A number of interesting developments took place in this game with the obvious caveat that the positives we witnessed took place against Iowa State, thus you can only put so much credence into what transpired.
Still though, there were some signs for which you can be encouraged. Obviously the play of Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson was a welcome sign, though who knows what Bob Stoops and Josh Heupel have in store for the quarterback position going forward. The threat of both as runners clearly gave an already overmatched Cyclones defense problems simply for having to account for either with the ball in their hands. Certainly the play of the offensive line as a whole who, much like the OU running backs, seemed to get a lift once Knight entered the game.
There was also the continued exceptional play of OU's defense that struggled somewhat early on, especially defending the run, but made adjustments as the game progressed and eventually shut down Iowa State's offense. Mike Stoops used Eric Striker a lot more in coverage than he had previously and the sophomore linebacker held up quite nicely.
We'll see how things play out with the breakdown, but based on the caliber of opponent this week's edition of 'Film Study' may be a little shorter than you've become accustomed.
Here we go.
* This was the type of ceiling for Jordan Wade I've talked about here on the site.
That's just a straight bull rush and my word is it impressive. I saw someone in the game thread call this a coverage sack and while there is coverage involved, Wade is getting all the credit for that sack in my book. Every QB who has ever played the game hates pressure in their face/up the middle. Wade instantly obliterates the pocket which forces ISU's QB to bail on the play.
Needless to say, this play was a very promising sign for Wade's future.
* If you want to give Heupel credit for something here in this first quarter, I suppose you can credit him for not opening up in a four wide, single back set like he so often loves to do. However he does call pass plays on five of OU's first six offensive plays which eventually leads to a punt. Granted, a holding on Tyrus Thompson got things off schedule but those are the kind of things you have to work around.
* Hard not to watch Iowa State's E.J. Bibbs, who was a guy OU recruited heavily, and wonder 'what if' with respect to how he might fit into this OU offense. Obviously the Sooners are desperate for any kind of play-maker at the tight end position and Bibbs is certainly that.
* Quenton Bundrage is a really talented receiver, just a sophomore too. If ISU can get their QB position figured out (big if), they'll have a considerable weapon in Bundrage.
* I must have missed it in the box score because I didn't see 'wind' credited with OU's first interception of Grant Rohach.
* So Heupel goes run, run, run with Roy Finch on OU's second offensive possession leading to a three and out and countless stupid comments from OU beat writers on Twitter the likes of "Well, I guess Finch isn't the answer." Some of which were tongue in cheek and/or not so thinly veiled shots at OU fans who had called for Finch to get the ball more.
* Mike Stoops seems to really love the delayed blitz. I know it serves some type of purpose, but if you're going to blitz why voluntarily slow your blitzer down by telling him to wait before doing so? Just seems like you are both (1) decreasing your chances of getting the pressure/sack and (2) increasing the time in which the quarterback has to get rid of the ball which last I checked is the exact opposite purpose of blitzing in the first place.
* Rohach doing a good job early on stepping up in the pocket and keeping his eyes down field. He's got some tools Iowa State could be able to build around in the future.
* Hell of a fake on the zone read from Sam Richardson on ISU's touchdown here early second quarter. OU defense had no clue where the football was.
* Still not entirely sure how Blake Bell suffered a concussion (we think, OU still hasn't confirmed his injury) on this play.
I guess maybe because the hit comes somewhat from the backside, or at least out of his direct line of sight, so he wasn't able to brace himself for it? I mean outside of maybe right at the point of impact, I don't see any time where he hits his head be it with another player or even on the ground.
He winds up running two more plays, a nice (almost huge) run by Damien Williams and then a low snap he has to go down to his knees to field, before he gives way to Trevor Knight. Hard to tell from the television broadcast, but I couldn't see any sign of him indicating he needed to come out. But 2nd & 15 also doesn't seem like the most intelligent time to bring Knight into the game, so maybe the cameras just missed it.
* And not to get us off track or unnecessarily rip Heupel for what ultimately, in my opinion, proves to be one of his better called games, but who do you think you're fooling with a draw play on Knight's first snap in the game? I don't want to hear about down and distance, literally no one thinks you're bringing Knight in there to throw the ball. So the idea of "tricking them" with this play call is a perfect example of why, again in my opinion, Heupel draws so much heat from the fans.
* Please, for the love of god, can "we" just scrap the 'run a play, then hurry up to the line, only to call a run play everyone knows you're going to call and has literally never worked a single time' from the offensive play book?
* Oh, and as long as we're eliminating things from the play book that literally never work....might as well add the fade route down around the end zone.
* Impossible not to notice this looks like a completely different Trevor Knight than the one we saw in OU's first two games. Also hard not to wonder where both he and this offense might be were it not for his injury and/or if he'd been given a chance to ever win the job back after said injury.
* 2nd Qtr, 4:03 - 1st & 10 OU from their 22. This play is an example of a couple of Knight's current limitations. He makes a good play-action fake, but locks in on Jalen Saunders way early and never comes off him. Saunders does get a step on his man with a double move and maybe if Knight throws a much better deep ball, leading him instead of putting the ball out of bounds, then maybe Saunders can make a big play down the field. The other "limitation" on Knight's part is that by never coming off his initial read, he misses a WIDE open Lacoltan Bester up the seam who was matched up one-on-one with a linebacker.
