If You’re Going to Lose a Game…
– Super K
If you’re going to lose a game, that was the game to lose and that was the way to lose it.
***If OU wins out, they’re in the Big 12 championship.
***If they win the Big 12 championship then the likely scenario is that there will be a debate about whether a 1-loss non-conference winning SEC team gets in or if a 1-loss, OU with a conference championship gets in.
***If that debate arises, you don’t want to have lost to Baylor or Iowa State. Those losses won’t look like flukes. You want the argument to be that you beat a bunch of top 25 teams and…
***That the KSU game was an outlier and if they played KSU nine more times, they’d win every time. You want them saying, OU played an 11 o’clock game in Manhattan, went to sleep in the middle of the game, turn the ball over a couple of times and then lost a close because they ran out of time.
***If, instead, you’d lost to Baylor or Iowa State, then the optics look like a) you didn’t beat all your quality opponents and b) that the loss was a legitimate loss to a better team. No one is going to buy that KSU is better than OU…even though they were today.
***The important of the timing is, in part, that the team needs a wake up call to finish out the season strong while their goals are still ahead of them…
***They’re absolutely a better team and a better defense, but they’re better because of the commitment to playing better football week in and week out.
***Also, it gives Grinch a chance to evaluate his own calls. The KSU OC really had his number, at times.
***It also reminds OU that the sloppy plays…like we saw against Texas and then today…can catch up with you.
***And it will hopefully allow Lincoln to re-evaluate his own management. At the very least, review his decisions in the run game in the 2nd and early parts of the 3rd quarters on a couple games.
***That middle part of the game, they were whipped on both sides of the line. But the good news is, they finished the game strong.
***It wasn’t a win on the scoreboard but with all their goals probably still in front of them, this may be just what they needed, when they needed and to the team they needed it to be to.
Chin up, Sooner fans. Program is moving in the right direction. These are just the challenges on a journey.
Post Game Thoughts…Oklahoma Vs. K-State
I always get nervous whenever Oklahoma plays Kansas State. My best friend, his dad and my cousin Gary were all at the Big XII Championship game on a freezing cold December night in 2003. We were clearly outnumbered since Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO, is only about 2 hours or so from Manhattan. Before that game, the Sooners were absolute media darlings. Bob Stoops and Co. had stormed into Norman and taken the college football world by storm, winning Natty #7 in 2000. The Sooners had absolutely dominating wins during bowl season in 2001 against Arkansas and 2002 against Wazzu. Before that Big XII CCG, the talking heads were calling Oklahoma led by soon to be Heisman Trophy winner Jason White, the greatest team of all time. A few plays into the 1st quarter, Kejuan Jones took a swing pass down the left sideline for a lightning bolt score. I remember this vividly…my cousin Gary, looked at me and said, that may be all we need! The defense hadn’t let anybody piss a drop all year, and up to that point in the 1st quarter, K State hadn’t done anything either.
Enter Darren Sproles, who’s still in the NFL, 16 years later, and about 3 hours after that I felt like I had witnessed something that I still can’t quite explain. I never have gone back and watched that game over again, and that began a string of head scratching losses in big moments.
Remembering that night makes me say bad words whenever I hear the name Darren Sproles, and after today Skylar Thompson will be a name I never forget.
It’s hard to find bright spots in this game other than Gabe Brkic. He was absolute nails, hitting 4 field goals that were all perfect. But let’s be honest. Whenever your kicker wins your grown ass man award for the week, that can’t be a good sign.
There were so many things that happened today that are inexplicable. How does Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks only get 6 total carries between them when you weren’t behind by a lot until late in the third quarter?
How do two All-American type players in Neville Gaillimore and Kenneth Murray not even show up for most of the game? Marquise Overton seemed like the only player defensively who realized that there was a game to be played today, and I thought he played well.
I thought the Sooners were out-coached today to put it bluntly. I thought once the Sooners got in field goal range with 3:00 to go that the Sooners should have lined up and kicked the field goal. They only had 1 timeout left, and Lee Morris had just got them down to the 29 yard line. Brkic had already hit from 50, and that would have been a 46 yarder. 1 minute later after burning the final timeout, the Sooners ended up only gaining 7 more yards. Had they lined up and kicked it, you give KSU the ball back with 1 timeout and about 2:45 to go. The defense seemed like they had started to play better, and you put all the pressure back on KSU. That’s not how it went though, and the only option was kicking an onside kick that they couldn’t recover.
The clear MVP’s of the game in my mind has to be K-State’s offensive line. They absolutely handled everything that the Sooners threw at them, all out blitzes, stunts, twists and everything else. They kept a very, very talented defensive line off their guy Skyler, and helped the Wildcats possess the ball for 38:08 of the game.
