It is the nature of Oklahoma football that many people can come away disappointed despite the Sooners winning their opening game 37-0. That was case last night when the Sooners shutout Tulsa. Granted, it was not the best performance we have seen from Oklahoma in a while, but when it comes right down to it the result was a win and the game gives the Sooners something they can build on.
ÒI felt there were a lot of positives in the game, but we had negatives too,Ó said Sooner Head Coach Bob Stoops Saturday as he relaxed with his family at home. ÒOn offense, we definitely shot ourselves in the foot in the first half, which kept us from putting the ball in the end zone."
"We didnÕt catch the ball, fumbled the ball in the redzone and threw interceptions in the redzone and those were the three major factors that kept us from scoring. We arenÕt going to score against anyone if you are going to continue to do that. Actually, it is that simple, we have to do better in those areas.Ó
ÒWe had positives too,Ó continued Stoops as his children clamored for his attention. ÒOur kicking game was very good. Our cover units were great and we had a big-time returner in Antonio Perkins. Trey DiCarlo was very solid and all of that was very good. Everyone was concerned about our linebacker play and they were solid. Everybody was wondering if we could run the ball better. We have emphasized it, worked it and we showed last night we can run the ball better. I think we can catch the football in the future. They are all guys who have done it before. If we get that corrected we have a chance to be pretty decent.Ó
The Sooner passing game sputtered last night and that was a surprise. All the way back to spring practice, Coach Stoops stated that he wanted to see more consistency from his wide receiver corp and more big plays. To make a big play you first must catch the ball, and six times the Sooner wide receivers had the case of the dropsies. Four of those catches would have resulted in a first down, which would have kept drives moving and would have made the numbers better for starting quarterback Jason White.
The puzzling thing about the performance of the Sooner receivers is that they have been outstanding in preseason camp. All of them have caught more than a 1,000 balls, and for the most part they have hung onto them.
ÒThe performance of our receivers last night was a surprise to us. We really didnÕt see that coming,Ó said Stoops. ÒThat has never been something that we have done, especially drop a lot of balls like last night. Hopefully that is something that we can correct. If they do, we will be alright and if they donÕt, we have to find some receivers who can catch the ball.Ó
Will Peoples was the main culprit last night dropping three passes after breaking wide open in the secondary. Peoples played so well in preseason camp that he was tabbed to start when Mark Clayton was too sore to start, thus his performances certainly caught the Sooner coaches by surprise.
ÒWill has practiced well for us during preseason camp and last night certainly wasnÕt one his better nights,Ó said Stoops. ÒWhen you get opportunities to catch the ball or to make big plays you have to make them. That is the nature of playing receiver.Ó
Receiver Coach Darrell Wyatt watched his receivers struggle during the game and all he knows how to do is get back out on the field and work.
ÒWe are catching balls all the time and we will have to get right back out their and bang some more,Ó said Wyatt. ÒThat crossing pattern is the toughest pass route for us to catch the ball on because we are moving across the middle, but we throw that pattern a lot in our offense and they have to catch the ball. We have caught the ball in practice, but we have to find some guys that will catch it in the game. Mark (Clayton) will be back at full strength for Alabama and that will help us, but most of all we just have to catch the ball better.Ó
Jason White participated in his fifth game as a Sooner and it looked like it against Tulsa. White played as if he was shaking the rust off. White finished 15-of-26 for 126 yards and two interceptions, but of course if his receivers had caught the football he would have another one hundred yards of receiving on his totals.
ÒIn looking back on JasonÕs performance, I have to realize that he hasnÕt played since Nebraska,Ó said Offensive Coordinator and quarterback coach Chuck Long. ÒI have to keep that in mind and stay patient with Jason, and realize that itÕs going to take a little time for him to get back into the groove. Jason is a little rusty at this point, but in time and with work he will work that rust out. He needed some help out there and he had a tendency to rush his reads a little bit."
"However, what I admired about him is that he hung in there well, handled our run game well and made all the right checks there. Jason made some really good throws when we really had to have a throw. Jason is just somebody that we have to stay patient with, because he hasn't played in a long time. This is the first serious game action he has had since the injury, and I am confident Jason will get there.Ó
The two interceptions are really what concern you about White. On both plays White should have eaten the football or thrown it away, but his aggressiveness got him into trouble.
ÒThe pass into the end zone that was a first down play and Jason has to do a better job of understanding down and distance,Ó Long continued. ÒWe will work to correct that this week. On that pass they had such tight coverage and he didnÕt have clear vision on it, and he probably had a clear running lane. Knowing when and when not to throw that football, and knowing down and distance is so important to a quarterback. All those factors come into play."
ÒOn the second interception he just made a poor decision, but those are correctable things,Ó Long continued. ÒI had to keep in mind as a play caller last night that he is not in the groove yet, and that I had to get Jason in the groove next week at practice. Our running game was so effective. I come from the old coaching school that says if you have something good going, then wear it out. Jason didnÕt have to win the game for us last night and that was probably good.Ó
Jason showed enough in game one that his head coach feels better things will come in the future.
ÒJason threw the ball well, but his receivers let him down,Ó said Bob Stoops. ÒIf we make some of those catches, Jason has a good night statistically and we have a lot more points and yards. If we are catching the ball maybe Jason doesnÕt try to force the ball in some of the later throws if we had come up with some of those other catches."
"We are not going to take that off of him, because he should not have thrown the ball in the first place, and he did. The bottom line is that Jason executed pretty well outside of those two plays.Ó
The Sooner run game was spectacular against Tulsa. The Sooners finished with 378 yards rushing led by senior Quentin Griffin, who finished with 237 yards on the ground at 13.9 yards per carry.
