During the next two weeks, Sooners Illustrated will look back on the 2015 Oklahoma football season: Evaluating each possession group, recapping key moments, reliving the biggest surprises and assigning an overall grade for the year.
We’ll start with quarterback play and end with the kicking game.
Summary: This was the no-doubt top offensive unit entering the season. With Samaje Perine returning from a really strong – and somewhat surprising – freshman campaign and Joe Mixon coming off suspension as one of the top running backs in the 2014 class, Oklahoma had two workhorses to lean on, even in a new offense. The talent wasn’t questioned, but the usage was a concern. Oklahoma stumbled out of the gate early on the ground, handicapped by a young and inexperienced offensive line. But over the final seven games of the regular season, Oklahoma never rushed for less than 230 yards. Perine and Mixon proved to be a worthy tandem and one of the best in the country.
Best player: Despite Mixon’s unique ability, Perine was still the bell cow of the backfield. He finished with 1,349 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns while carrying the ball twice as many times as Mixon. When Perine wasn’t working, Oklahoma wasn’t working. That’s the sign of the best player on the team.
Biggest surprise: You wouldn’t think Daniel Brooks would classify under here and the ever-constant Alex Ross wasn’t a surprise either. Even with the continued emergence of fullback Dimitri Flowers, Mixon was clearly the biggest surprise. A lot of people assumed he’d be good – maybe great – but it was difficult to imagine him being the best player on the field in two or three of Oklahoma’s games. He wound up being just that. Mixon finished with 753 yards and 11 total touchdowns while averaging a team-best 6.7 yards per carry. Flowers helped get the run game going though.
Best moment: There were some massive performances, but if we’re looking for one play, it has to be Perine’s 55-yard touchdown run in the third against Baylor that put Oklahoma ahead by 14 points and in the driver’s seat for the rest of the game – arguably the most emphatic win of the season. A nicely blocked trap through the left side of the line put Perine in the open field, where no one caught him. Oklahoma’s success on the ground had been question. Was it just against inferior competition? Perine’s run helped stamp a serious 241-yard effort on the ground.
Biggest weakness: Depth still became a concern for the running back position. With Rodney Anderson out early, Perine eventually dogged by that ankle injury and even Mixon out because of a concussion in the national semifinal, the Sooners were the walking wounded behind quarterback Baker Mayfield. Some of that is running style, which might need to be tweaked a bit, but you can’t really tell Perine to run differently.
Final grade: A