It's really amazing how one game could destroy every shred of optimism I had about this Sooners football team. Now I'm more than willing to concede that there is a decent amount of overreaction in that previous statement, but at the same time after what we just witnessed against Utah State how exactly do you not overreact? I thought CC did an excellent job summarizing the problems on offense and I had the unfortunate task of recapping the defense, but there was just too much eating at me not to post another follow up.
Check out what's driving me crazy about Saturday's performance after the jump.
Anyone who did their homework, or checked out our debut podcast, knew that Utah State was coming in with a very powerful offense. So while I would never excuse the performance of our defense Saturday night, it can at least be explained to a certain extent. The same cannot be said for the Utah State defense, so the absolutely underwhelming display from our offense is much tougher to swallow. Due to the pay per view broadcast, I was forced to leave the comfort of my palatial estate and watch the game at a nearby sports bar with the OU Club of KC. While I wouldn't go so far as to say I enjoyed myself (100% due to the way our team played), I also was not able to follow the game as closely as I would have been able were I watching from my normal game day spot (locked in the basement). So what I'm getting at is I'm sure there is some stuff I missed, so feel free to chime in down in the comments section and let's all vent together. On to the fiasco that was Utah State.
I suppose we can start with Landry, who in my own humble opinion had the worst game of his brief career Saturday night. You might ask how I could possibly say such a thing, so please allow me to explain. I'd guess most Sooner fans consider Landry's worst game to be last year at Nebraska where he went 26-58 for 245 yards with 0 TD and 5 INT and they'd have a strong argument. The main reason I'd disagree would be the fact that on that night he was facing one of the best defenses in the country and that absolutely does not apply to the defense faced this past Saturday night. So Landry's output of 17-36 for 217 yards with 2 TD and 2 INT against Utah State on its surface doesn't seem quite as bad, but again allow me to dig a little deeper.
Coming off the improvement Landry displayed late in the regular season and in the Sun Bowl against Stanford coupled with the experience he unexpectedly gained last year, I think most Sooner fans expected (and quite reasonably I might add) a continued progression from Landry in 2010. Based on the only example we have to evaluate, it would almost appear as if Landry has regressed as a QB. One of the most frustrating things for me as an OU football fan when watching him is it looks like he's decided who/where he is throwing the ball before he even takes the snap. I thought one of the things he struggled with most last year was locking in on one WR (almost always Broyles) and rarely going through his progressions consequently making our passing game very one dimensional. Were it not for having one of the best WRs in the country, I'm forced to wonder just how inept would our passing game be?
Another aspect Landry seems to struggle mightly with is the ability to sense pressure around him. There were several occasions Saturday night, where he seemed to have no clue what was going on around him and hold the ball way too long or step right into the pass rush. He has to learn to throw the ball away rather than taking the kind of drive killing sacks he took multiple times against Utah State. I don't think I'm exactly going out on a limb that the pass rush faced Saturday night will pale in comparison to some he'll face throughout the rest of the season. One of the scariest parts of this for Sooner fans is pocket presence is one of those things that many will argue is a God given gift and may not be something you can really teach a QB. Even if that is not entirely accurate, it's certainly not something you can teach a QB over night.
CC addressed this very issue in his recap, but I feel it warrants being mentioned again because if it doesn't change soon it will be the downfall of this offense. This offense has to find another option besides Ryan Broyles! Obviously Murray had a big game, but CC also brought up an excellent point about Murray gaining 102 of his yards on just two carries. The number I think most OU fans keyed on with Murray Saturday night wasn't his rushing yards, but the fact that he did it on 35 carries. I'm willing to guess the OU coaches didn't think that would be necessary heading into the week and given his history, I think it's only natural for us to be worried how that kind of use will affect him going forward. What's most disappointing for me is I feel like that over use was do mainly to two factors. In the 4th quarter, the coaches seemed afraid to throw the ball given how poorly Landry was playing and for that to be the case against a Utah State is a VERY bad sign for this offense. Second, we have a stable full of other options at RB and yet for some inexplicable reason our backups accumulated the following:
- Trey Millard - 3 attempts for 16 yards
- Jermie Calhoun - 1 attempt for 5 yards
- Brennan Clay - 1 attempt for 1 yard
What the heck is that all about Kevin Wilson/Cale Gundy? There is no excuse for not using our backups more, I mean all we heard all summer was how the coaches couldn't wait to get in all the new guys. So what happens once we get into a game, the coaches fall right back into the same old routine. Did Calhoun or Clay have to break 60 yard TD runs on their one carry to prove to the coaches they deserved more carries? Aside from Landry's performance, this would be the aspect of the offense I was the most disappointed in and that falls squarely on the coaches in my opinion. This distribution of carries is ridiculous and is the surest way to over work Demarco before we even get to conference play and drastically increase his chance for injury. So note to the coaches, you said all summer you were going to play the backups SO PLAY THE FREAKING BACKUPS!!!
Okay, sorry I got a little worked up there for a minute. I did want to make a point of recognizing how well I thought true freshman Trey Millard played at FB. He was a solid lead blocker all night and I think played a significant role in Murray have the game that he did. I'm excited about all the different ways they will able to use this kid and he appears to be an even more athletic Brody Eldridge. I mean when was the last time an OU FB had three carries in the game? When Switzer was coach and we were running wishbone?
One of the other things I would really like to see is given Landry's obvious preference to always lock in on Broyles, why not run some easy quick passes early to get some of the other WRs involved? Wouldn't it make some sense to run for example a quick bubble screen to Kenny Stills to get him his first career catch, get him some confidence, and get him involved in the offense early? Stills was the only other Sooner WR to have more than two catches and those didn't even come until later in the 2nd half. I don't know if you can go so far as to throw a WR lineup out there without Broyles and force Landry to throw to someone else, but whatever they need to do to fix this they need to do it yesterday. He's had all offseason to develop a repor with someone other than Broyles and appeared to do so based on the spring game, but Saturday night showed us Landry still has a long way to go to be a successful QB.
Yet another incredibly disappointing aspect of our offense was the continued lack of absolutely anything from the TE position. To the best of my recollection, Landry only threw to the TE once the entire game and is was really more of a last resort desperation toss that Ratterree wound up dropping anyway. If Gresham's injury last year taught us anything it's that Kevin Wilson's offense needs some sort of viable threat at TE to be its most successful. Clearly Trent Ratterree and James Hanna are not those players, so if true freshman Austin Haywood can be that player he needs to be in the game. Wilson was quoted (always a very dangerous proposition) as saying Haywood was already the best receiving option at TE for OU, but it was his blocking that was keeping him off the field. Well Kev, it might be time to put your ego in check and put the kid out there to give you some hint of a threat at TE rather than just a warm body. This offense desperately needs some kind of short to mid-range threat over the middle and down the seam. A TE who can get open consistently is a QB's best friend and clearly Landry could use a new friend to throw to.
Well you certainly can't say they didn't give us plenty to talk about all week. I'd certainly rather it was in a positive sense, but unfortunately that's not the case and therefore there is a healthy amount of apprehension heading into FSU week. So what bothered you the most? CC and I will be back with another podcast Thursday night to breakdown this disaster and preview Florida State, so until then remember it's always healthier to get all those feelings out rather than bottled up so rant away in the comments section below.