Week 2: UW vs. OU

These two teams have met once before - in the Orange Bowl back in 1985 when the heavily favored Oklahoma Sooners were knocked off by the Washington Huskies in Florida. This time the two teams will meet in the much less neutral locale of Norman, Oklahoma.

LAST WEEK: Paul Thompson didn't do anything spectacular, but made a much better showing on Saturday than he did in last year's opening day loss to TCU. He did enough to keep UAB's defense honest, so the Huskies will need to keep him in their sites. Obviously tailback Adrian Peterson will be the focal of the Sooner offense. Peterson had 139 rushing yards and 69 receiving yards that all came on one play. He did put the ball on the ground once, however, but he is big, fast, and the best back the Huskies will face all season. Oklahoma's offensive line was pretty average last week, and Washington's aggressive defensive ends will undoubtedly try to pressure Thompson into some bad decisions. The Sooners are very fast on both sides of the ball – the roster is loaded with sprinters and athletes. However the defensive line used their speed too often to run themselves out of plays, which led to huge gains on the UAB option attack. This week Stanback will attempt to try to exploit that same weakness. The Sooners will need to be more disciplined up front against a Husky offensive line that will be thin and will tire in the humidity quicker than they would if the game were in Husky Stadium. LAST WEEK: Washington did exactly what they needed to do on Saturday – win a football game. It didn't matter if it was pretty, ugly, or in between. This team needed a win in the worst way and they got one. They even faced some adversity in the form of early fumbles and an interception, but didn't roll over and play the "here we go again" card. While the competition was weak, and granted San Jose State was missing their best defensive lineman, the Huskies ran the ball well. They ran it often, and that was nice to see from a group that has had no other identity on offense other than pathetic in recent seasons. Kenny James, Louis Rankin, and Isaiah Stanback all ran well and made good decisions. Stanback looked like he really got it, when to tuck and run. The defense got abused through the air in the second half, and didn't look prepared for the shotgun that SJS Offensive Coordinator Steve Morton threw at them, but this week it is no secret who to stop – Adrian Peterson. Dashon Goldson should return, bolstering the secondary. Also, it was JC transfer Jason Wells' first D1 football game, so he'll undoubtedly make a big improvement as the season wears on.
KEY INJURIES: None. KEY INJURIES: TE Michael Gottlieb, TE Robert Lewis.
WHEN OKLAHOMA IS ON OFFENSE: With the quarterback controversy gone, this is Paul Thompson's team. He has a decent arm and is plenty quick, but probably not as accurate as Bomar was. His main job is to hand the ball to Adrian Peterson and get out of the way. Peterson is the workhorse and got 24 carries on Saturday. No reason to expect anything different against the Huskies. Tight End John Finley had a big game, hauling in four receptions for 79 yards and one score, and also had the block that sprung Peterson on his 69 yard touchdown reception. The Husky outside linebacker will need to watch Finley. On the outside the Sooners Malcolm Kelly had three receptions as did Fred Strong last weekend, while Juaquin Iglesias grabbed two. However this group also had the drops on several catchable balls from Thompson's on target passes. Another target the Huskies will need to be aware of is 6-6 250 pound Freshmen Jermaine Gresham, who had one catch but then coughed the ball up. WHEN WASHINGTON IS ON OFFENSE: Senior QB Isaiah Stanback looked like the player everyone has been waiting for on Saturday. He avoided the big mistakes and made great decisions on when to run and use his 10.4 100m speed. He also threw the ball better than he did last season, and the interception he had was just a great play by the defensive back. The important thing was that he didn't let it get to him. The offensive line in front of him performed well, but will now up their level of competition a few notches. Running backs Kenny James and Louis Rankin are both capable if the hole is there and both were dangerous last game. But the key is clearly Stanback, his legs make defending this team a real bear. The Huskies enter this game paper thin at tight end, where starter Michael Gottlieb and back up Robert Lewis are both sidelined for this contest. It may be a good time to get Corey Williams to step up, and Marcel Reece won't be afraid to go across the middle of a very good and very fast Sooner defense.
