Oklahoma looked to be dealing with a bit of a Notre Dame hangover in the first half, starting slow but coming up with a game-changing drive to close out the half.
Certainly wasn't the most impressive of starts by the Oklahoma offense, but for all they may have done wrong in this first half that last drive was about as good as it gets.
It's been said countless times already so no need to rehash it yet again here, but who knows what happens in this game if Oklahoma goes into the half with a 7-6 lead rather than the 14-6 lead it would up being.
Let's get into this first half (hitting the mute button ..... now).
* First OU possession and first of several third down and longs. Here, Landry Jones gets a picture perfect pocket from his offensive line and has all kinds of time to throw. He winds up finding Justin Brown, who does a superb job of position his body between the ball and the defender, for a nice 15-yard gain and a first down. Really nice throw and catch.
* Random tangent here for a second. I'm certainly not breaking any news with this take, but it's still worth mentioning. I actually think Jones not going in the top half of the first round of the NFL draft is a good thing for him. What I mean is, if he were to be picked that early he'd likely be playing behind an offensive line somewhat similar to that in which Sam Bradford does right now. And as many of us know, Bradford is running for his life on almost every single play. Jones would be a monumental failure in that kind of situation given what we know about him, so if he falls sure it might cost him some money (which he does not need as his family is far from hurting) but it could put him in a much better position to succeed. Maybe he gets drafted to a team where they can give him a year or two to learn things and not just get thrown right into the fire. I guess what I'm saying is while he's not likely to be the Top 5 pick some might have projected him to be at one point, I also don't think his failure in the NFL is the foregone conclusion some believe it to be either.
* 1st Q 12:18 - 1st & 10 OU from the ISU 48. A sign of what's to come. This is actually just a four yard gain, but it's a subtle play that you really have to appreciate as you watch it. Brennan Clay takes the handoff and is almost immediately met by an unblocked ISU defensive lineman. Instead of panicking or simply lowering his head and trying to take what little is there, Clay wisely puts on a little hesitation stutter-step move to get the defender off balance then puts his foot in the ground to drive up field.
Again, it's just four yards but he turns what could have very easily been a loss, or at best no gain, and turns it into a positive play.
* The cushion Iowa State is giving the Oklahoma receivers right now is just absurd. Sooners were just in a four wide set and ISU was playing 8-10 yards off all four.
* For the life of me I'll never understand what the coaches were thinking when they put Damien Williams in this game.
* 1st Q, 9:59 - 3rd & 2 OU from the ISU 6. Okay, here are the two stops on Blake Bell so I'm going to attempt to really break these down.
On the first attempt, Bell takes the snap, from the shotgun, and quickly starts to sweep to his right. Trey Millard had come in motion on the play and as the play starts, he looks to be setting the edge beside Daryl Williams. The problem here, or at least as I see it, is Millard has an opportunity to come off that Williams block, who is in need of no assistance here, and pick up the ISU defender who winds up making the tackle. It's a simple mistake, but obviously a big one.
Now, to be fair Bell makes almost no effort to get around the guy instead choosing to just lower his shoulder and try to run him over. Admittedly, at 6'6" and 260 pounds it's not the dumbest decision but it looks like were he to simply cut up inside he could have easily got the first down and possibly have even scored. You know what, as I watch it for like the 15th time, there is no question in my mind he would have walked into the end zone if he cuts it back inside. There is a clear lane for him with only one defender who had just been cut block so he's on the ground. So this one was pretty simple in my opinion. Mistake by Millard in failing to come off his initial assignment and a poor decision by Bell in trying to run over the defender rather than taking the easier path.
Okay, here is fourth down. This play proves to be irrelevant because of the penalty (chop block) that was called, but we'll take a quick look regardless. Even if Bell had converted it, the offense would have been backed up 15 yards for the penalty and been forced to kick the field goal. So at best it cost them three points and it certainly wasn't the risk the moronic ABC announcers made it out to be.
Anyway, back to the actual play. This is the more traditional play we're used to seeing with Bell where he takes the snap, hesitates just a tick to see where the hole opens up, then plunges into said hole. Again, the issue I see here is with Bell. It's not a perfectly blocked play, but it's done so well enough that Bell could have got the first down. The problem is he leaves his feet to drive and dive for the first down, but does so almost a little hesitantly which allows the defender to hit him low and get just enough to stop him short. If he simply launches himself I think his momentum takes him past the marker, even with the defender there.
