Carona and Erxleben Ring the Bell: Donnie Carona is emerging as a very good kicker, and his contribution to Tech's win over OU was mammoth. He could have been rattled by two blocked field goals the last two games, but was not. In a pressure cooker of an environment, Carona calmly booted home field goals of 40 and 37 yards, without which Tech would have lost this game. His kickoffs were pretty good, too, although the coverage often didn't do them justice.
Punter Ryan Erxleben is not the sort to routinely uncork 60-yard punts the way Baylor's Danny Sepulveda used to. He is, however, a marksman when it comes to killing the ball in the coffin corner. Erxleben did that three times against OU, and the Sooners failed to score on all three of the possessions following those punts. He was one of the defense's best weapons.
A Rough Old Cobb: There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth when word came down that Blake Dees would not play against the Sooners. This was just one more nail for the coffin.
Daniel Cobb, supposed ne'er do well, started in his place. But defying conventional wisdom that he had no business being on the field, Cobb led the Red Raiders with nine stops, 2.5 for loss, and he forced a fumble. He also did a great job aligning the defense inasmuch as busts in the run game were minimal. Now I did see Cobb get pancaked once in the first quarter, but on the whole he played a whale of a game. Hats off to him.
Big Trouble for Brad: ABC play-by-play man Brad Nessler referred to the game between Tech and Oklahoma as a Big 12 "shootout." I wonder how much he'll be fined.
Moore Is Less: Following the New Mexico game I remarked that Darrin Moore was basically shut down in the second half by freshman Lobo cornerback Devonta Tabannah. Well Moore played for the first time this season since suffering an injury against Nevada, but was completely ineffective against the Sooners.
It's possible Moore was rusty; it's possible he is not yet 100 percent. But it's also possible he simply does not have the speed to separate from Big 12 corners, or the likes of the talented Tabannah. We shall see next week, because Iowa State has very solid cornerbacks too.
Time to Burn Morales' Shirt? Deveric Gallington played center about as well as one could expect following Justin Keown's exit early in the first quarter. But that's probably not good enough. His low snaps seriously disrupted Tech's passing attack, and as the game wore on, the Sooners began getting heavty pressure up the middle. Tommy Tuberville does not want to burn Alfred Morales' redshirt, but if Keown is unable to return, he may have to. The center position is too important to entrust to a player who is not a true center.
Puzzlin' Absences: Tech's defense could have used a couple of guys who didn't play. I refer to cornerback Jarvis Phillips, who was on the sidelines, and defensive end Kendrick Evans, who hasn't played since early in the season.
The Red Raiders made do against the crazily talented Sooner receivers with walk-ons Eugene Neboh and Sawyer Vest for much of the night. They also suffered some setbacks.
Evans began the season very promisingly, but has since disappeared. The Red Raiders failed to sack Landry Jones, and officially, got only one quarterback hurry. A fresh Evans would have made a difference.
Receiver Depth Improving: By now the excellent play of Eric Ward, Alex Torres and Cornelius Douglas is old hat. We've come to expect it. But over the past few games, and particularly against the Sooners, three new lights have emerged. Adam James, Aaron Fisher and Marcus Kennard are making their presence felt.
James is getting open, he's catching everything, and his speed is too much for most linebackers. He's also developing a knack for making plays at key times.
Fisher, a highly touted recruit from a few years ago, is finally beginning to live up to his pedigree. The same can be said for Kennard, the most highly regarded receiver in the JUCO ranks a year ago. He's a faster, more versatile version of Darrin Moore.
Those three receivers combined for 11 receptions and 193 receiving yards. Huge.
No Dropoff with Dennell: JUCO transfer Dennell Wesley started for an injured Donald Langley and there was no appreciable dropoff. Indeed, Tech's run defense was about as stout as could reasonably be expected given the competition and the circumstances.
Credible Pass Rush: Despite the absence of statistical evidence, Tech's pass rush was actually pretty decent. Scott Smith frequently bulled his man deep into the backfield, and Dartwan Bush was buzzing through the pocket most of the night. Leon Mackey, however, was completely neutralized.
Additionally, the defensive line played technically sound football. The linemen did an excellent job of holding their rush lanes, maintaining integrity, and providing Landry Jones with few clear sightlines down the field.
Saving It Up for the Sooners: I'm convinced Neal Brown concealed a sizable chunk of his playbook just so he could bamboozle the Sooners. The Red Raiders ran play action and draw against OU to a degree unseen earlier in the season. Moreover, Doege on the zone read and QB keeper is something Tech ran often in the spring, but not at all in the first six games of 2011. I was wondering when the Red Raiders would bust out with Doege running the ball. Neal Brown couldn't have chosen a better time to do so.
Tuberville Wanted This One: I've never seen Tommy Tuberville quite so animated on the sideline as he was against the Sooners. It was clear that he had been pointing to this game and wanted it something fierce. I'm glad to see him get the win and shudder to think how crushing it would have been had the Red Raiders come up short.