Defense, running game lead the way for Oklahoma

Sooners Illustrated hands out a few grades to the standouts from Oklahoma's win against Texas Tech

Every week Sooners Illustrated will break down a few players and a few units and assign them grades based on their performance.

Here are the Game 7 grades:

Baker Mayfield – B+: As long as Mayfield is Oklahoma's starting quarterback in an air raid system dependent on good decisions by the quarterback, he’ll get a grade every week. This week was another low output through the air, but he got the job done.

Most importantly, he didn’t try to do too much. He let the game come to him, and when everyone else was jumping around with enthusiasm, he stayed settled. He did give a heavy fist pump here and there, but he kept the game in perspective. Now, he gets a chance to celebrate his revenge.

There are only a few moments when Mayfield tried to do too much. He came out pumped and overthrew a few receivers – although Durron Neal made a nice catch on a high pass in the first half. It was a good effort from Mayfield – more mentally than physically.

Offensive line – A-: Does this game get graded on a curve because of the competition level? Sure, but Oklahoma’s offensive line, which had been maligned for much of the season thus far, didn’t play down to the level of competition.

Against the worst run defense it has seen this year, Oklahoma had its best game in the trenches. It did what it needed to do. The line won just about every battle as Oklahoma averaged 7.1 yards per carry. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but for at least one day, the Sooners’ offensive line showed a little bit of its future potential.

Mike Stoops and Oklahoma’s defense – A: This was a chance for Oklahoma’s secondary to finally crack under the pressure and for Stoops to come walking into the post-game press conference despondent despite a victory.

But there was no one happier, not even Mayfield.

Saturday was going to be a measuring stick, and with five different players taking a turn at cornerback against Texas Tech, it should have been a disaster. Credit Stoops, who came up with a game plan that kept Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes rattled, throwing high much of the game and on the move where he wasn’t comfortable.

Stoops mixed man coverage with zone coverage, leaning heavily on the blitz before dropping defensive backs and linebackers into holes – producing four interceptions with the strategy. He was constantly aggressive, and it paid off. The Sooners’ defense made a strong statement Saturday. The full response won’t come for another three weeks.

Offensive play-calling – B: When the engine is running like it was in the final three quarters Saturday, it’s hard not to just run with it. But in the first quarter Lincoln Riley did more to hurt the Sooners than help them.

Second-guessing is always easy, but it seemed that Riley went away from the running game just to do it early. It stalled Oklahoma in the first quarter and almost caused a Tulsa-like rally from Texas Tech. He cleaned it up and went run-heavy the rest of the game, watching two of Oklahoma’s three best offensive weapons give him and easy victory.

Dakota Austin – A: What a performance from Austin. When you look back on it, you have to remember that he was practically discarded and buried on the depth chart never to play anything but special teams gunner. Oklahoma had to get through four cornerbacks just for Austin to see the field.

And against a team like Texas Tech, he should have been toast. It was a really special night for Austin, who was attacked by Texas Tech immediately but never cracked. He made every tackle he needed to and didn’t get burned deep. That’s the lesson to take out of this game. Playing defense against spread teams is that easy. Keep it simple, stupid.

Hat’s off to Austin.

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