I would also add that based on the angle of the broadcast, it sure looks like Bell got awfully damn close to that yellow line on the screen. At a minimum, it was close enough for a measurement which, of course, never happens. In one of several highly questionable spots/decisions by this Big 12 officiating crew.
* 1st Q, 8:47 - 2nd & 9 ISU from their 6. Aaron Colvin here up in press coverage and he gets beat pretty badly to the inside by Josh Lenz. Fortunately, the pass is dropped for what would have easily been a first down if not a big gain. One of several situations in this game where OU benefitted from an ISU drop.
* I'll grant you the benefit of replay as opposed to live speed makes a significant difference, but the pass interference on Colvin here midway through the first quarter was laughable. Unless I'm mistaken, there is no face guarding rule in college football so he's not required to get his head around and find the ball. As for any contact, it's minimal at best yet here comes the yellow flag to award ISU another unearned first down.
* Two things - (1) Sooners getting almost no push from their front four. To be fair, Steele Jantz is in the shotgun on a number of plays and still appears to be taking a three or four step drop. Which obviously creates a sizeable distance between himself and the pass rush. (2) If Gabe Lynn is ever moved to corner, we are all going to develop multiple ulcers. My man REALLY struggles covering in space. His future is at safety and safety only in my own humble opinion. Love the physical aspect of his game and definitely think he can contribute to this defense, but the coaches have to start putting him in a position to be successful.
* 1st Q, 6:30 - 3rd & 4 ISU from the OU 37. Jordan Phillips in the game early here and he actually draws the double team, which allows Stacy McGee to beat his man one-on-one to pressure Jantz. Jantz is forced to step up and scramble as the pocket starts to collapse, but McGee is able to trip him up and winds up getting credit for the sack.
* The Iowa State punter is a legitimate weapon.
* Mentioned it in the game thread, but Oklahoma got really, really lucky that the injury to Bronson Irwin wasn't more serious. He got rolled up on from behind in the kind of play you see linemen go down on so often. Will probably be something he just has to play through the rest of the season, but thankfully he came back in this game. Would have been a devastating loss to a line that can ill-afford to lose anyone.
* Man, I saw it at the time but seeing it again makes it all the more impressive. Bell made a heck of a play to reel in, with one hand mind you, a high snap from Ikard on a 3rd and 1 while still getting enough for the first down. If that goes over his head, with the Sooners at their own 25-yard line, who knows what could have happened.
* The obligatory one and only touch for Roy Finch in this game. #smh
* 1st Q, 1:06 - 3rd & 7 for OU from the ISU 47. Derek Farniok has come into the game at right tackle after Irwin went down forcing Daryl Williams to slide inside to right guard. Here Farniok, who is just a redshirt freshman, gets beaten pretty badly on an inside spin move forcing Jones to scramble to his right and throw the ball away. Not trying to single out the youngster as he'll continue to improve as he gets more playing time.
End of the 1st Quarter, game tied at 0-0.
* The first of about 75,000 shots of Jake Knott on the sideline courtesy of the quality ABC broadcast.
* Another huge drop for Iowa State as Lynn was beaten again in coverage on the first play of the second quarter.
* 2nd Q, 13:44 - 3rd & 8 for OU from their 25. Solid play by Jones here to go right back to Durron Neal for a first down after Neal had dropped a pass on the previous play. Speaking of the previous play, Jones tried to force the ball into Neal who was essentially triple covered when he had Whaley WIDE open swinging out of the backfield.
* LOVE the call on the reverse to Sterling Shepard! If Tyrus Thompson doesn't miss his block this is a touchdown. If anyone has the ability to get a message to Josh Heupel, WE NEED MORE OF THIS!!!
* 2nd Q, 10:49 - 1st & 10 OU from the ISU 22. Possibly the only thing these ABC announcers got right the entire game occurred on this play. Jones takes the snap and is looking for Justin Brown on a corner route. There is some late pressure up the middle which Jones can see coming and as a result, he doesn't step into the throw instead choosing to do so off-balance and from his back foot as he tries to avoid taking the hit. The pass is just off the mark as Brown cannot haul it in for what could have been a touchdown.