ÒRunning the football was a big focus for us in the spring and preseason,Ó said Long. ÒWe did not want to fall in that trap of not running the football. We did not want to not be able to run and end up throwing the football 50 to 60 times a game. We want to be able to pound the ball up in there, because there comes a point and a time that you have to do that.Ó
ÔQÕ ripped off runs of 50, 49 and 44 yards yesterday, but several fans and supporters were still critical of Griffin because on those runs he failed to take the ball all the way in the endzone. To be critical of Griffin, especially on a night where he rushed for 237 yards, is fighting words to the OU coaching staff.
ÒTo some people I guess enough is never enough, but I certainly donÕt see how anybody could be critical of Quentin on the night he had against Tulsa,Ó said Stoops. ÒHe falls every once in a while making some severe cuts, but he also makes some people miss making those severe cuts, especially on a different turf and sometimes his feet slipped out from underneath him.Ó
The big complaint against Griffin last night was that he didnÕt appear to have good enough speed to go the distance. Griffin posted a 4.37 forty time during timing trails at the end of summer camp, which was the fastest among the Sooner running backs. Last night Griffin was run down short of the goal-line after each of his long runs. Stoops says the defense had to play the angles perfectly to make the stops.
ÒQuentin looked so fast last that that I am telling you he didnÕt get caught by anybody unless they had a huge angle on him,Ó said Stoops. ÒI brought that up in our meeting today, that he looked as fast as we have ever seen him. He looked excellent and looked as good as we have ever seen him. People arenÕt really complaining about ÔQÕ are they? Did they watch the same game that I did?Ó
In fact, it didnÕt matter which running back the Sooners put on the field, because all of them had success. KeJuan Jones rushed for 70 yards at 6.4 yards per carry and scored his first two touchdowns as a Sooner. Renaldo Works finished with 55 yards rushing and averaged 9.2 yards per carry. Jerad Estus also scored his first touchdown as a Sooner.
ÒOur running backs are the strength of our team and I have said that all along,Ó said Long. ÒWe go into the season needing a running game and running backs are the strength of our team, it only makes sense to feature them. We went into this off-season saying we needed to take some pressure of our offensive line and some pressure of our quarterbacks. You can do both with a solid running game. A good running game slows down a pass rush, because they have to be conscious on our run game. It all goes hand-in-hand and it is really going to help us in the long run.Ó
Sooner offensive line coach and run coordinator Kevin Wilson was almost giddy after the game. His offensive line had passed their first test of the year with flying colors as run they ball almost at will against Tulsa and only gave up two sacks.
ÒHey, I am pretty happy with how things went for us,Ó said Wilson. ÒFor a first game our effort was pretty good and something that we can build on. For most of the game we controlled the line of scrimmage and our running backs did a great job of hitting the hole and making things happen down field. We handled our assignments pretty well and did what we were supposed to do.Ó
The Sooner defense posted a shutout and controlled the game for the most part. TulsaÕs opening drive left the Sooner defensive coaches scratching their heads, but after a missed field goal, the defense took control of the game.
ÒI think, for the most part, we played pretty well defensively,Ó said co-defensive coordinator Brent Venables. ÒAs a unit, overall, our tackling was good but we still have to clean some stuff up. Then, just executing some of the blitzes in the defensive correctly, but again that was to be expected with four new starters on defense. However, to hold them out of the end zone was really good."
"There were about four plays that went for about 150 yards for a number of different reasons. Some of that was based on unfamiliarity with their offense and not getting the opportunity to work on their schemes. We were just out of position on the football on the plays. I really believe that Tulsa has improved their football team and they made it tougher for us.Ó
Unofficially, Lance Mitchell finished with 13 tackles on the night followed by Teddy Lehman with 12.
ÒTeddy and Lance played really well and we just have to get Pasha (Jackson) working on getting lined up correctly,Ó said Venables. ÒWe need to get Pasha playing the boot better and the option better. He needs to recognize formations better so he can get lined upÓ
Eric Bassey got his first start as a Sooner and the results were non-conclusive. Bassey finished with 1.5 tackles on the night and he forced one fumble, but he didnÕt have a night that drew raves reviews from the Sooner coaches.
ÒEric played alright, but we have to get more production from that position,Õ said co-defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. ÒEric needs to be more active and needs to be more physical against the run.Ó
ÒEric was just okay,Ó said Venables. ÒHe can play better. Eric needs to work on his pre-snap alignment, recognizing and reading things as they line up at the line of scrimmage. He is real tentative right now and that will get better as he continues to play more.Ó
Despite not kicking the ball in the end zone, the Sooner coaches were happy with the debut of Trey DiCarlo and the punting of Blake Ferguson. Ferguson finished with an average of 41.5 yards per punt.
ÒTrey and Blake both hit the ball well,Ó said Bob Stoops. ÒHis legs are still a little sore. We need to be careful how much we kick him during the week. He hit his first field goal and for the most part kicked it well. Blake did an outstanding job for us and got the ball off in fine fashion.Ó
The Sooner coaches got up early Saturday morning and graded their own game film. The Sooners wanted to get their work done by noon on Saturday so they could spend a rare Saturday night and evening with their family. All the coaches were watching the Alabama game very closely and all believe that Alabama is a pretty solid football team. The Sooners will meet on Sunday, and maybe go through a walk through before getting officially back out on the practice field on Monday.
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