That kind of a match-up is something that needs to be recognized prior to the snap be it by Knight himself or Heupel up in the booth in the form of an audible.
* The Saunders punt return. Obviously a risk that pays off, but I'd bet you the coaches were screaming for the fair catch at the time.
He wasn't just surrounded by three Iowa State players, but several of his own teammates as well. Any one of whom could have tripped him up or distracted him to the point he muffs the punt. Evidently, he knew what he was doing.
Also, didn't notice it at the time but really wise decision from true freshman Austin Bennett to pull up and not block the punter as he would have very likely drawn a penalty, in my opinion, if he gets caught up in the play and takes him out.
* 3rd Qtr, 14:31 - 2nd & 5 OU from their 30. This is just a thing of beauty.
The cliche 'a hole so big you could drive a truck through it' is often overused, this would not be one of those times. Just an absolutely outstanding job by Gabe Ikard, Bronson Irwin (especially), and Daryl Williams opening up this gaping hole for Williams. Who, yes, gets an assist on the play from the referee but it's not like we've never seen him make that same jump cut and beat a guy in the open field before (think RRSO).
Also, key thing I want to point out here on this play. If you watch from the start, keep an eye on No. 2 for ISU at the bottom of the screen. See how he has to hesitate on the edge keying off the read option fake from Knight? Well, it's that hesitation (and Williams' speed) that prevent him from running down Williams from behind and keeping him out of the end zone.
That's the kind of difference Knight and his ability to run the ball bring to this offense. It's a subtle little thing, but it can make a world of difference on plays like this one.
* For a guy his size, I'm not sure I can recall a player ever running as hard as Roy Finch does. If he winds up on an NFL roster next year, he's going to make a number of people who office in the Switzer Center very foolish.
* I read some criticism of Knight and his throws on swing passes in this game. I'm midway thru the third quarter and outside of one he threw behind Saunders, I'm not seeing what others believe they did. Either way, certainly nothing even remotely close to the struggles he had with that type of throw in his first two games.
* Knight has been SO much more decisive than Bell is/was on when to tuck and run it.
* Not going to try and excuse Knight's throw on the wheel route to Clay late(ish) third quarter that everyone thinks should have been an easy touchdown. I will simply say there is an argument to be made on his part for what could have been a back shoulder attempt with the Iowa State defender pinching in on Clay. Still think it was a bad throw and Knight probably doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt quite yet, but it also wasn't the automatic sure thing some made it out to be.
* Really liking these all out blitz calls from M.Stoops. Obviously you have to take into account the level of competition, but it's good to know M.Stoops has the confidence in this defense and secondary to call them.
* 3rd Qtr, 4:10 - 2nd & 6 OU from their 37. Again, Knight and the zone read draw the attention of both the ISU linebackers and safety opening up an even bigger lane for Clay than the one Williams had earlier.
* It wasn't necessarily earth shattering by any means, but you can certainly see the difference in this OU defensive line playing with Charles Tapper in the second half after he served his first half suspension.
* At times I've taken issue with Knight making the right decision when running the zone read, but here he reads it perfectly.
Keeps the ball in Finch's belly just long enough for the ISU defender to commit, then quickly pulls it back out and takes off around the edge. Actually just an ankle tackle away from possibly breaking off a long touchdown run.
* It was easy (and incredibly stupid) for many, seven quarters into his career, to question why Knight was ever named the starter over Bell.
This play is why.
If you've spent any time watch Bell this season and think he could have ever made a run like that then I can't help you. And bare in mind, that's not a shot at Bell. He and Knight are just different kind of players, but that kind of explosiveness is one of the major reasons Knight initially won the job.
* OU's Ahmad Thomas has the potential to be special at the safety position. Not entirely sure what, other than Aaron Colvin not playing in this game, led M.Stoops to play him on Saturday more than he had in any other game, but the true freshman acquitted himself quite well. If Hatari Byrd can live up to his promise as well, Sooners could be in really, really good shape at that position in the future.
* Color me absolutely stunned that Kendal Thompson saw the field in this game. Not that I disagreed with the decision in any way, just never thought Stoops would do it.
* Also re: Thompson. He looks to have really shortened up his throwing motion, which is a welcome improvement the really long, slow wind up he used to have.
* His deep ball to Bester certainly wasn't the prettiest throw you'll ever see as he (Bester) has to wait for the ball a little bit and gets turned around, but if nothing else it was effective and allowed Bester a chance to make a play on the ball. Which is more than you can say for a number of deep passes we've seen from both Bell and Knight.
* The look on Aaron Ripkowski's face after he catches that touchdown is absolutely priceless.
* Had to be a cool moment I'm sure for true freshman Dakota Austin kind of being in the right place at the right time to haul in his first career interception.
* Be still my beating heart, is that Alex Ross getting actual carries at running back?!?