The announcers correctly pointed out that this is something NFL scouts will see on film and criticize Jones for as he failed to step into his throw even though the hit was coming. And they're right.
* Fortunately, just two plays later Jones finds Shepard in the end zone for the Sooners first score. This time Jones is given a clean pocket and he throws an absolute lazer to Shepard's back shoulder. 7-0 OU
* If you missed it at the time, around the 9:53 mark this officiating crew calls Oklahoma for too many men on the field before the play is snapped. The only problem with that call? Apparently these Big 12 refs don't know how to count to eleven. They took a minute to huddle up and help each other with the super hard addition, counting on each other's fingers, and wind up rescinding the penalty. Big 12 officials, ladies and gentlemen!
* We mentioned him earlier, but Jordan Phillips getting a lot of snaps in this game and looking good. Which is a very, very good (and needed) thing for this OU defense. More so for next year than this season, but still a good thing nonetheless.
* Clay doing an outstanding job on these edge runs which for whatever reason is something we haven't seen much from Heupel and this OU offense all season. It was actually something I asked for in my post about avoiding the upset prior to the game, so thanks for being a loyal reader Josh!
* 2nd Q, 5:30 - 1st & 10 OU from their 38. Jones' first interception. He either doesn't see the safety or doesn't believe he can get over in time to make the play, either way he's wrong. What's frustrating about this play is that Jones just locks in on Stills from the outset and makes no effort at all to look off the defense. Still, all credit to the ISU safety who made an absolutely fantastic play on the ball to make the pick. After the 47-yard return, the OU defense holds Iowa State to a field goal. 7-3 OU
* Another good run from Clay, showing patience waiting for the cut back lane to open. Again, it's only a five yard gain but it could have been another negative play.
* 2nd Q, 3:23 - 2nd & 5 OU from their 40. INT No. 2. Again, Jones locks in on his receiver and never looks away. This time it's Saunders, who is literally in the middle of five Iowa State defenders. Meanwhile, just to Landry's right is Clay WIDE open after swinging out of the backfield. There is some late pressure again and Jones starts to shy away from the hit as he releases the ball.
The ball is tipped which often leads people to say the interception isn't on the quarterback, which would be significantly inaccurate in this instance. Leads to another ISU field goal. 7-6 OU
* 2nd Q, 1:04 - Sooners about to take over with just one timeout, you know what happens next.
Play No. 1 - OU in the diamond, Clay takes the handoff for a simple run up the middle, runs through the initial hit, and picks up six yards. At this point, it clearly looks as if Oklahoma is content to just run out the clock and take a meager one point lead into halftime. After consecutive drives that ended with Jones interceptions, it's hard to blame the OU coaches to be perfectly honest.
Play No. 2 - OU again in the diamond, again Clay takes the handoff on what looks to be another designed run up the middle. However, this time Clay sees a lane to the outside as the bounces the run around the edge to pick up nine yards before getting out of bounds to stop the clock at 0:26.
Play No. 3 - Following that run, you can see OU's mentality has changed as they immediately come out in a four wide set. Brown, the lone receiver to the top of the screen, runs a simple 'go route' as Jones launches the ball down the field. It's a tad under thrown, maybe intentionally (maybe), which allows Brown to make a nice adjustment before the defender can and haul it in for a 40-yard gain.
Play No. 4 - Basically the same route here, just to the opposite side of the field and to Kenny Stills. Jones just puts the ball up and allows his man to go make a play on it and just like that OU is in the end zone. Paul Rhoads, and the ISU fans, is going berzerk on the sideline screaming for offensive pass interference. Admittedly, there was some contact but nowhere near blatant enough to warrant that call (which for whatever reason seems to have to be much more egregious than defensive PI to draw a flag). I believe after the game Stills was quoted as saying he just "gave him a little chicken wing" to get separation which might be one of the greatest things ever.
14-6 Oklahoma as the half comes to a close.
With the podcast any everything tonight, I'm going to go ahead and schedule the second half breakdown to post early tomorrow morning. So be sure to keep an eye out and come back to check it out then.