The Sooners had talked all week about turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, and they gave up two huge ones in awful spots. Sometimes Riley gets too cute with his play calls, and the reverse pass before halftime was another one of those. Don’t get me wrong, everyone loves his trick plays when they work, but at times I just wish he’d run the offense. At that point, your defense is REELING, but you’re still up 20-17. Just run your offense. At that point, they hadn’t been able to stop it. Go into halftime up 23 or 27-17 and regroup. That easy score for them came back to haunt the Sooners and they only lost by 7.
K-State’s coaches seemed to be a step ahead of the Sooners all day. While the Wildcats were only 7-14 on 3rd and 4th down, it seemed like the conversions were so huge that they made all of em. There was a stretch there where the Sooners absolutely couldn’t get them off the field on 3rd down.
The 3rd quarter was devastating. The Sooners punted a couple of times, and by the time you looked up, it was 48-23. It went K-State FG, Sooners punt, K State TD, fumble on the kickoff return, K-State TD, Sooners punt, K-State TD. Basically they were doing to the Sooners what everybody thought that the Sooners would do to them.
I gotta give some credit to the Sooners for finally fighting back. There was a small glimmer of hope there where i thought some Sooner Magic would come into play, but it just didn’t happen.
The Sooners have a bye week next Saturday, and they need it. I would expect some tough practices lie ahead, and times like this, you find out what you’re made of.
Sooners Sunday Brunch
– Charlie S
The Sooners suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday against Kansas State.
Oklahoma entered the game as 23 point favorites and they were expected to walk into Manhattan and come away with a relatively easy win.
Obviously…that did not happen as the Sooners were largely outplayed in all facets of the game.
The offense managed to put up 495 yards with Jalen Hurts having a hand in 491 of them.
The defense looked like it reverted to prior years and one of the main areas of concern was their inability to get off the field on third down where Kansas State was successful on six of thirteen third downs. Throughout the first seven games of the season, the Sooners had been one of the best teams in the country in regards to third-down stops. That was not the case on Saturday as the defense never seemed able to get those crucial stops until late in the game.
I know you are all looking for someone to blame, but in all honesty, there was enough blame for everyone to have a seat at the table.
Lincoln Riley engineered a game plane that was pretty balanced. However, when looking at how the game played out, one cannot help but wonder if six carries between the running backs limited the overall ability of the offense as the play-action suffered. Jalen Hurts carried the ball 19 times and while he was effective, the offense was pretty one dimensional in the aspect that it was Jalen Hurts against the world. Riley really gave Kansas State no reason to worry about the running backs.
On defense, Oklahoma really looked nothing like they had the previous seven games. They seemed hesitant, not decisive, and they appeared to let Kansas State out physical them as they didn’t win too many individual battles at any level.
Tre Brown had a nice day for the most part, but the DL and LBs struggled mightily.
The Sooners have a bye week next week and that is a long time to have the taste of this loss in their mouths.
Was this an aberration, or was this performance a sign of things to come?
Based on the previous seven games, I would lean towards it being an aberration.
The Sooners are, in fact, much improved defensively from years past, however, they are human and therefore not immune to falling back into their former ways.
They looked defeated late in the third and early fourth quarter before the team started to mount their comeback.
They, just like all the fans, felt it happening and they appeared almost paralyzed by their own mental state.
As for the coaches…you have to wonder how different the game is if Lincoln Riley chooses to go for it on fourth down on two different occasions in the first half. The Sooners were up 7-0 and had a fourth and two deep in Kansas State territory when Riley took the points and opted to kick a field goal. Then, later on, when OU was up 10-7, they were faced with a fourth and one and again, opted to kick a field goal.
Following the defensive performance, you have to wonder what Grinch will tweak. Was it effort? Was it scheme? The DL was getting pushed around in large part and the linebackers appeared to be missing in action. What about the zone the Sooners were running? Was that an execution thing or was it poor play calling. The Sooners didn’t seem to get their feet under them till the fourth quarter, and by that time, it was pretty much too late.
You have to think with all the weapons at his disposal, Riley could have come up with at least one of those 4th downs (probably both) and put Kansas State in a deeper hole then what it was. Would that have changed the outcome…who knows, but it would have changed the dynamics within the game for certain.
So, in general, there is plenty of blame to go around for everyone involved. Riley, Grinch, the players…the real question is, how do they respond.
The Sooners still have all their goals in front of them. They also have the most difficult part of their schedule in front of them.
