made it to Mayfield at the same time as Longhorns’ defensive end Naashon Hughes.
Oklahoma left two running backs in to help the offensive line, which had been gashed all day, and Texas rushed just three. Mayfield had less than three seconds before Oklahoma’s final play of a 24-17 loss was complete.
It’s clear that Oklahoma’s offensive line problems aren’t going away with experience. And it’s not going away any time soon.
“It’s consistency,” Oklahoma center Ty Darlington said. “A lot of times we’re having four guys do a pretty good job and then one guy makes a mistake. It’s a different guy every time. We’ll see on film.
“We have to be more physical. It’s not just on Saturday. We have to be more physical every day of the week. We have to do it when we take the field.”
Before Saturday, Texas had seven sacks all season. The Longhorns (2-4, 1-2 Big 12 Conference) had three on the first four drives and finished with six – a number that would have been higher had Mayfield not bailed out Oklahoma with his legs.
Texas had one of the worst run defenses in the country, allowing more than 200 yards per game and 4.4 yards per rush. No. 10 Oklahoma (4-1, 1-1) finished with 1.8 yards per carry and only 67 yards, more than three times less than Texas’ second-worst performance before Saturday.
“We have to play better at the end of the day,” St. John said. “It was nothing that we hadn’t seen or didn’t know was coming. It was us not being in tune. It’s disappointing.”
There was nothing special about what Texas did Saturday. At least that’s the way Oklahoma put it after one of the worst performances by the offensive line in recent memory.
Oklahoma had seen the Texas Longhorns’ corner blitz on film, although Texas brought it on some occasions when the Sooners weren’t expecting it. The Sooners knew that Texas was bringing more rushers than it could block in the first half. There was just nothing they could do about it as Mayfield waited for the oncoming wave.
St. John even gave away Oklahoma’s plays before the snap in the first half, setting back his right leg if the Sooners’ were passing and squaring his stance before run plays. He corrected the error after halftime but couldn’t fix Oklahoma’s bigger issues.
“They physically beat us in the run,” Darlington said. “We came in with the mentality that we needed to run the ball and control the line of scrimmage. Obviously, we didn’t do that. Our problems came from not being able to control the line of scrimmage.”
Everything Oklahoma tried in the trenches failed. The Sooners kept running backs in to block, and Mayfield eventually had to scramble without an available option down field.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops summed it up nicely: The Sooners “just got beat.”
Darlington and Kasitati returned from an offensive line that was arguably the best in the nation – allowing a nation-best nine sacks and averaging more than six yards per carry.
The line wasn’t going to be as good as last year, but there’s individual talent that isn’t there yet. St. John – a redshirt senior – has struggled at right tackle, being displaced in the season opener by true freshman Dru Samia.
Redshirt freshman left tackle Orlando Brown, who was repeatedly beat in one-on-one assignments Saturday, isn’t there yet, and Derek Farniok, another redshirt senior, is out of position at left guard – having jumped ahead of sophomore Jonathan Alvarez on the depth chart. The Sooners offensive line is a bit of a jumbled mess.
There was no doubt last year that Oklahoma was going to be the better team up front. The Sooners didn’t have that mentality on Saturday.
“We didn’t come in with the mentality that we were going to push them around,” Darlington said.