WHEN WASHINGTON HAS THE BALL: The Sooners lack of a big physical body in the middle was exposed by UAB. Corey Bennett logged six tackles, but fellow starter Carl Pendleton was shut out. Backups Demarcus Granger and Stephen Coleman got a lot of playing time, but reportedly weren't big factors. On the outside of the line, Larry Birdine was active, making seven tackles including two for losses, but Calvin Thibodeaux and C.J. Ah You didn't have a lot of impact in terms of being disruptive. Behind them, linebackers Rufus Alexander and Zach Latimer are active and experienced. The Sooners depend on their senior leadership, and the duo combined for 20 tackles and Alexander added a sack. Curtis Lofton is the outside guy, but when in the nickel they appear to only go with two linebackers. The secondary looked very average on Saturday. UAB had three completions that went for 24 or more yards, and the Sooners were never close to an interception. D.J. Wolfe, Lendy Holmes, Reggie Smith, and Darien Williams will face a much sterner test this week. Husky QB Isaiah Stanback is mobile with a strong arm, and has a lot of capable speedy receivers to throw to. The key will be to pressure Stanback into poor decisions. WHEN OKLAHOMA HAS THE BALL: Washington's defense gets a boost as Dashon Goldson should be back and add some depth and experience to the cornerback group. Up front the Huskies feature Wilson Afoa, senior Donny Mateaki, and speedy Greyson Gunheim and Daniel Te'o Nesheim on the edges. It is a group that can definitely cause problems for an OU line that looked shaky in trying to protect Thompson, who was hit several times and sacked once. Te'o Nesheim is undersized, but he is very difficult to track and block because his motor never shuts off or slows down. Brandon Ala will rotate in and Erick Lobos, Jordan Reffett, and Jordan White-Frisbee will all see action inside to provide fresh legs. It is a solid front. The linebackers behind them are all fast. Daniel Howell and Tahj Bomar will rotate with Trenton Tuiasosopo inside while Scott White, Chris Stevens, and E.J. Savannah will man the outside linebacker spot. All can run and all can hit. Tackling has not been a strongpoint for UW linebacking corps in recent seasons but the speed these guys bring makes them perhaps more capable. It was the secondary that really got torched on Saturday, as their nickel package looked lost. Goldson's return should help.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Sooners have outstanding special teams. This is a group that can break big returns at any time. The most solid area all night for the Sooners. Last week Smith averaged more than 11 yards a return and had a 27-yarder while Iglesias had three kickoff returns of more than 30 yards in his debut at that spot. Michael Cohen is the punter and Garrett Hartley is the place kicker. He made his only field goal attempt on Saturday, a 30 yarder. SPECIAL TEAMS: Michael Braunstein and Sean Douglas handle the kicking and punting duties well for the Huskies. Braunstein showed much improved leg strength while Douglas is one of the best punters in the country. Marlon Wood and Roy Lewis both are very capable returners, and deep snapper Danny Morovick only had one off-target delivery in his first D1 game. The special teams look like they will be a strength this year for the Huskies.
OKLAHOMA OUTLOOK: With a second home game, Oklahoma should be well rested. But they may also feel some pressure. No one in the stands felt that good about a difficult win against a middle of the road Conference USA foe. Certainly Coach Stoops didn't feel comfortable, and probably didn't feel very good at all before Adrian Peterson busted loose on his 69-yard touchdown catch and run. If his defense can take the ball away from the Huskies as successfully as Dick Tomey's did last Saturday, the game should be a blowout in favor of the home team. Look for the Sooners to come out firing on all cylinders, eager to put last weekend behind them and gain some momentum. However if they cannot bury the Huskies early, it could get interesting as Washington would gain confidence. With a senior quarterback that is faster than anyone on the field, it could become dangerous. WASHINGTON OUTLOOK: Now that the team has shown it can win a game, perhaps Willingham can coax some magic from his squad on Saturday. They did look well coached, and most importantly, didn't hang their heads when adversity struck. Two early fumbles and an interception could've had the offense sulking and the defense pointing fingers, but it didn't happen. Going into Norman, no one expects anything out of the Huskies except a blowout loss. This team should be loose as a goose and hopefully the game plan will reflect that. The main thing is to avoid any injuries, but trust me when I say Willingham and his staff are not entering this game with the attitude that there are moral victories. They are going in believing that they can win, and the team may just believe them now. They need to avoid the costly turnovers and win the field position game in order to have a chance.
OKLAHOMA WILL LOSE IF: Isaiah Stanback can hurt the over-aggressive Sooner front seven, Sean Douglas punting wins the field position game, and the Husky defense can force Thompson into a bad turnover or two to steal away momentum. After last week, if the Huskies can keep it close going into the fourth quarter, the Sooners might just panic. WASHINGTON WILL LOSE IF: The Huskies turn the ball over like they did last weekend. If Oklahoma gets as many first half possessions as San Jose State was offered by the helpful Husky offense, the Sooners will convert them into points. If Oklahoma can jump out to an early lead, look for a steady diet of Adrian Peterson and stifling humidity.
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CREDIT NOTE: A lot of information for this story came from reading Tony Sellars on Sooners Illustrated. Dave Samek is the Publisher of Dawgman.com and the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Washington Magazine.

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