While the playoffs may not be as attainable as they were without the loss to Kansas State, should Oklahoma go on and win out, they will have won their fifth consecutive Big 12 title and, at the very least, they will be in the conversation for the playoffs.
They have been down this road as a team before where they lost a game in midseason and each time when they had one loss and the conference championship, they made it to the playoffs.
But first things first…they need to revert back to the team that played the first seven games of the season as opposed to the team that played against Kansas State on Saturday.
We will dive into more this week as K has reached out to Coach Cody Alexander for some defensive analysis and JY will have some thoughts on the offensive side as well.
But all is not lost for the Sooners, yet the mountain did get a bit steeper.
Dissecting the Defense in the Loss | Coach Cody Alexander
– Coach Cody Alexander
When a 24 point favorite loses it is never just one thing. No one doubts the offensive prowess of the Sooners behind Jalen Hurts video game numbers and the beautiful mind that is Lincoln Riley. This season was always going to be about the defense and if Alex Grinch could shore up what has been a thorn in the side of the Sooners National Championship hopes. Entering the game versus Kansas State, the Oklahoma defense had played relatively well. Outside of the week-one matchup with a Dana Holgerson led Houston Cougars team, the Sooners defense has held every opponent under 30 points. That’s a stark difference from years past.
Oklahoma went into Manhattan, Kansas behind what appeared to be two relatively dominant defensive performances. The Sooner defense held an explosive Longhorn offense that was averaging over 40 points a game to just over 300 yards of total offense. Sam Ehlinger was held to negative yards rushing on 23 carries (-9), no TDs through the air, and was sacked a school-record tieing nine times. At the end of the day, Ehlinger would finish with one of his lowest QBR ratings since his freshman year.
Enter West Virginia and the results were relatively the same. Though the Mountaineers offense isn’t as explosive as it has been in recent years, the Sooners defense kept West Virginia under 250 yards of total offense. More impressively, Grinch’s defense limited the Mountaineers to 51 total yards on the ground. Though the sacks from the Red River Rivalry didn’t carry over (0 versus West Virginia), the Sooner defense did rack up nine tackles for loss (TFLs). A big win let down looked to be hurdled. Enter an 11 am game in the Little Apple.
As stated in the opening, there is never just one thing that loses a game. Kansas State’s offense isn’t a scary opponent on paper. The Wildcats have a measly passing game (178 yards a game and ranked 109th) and were only scoring 32 points a game. That being said, their run game can be tough to handle if not prepared.
Entering the game with Kansas State, the Sooners had already seen a great running attack in the Longhorns that featured QB runs and a power run game, but there were some cracks. Texas RB Roshon Johnson rushed for 95 yards on only eight carries. That’s an 11.9-yard average. West Virginia’s rushing attack is atrocious, ranking near the bottom in the NCAA. Fast forward to last Saturday, and Kansas State was able to use their run game to control the game and tire out the Sooner defense.
Like the Texas game, the Sooners were able to keep the Wildcat’s QB run game in check, except in the Red Zone. Scouting the box Skylar Thompson’s rushing yards aren’t special, 13 for 39, but it’s the TD column that is alarming. The Sooners gave up four TDs to Thompson’s legs and he would only finish with 15 yards being his longest rush. Though the Sooners contained the QB run game in the field, it was their Red Zone defense that couldn’t get a stop when Oklahoma needed it. The Wildcats attacked the Sooners’ defense behind a two TE look (Ace) utilizing QB Power to gain extra numbers in the box and at the point of attack.
A prime example of this lack of QB-player in the Red Zone was towards the end of the first half when Kansas State went up 24-20 behind a 3rd Down TD from Thompson. The play was a simple QB Draw, but the Sooners were caught in a 2-Man blitz. In 2-man, every WR is accounted for with two safeties on each hash holding an umbrella over each side of the defense. Versus the Longhorns, their man defense was able to hit home because Ehlinger stayed in the pocket to pass. The Wildcats capitalized on the lack of a QB player by running a QB Draw in a critical point in the game. This TD would also keep Grinch pretty stagnant, choosing to sit in zone coverage after the half.
Grinch played a lot of Cover 2 zone to defend the Wildcat passing game. Kansas State early used out routes from wide splits to counter the use of what is referred to as “country” Cover 2. In a “country” coverage, there are no match rules. Players are dropping to spots and defending WR only if they are in their zone. Wide splits affect the ability of the CB to trap or attack the out routes. The Wildcats used this “hole” to their advantage and were able to move the chains early in the game.
