Almost like it was playing with nothing to lose, Texas wasn’t afraid to sell out against the Oklahoma offense – blitzing from all angles and just trying for big defensive plays. It had one of the nation’s worst defenses partially because of that idea but shut down the Sooners.
Kansas State is the Big 12 Conference’s top run defense and is in the top 20 in the nation, averaging just 105 yards allowed per game. They do it in a much different way than Texas.
“They are probably the complete opposite of what we just played, in almost every way,” Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said. “They’re very simple in what they do. They are very sound. They really make you earn things. They don’t hand things over. I think they’ll be one of the most physical and one of the most-sound defenses that we’ll play all year. It’s a different animal.
“You don’t maybe have as many big play opportunities against teams like that but you’ve got to be more consistent.”
Oklahoma’s run game was anything but consistent against Texas. In 65 total plays, Oklahoma running backs carried the ball only 18 times. Whatever the reason for the issues were against Texas that will need to change against Kansas State. But it won’t be easy.
Kansas State, which doesn’t have a player in the top-20 in conference tackles, has allowed fewer than 70 yards on the ground in three of its five games and allowed more than four yards per carry only once.
“They’re a very good defense,” Oklahoma center Ty Darlington said. “Their players are always very fundamentally sound and all that type of stuff. Obviously, it’s got to be a big week for us up front. From here on out it, needs to be a redemption thing.”
Oklahoma could just go around the Wildcats’ stout front seven and attack the secondary, which is allowing 290 yards per game. It’s more about the offensive line proving itself once again – and maybe even proving something to itself.
The Sooners will have to get their running backs involved again.
“We’ll be in Manhattan, Kansas, Saturday at 2:30 ready to be a little bit different football team,” Darlington said.
That is the main battle this weekend. Here’s a quick look at a few other key spots:
When Oklahoma has the ball. . .
Samaje Perine vs. Lincoln Riley
Success in the run game is the main battle, but getting Perine the football in more ways is important moving forward as well. Perine had been the ultimate closer before last weekend, wearing down teams late in games and churning up big yardage in the fourth quarter.
Riley needs to find more creative ways to get Oklahoma’s best offensive weapon the football on more occasions early in games. Right now, Perine isn’t being taken out of the game much by opponents. Instead, it’s the game plan and the offensive line that has held him in check. After all that, Perine is still averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
Non-Sterling Shepard receivers vs. Kansas State secondary
It’s been one step forward and two steps back for the Oklahoma receiving corps. Just when it seemed like Shepard wouldn’t have to carry the entire load again, the passing game falls flat against Texas.
There are fortunes to be made against a Kansas State pass defense that allows 290 yards per game and has just three interceptions in 125 attempts. The Wildcats won’t put a ton of pressure on Mayfield scheme-wise, although pressure could come because of leaks in pass protection. Expect Mayfield to have a big game.
When Kansas State has the ball. . .
Oklahoma’s linebackers vs. the Wildcats’ quarterback play
The pop pass killed Oklahoma last year, and it’s the responsibility of the Sooners’ veteran linebackers to slow it down again. They’ll also have to deal with Kansas State quarterback Joe Hubener, who is the Wildcats’ best player.
Hubener is fifth in the Big 12 in scoring and ninth in total offense. Only Texas quarterback Jerrod Heard throws for fewer yards per game though. Hubener is going to run. Oklahoma’s defense has to prove it’s better than it was a week earlier.
Sooners’ tackling woes
This one isn’t because Kansas State, but tackling is an issue that has to be addressed immediately regardless of the opponent. There might have been no single culprit on offense for the loss to the Longhorns, but missed tackles are solely responsible for the defensive issues (yes, Mike Stoops might be a little to blame).
On Texas’ first touchdown, five different players had a shot at Marcus Johnson. Clearly, no one made the tackle. That play set the stage for the loss. Oklahoma is hoping it’s not more indicative of what kind of team the Sooners have.