Trench Warfare | Oklahoma vs. Houston

Hey all, I was and am a little more shocked than disgusted after watching the game Saturday.  Not shocked that Houston beat the Sooners as the Cougars have a very good team.  I had a sneaky suspicion this may happen, and alluded to it in an earlier post.  What I’m shocked at is that the Sooners were completely dominated in time of possession…35:06 to 24:54, and arguably two of the best backs in the country only get 6 carries a piece.

To further confound me, most of the carries for both Mixon and Perine happened in the first quarter and half and had significant success.  Mixon ended with a 6.7 average and Perine followed up with 5.2.  While it can be argued that most of Mixon’s yardage came on the long TD, that’s what playmakers do, make big plays when you give them the ball.

Beyond that the Sooners only ran 60 plays to Houston’s 80.  Even though the Sooners largely shut down the Houston run game, the Cougars ran the ball 40 times.  The Sooners had less than 20 called runs.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not framing this to be one of those it wasn’t the O-Line’s fault posts, but beating on teams and wearing them down throughout the game is what opens the run game up in the later stages.  I don’t know if we know what the Sooners have up front, as they never really were allowed to set the tone.  When the defense knows it’s most likely going to be a pass, they’re coming.  When my wife who’s never played a down of ball in her life asks me why they’re only throwing swing passes and bubble screens, somethings amiss.  Nevertheless I relent.  I had hoped to have more to show in the first tee-dub of the year, but…


Early in the game when Houston had to respect the run game, and the OL was able to give Mayfield a pocket, He stands tall and delivers a strike on the out route to DeDe Westbrook.  You see Samaje working protection inside out, and the protection was clean on this play.




Not sure whether this play was a bust or if it’s just a great play by the all everything Freshman Ed Oliver (whom I have circled).   If you notice, the Sooners have 7 guys to block 7 defenders on this rollout left.



What has to happen in my opinion is that either Samia or Perine has to seal the backside.  This confuses the heck out of me because when I look at Orlando and Cody, they’re facing to the right with their hips outside, while Samia is blocking down.  You also have Flowers blocking over there on the left.  If Perine or Samia just wall him off over there, then Mayfield isn’t running for his life.  Even Andrews is conscious of play away as he’s releasing straight off of the ball here holding the edge defender in place.  Somebody busted here.


Here on Samaje’s first carry, the Sooners have the run/pass flow workin pretty good.  They schemed it well too as you see all of the red jerseys to the bottom side of the screen.  Still, I don’t like seeing the double team pushed back a yard, and Alex Dalton has to swing his hips to the outside here.  Flowers gets stoned as well, and early on, even though this play was a win for the Sooners, Houston was playing fast and physical.



Later on in the same play, Samaje is 15 yards downfield before he gets touched.  Guys like Samaje and Mixon are special when you can get them one on one with DB’s.  I hate to say it because it’s something that we’ve felt time after time in the Stoops era, but I’d expect the OL to clean things up and for Riley to commit more to the run game, but damn, you’d think they’d be ready to go against a 13 win team from last season.



Ok, 1st time this year you’ll hear me say that running the ball is as much about being physical as it is about outnumbering people at the point of attack.  Note that there are 5 guys even with or to the right of center in the box…I made a little red box there for ya.



And imagine that, Joe Mixon takes off for a 32 yard td.  The unblocked defender on the overload side who I circled can’t get across the formation, and even though it wasn’t blocked cleanly Mixon goes on to score.  Alvarez has his feet crossed up, Dalton almost gets beat, and Orlando brown is letting his guy penetrate.  Still, if you got a numbers advantage which the Sooners did to the left, you can overcome stuff like that.



On the very next series, Mayfield goes down the seam to Mixon who gets a long gain.  Here, the Cougars are only rushing four.  The previous offensive play, Mixon went untouched for a 32 yard TD, and at this point in the game, Houston still had to respect the run game.  Mixon’s success on the run is what froze them on this play.  The linebackers had to respect the play action fake.  Later in the game, Houston didn’t have to respect the run game, and some of the success that the Sooners saw on all of the play action stuff early wasn’t there any more.  8 of the 12 combined Mixon and Perine carries came in the first half.    On this play still, the middle of the pocket gets collapsed four yards.  I thought that Samia and Brown played good games.  I’d like to see the middle of the offensive line have a more physical performance, but I’ll get to that in a second.



As I mentioned, Mixon was able to run by both of the linebackers and get it down inside the 20 on a big play action seam route.  I know the O line came under a lot of heat, but for the life of me I don’t understand how or why your two best offensive players in Perine and Mixon only had their number called as little as they did.  When Riley gave them the ball, they got significant yardage.  Normally the run game takes longer to be effective during the course of the game, but the Sooners had it working early.  Why they abandoned it leaves me scratching my head.  While Perine was dinged up, if he’s healthy enough to play, you have to give him the ball.  Even if he can’t go, give Mixon 20 carries at least and hitch the wagon.  Why you’d put the game on an unproven receiving corps rather than two of the most talented backs in the country is ludicrous.  Make the game simple.



Against an even front and six in the box, the Sooners had an advantage numbers wise to the right with Flowers lined up off of Samia’s right.  You gotta be able to run against six in the box, and with 5 OL and a fullback, there’s no free player to tackle Samaje if you get a hat on a hat.  This is how you get the play action game going.  Block everyone in the box and force the safeties to make the play…



And here, Perine gets right behind Cody Ford and shoots upfield for a gain of eleven yards.  The safety to the top of the red arrow is the only guy who can make the play, and it’s an automatic 1st down.  With the difficulty that the defense was having getting Houston off of the field on 3rd down you’d think that the Sooners would want to eat up some clock and give the defense time to adjust.  After this play, the Sooners went pass, pass & pass for a punt.  With 4 minutes to go in the 1st half and a one point lead I would like to have seen the Sooners keep the ball for the rest of the half, especially with Houston getting the ball coming out after halftime.  After this play with 4 minutes to go in the 2nd quarter, Samaje only got two more carries.  Even if you say he was hurt, how do you justify giving Mixon only two more carries?  Offensively Mixon averaged 10.90 yards per touch….let that sink in for a minute.  Including three kick returns he averaged overall 13.14 yards per touch.  Why is it a mystery on who to hitch your wagon to?  If Andrews and Westbrook are your only two receivers who can make a difference at this point, force the defense to commit everyone else to the line of scrimmage so it frees those other two up.



Besides a jump ball in the 2nd half that Andrews came down with for a td, there wasn’t much to see.  Basically the defense knew the Sooners weren’t going to run the ball and committed their LBs to rushing the passer outside.  The pressure got worse and worse for Mayfield because they were consistently sending more guys than the Sooners had blockers, and on top of that Ed Oliver is a special talent who was tearing them up inside.  It tears me up inside to see a performance strategically and tactically like what we saw Saturday.  The Sooners have the talent up front and in the backfield to do special things.  What they do with it from here remains to be seen.  I hope you guys heal up after a couple of days.