After the half, the Wildcats chose to attack a different area in the Cover 2 zone, the area behind the CB and under the deep safety. To do this, K-State went to an age-old Cover 2 beater, the Smash route. In a Smash route, the outside WR runs a short (five-yards) stop route. This occupies the CB. The inside WR runs a Corner route that bends and runs away from the deep safety. This route essentially becomes a deep out. The QB just has to throw to the sideline and away from the safety.
Getting to the passer has dried up in recent weeks, which has put the secondary under pressure. The nine sacks that came against Texas were mostly off of the Sooners’ defensive line man-handling the Longhorns offensive line. Versus the Wildcats, the D-line struggled to get to the QB, only accumulating one sack and three QB hurries. In short, the Wildcats were able to neutralize the Sooner rush much like the Mountaineers the week before (Sooners only recorded 4 QB hurries). Prior to the West Virginia game, the Sooners have had relative success getting to QB. That has tried up in the last two outings.
The Wildcats also exposed some issues in alignment as well. The Wildcats utilized nub-sets or formations that have WRs on one side and only an attached TE on the other. QB runs in the Red Zone were from Nub-sets, primarily Ace Trey, a formation that features a nub-TE on one side and a TE with two WRs on the other. This formation, in particular, can be difficult for any defense to handle. A Diamond or Full-House formation gave the Sooners fits as well (two WRs and three RBs in the backfield). Unbalanced formations were used as well to out leverage the Sooners defense to gain access to the edge or one-on-one blocking at the perimeter.
Kansas State’s multiple offensive sets and their timely use of certain formations allowed them to keep the Sooners relatively stagnant. Grinch utilized a hybrid defense all day that featured a Nickel OLB to the field and a hybrid Edge (OLB/DE) to the boundary. Though the defense looked to be in a four-down the entire day, this lighter personnel grouping was pushed around at times. Kansas St. relied on “bully-ball” and timely passing to keep drives alive and drain the clock for the Sooners offense.
Several times on 3rd Down the Wildcats were able to keep drives alive by gaining access to this outside area. When the Sooners would play Quarters or man coverage, the Wildcats attacked this area again with the inside WR. The Sail route or Deep Out is a favorite at the higher levels when attacking Quarters or man coverage because the route runs away from an inside leveraged WR. Early in the game, when the Sooners were playing tighter coverage, the Wildcat offense was able to beat the Sooners several times to keep drives alive. At the end of the game, the K-State offense was 6 for 13 on 3rd Down and 1-for-1 on 4th Down. Getting off the field on 3rd Down was an issue, and eventually led to scores for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats played on a short field for most of the game. Entering the 4th Quarter, Kansas St. had three drives that started inside Sooner territory. They scored a TD in each of those series and would drive the field for the third time on Saturday for a TD. Outside of the first drive by the Wildcats, they didn’t punt until the 4th Quarter. By the time the Sooners’ defense was able to stop the Wildcat attack it was too late.
Sooner fans have every right to be angry after this loss. They were 24 point favorites, the defense appeared to be a non-issue, or at least good enough to level the playing field for their dominant offense. All is not lost in Norman. The defense is making progress and is much better than in years past. The loss in Manhattan was a perfect storm. The Wildcats played on a short field for half the day and capitalized when they did. The Sooners had two turnovers on offense and K-State didn’t. It wasn’t like the Wildcat defense was making stops either. The Sooners only punted twice all day.
This is the Big 12. You have to play defense every week. Unlike some conferences that feature the same offense every week, the Big 12 is a mixed bag of offensive schemes, but most have Air Raid tendencies. The Wildcats are somewhat different, using multiple TEs, QB runs, and a power run game. Something that can be difficult to prepare for in an Air Raid heavy schedule. The defense in Norman is on the right track. There is always a learning curve in Big 12 country when it comes to defensive coordinators. Grinch will have to evaluate how he handles unbalanced sets, 3rd Down blitzes versus a true running QB, and how he defends QB runs in the Red Zone.
Trench Warfare… Oklahoma Vs. Kansas State | First Half
Hey Gang, I hope you’re all doing o.k. and recovering from this last weekend. I’m going to try a little different format this week and get some videos up for you to see. I hope you like these better. I wish I could have rolled them out after a win, but hey you can’t have your cake and eat it too sometimes.
With that…Here we go!
If you would like to view the second half of ‘Trench Warfare’ please check out the Donor Board later today!
If you would like to view the second half of ‘Trench Warfare’ please check out the Donor Board later today!
For multiple daily posts, Insider Notes, Our TFB ‘Pick Em’ Contest, More Sourced Practice Notes, member chats with TFB staff, James Hale’s Notebooks, TFB Sessions (5-minute audio talks) and much more, please check the Donor Board!