About to get this thing fired up for the first time this season and couldn't be more excited about it. This is one of my favorite things I get to do for this site. As I've said in the past, I don't know how many people actually enjoy reading it but hopefully there at least a couple of you out there.
Fair warning: This one might be a little more lengthy than usual considering the game wasn't available on television for a number of OU fans who didn't buy the pay-per-view. If you are new to the site and/or this is your first experience with our 'Film Study' series, these have a tendency to already be pretty lengthy. Sometimes it helps to break it up by reading thru the first half and then the second when you have a little more time later on. Or you can tackle the whole post in one sitting. It's up to you, but I'm also always open to suggestions for how to improve things. So if you have any that might help make it an easier read, please feel free to let me know.
They will be replaying the game this week if you have access to OU's cable channel OR someone was kind enough to put the entire game up on YouTube as was mentioned in the podcast comments last night. I was trying to keep that quiet a little bit just so it didn't get taken down before I had a chance to watch it for putting this together.
As always, this will be a review of the entire game and aspects within it that stand out as I'm watching. I'll also be paying extra attention to things like Trevor Knight's progression as the game goes along, the play of the OU defensive front six/seven, and all the different things Mike Stoops did with this defense.
Here we go . . .
* Interesting decision to start Nila Kasitati at right guard over last year's starter Bronson Irwin. Kasitati played a majority of the game as well. Not really sure what that was about or if it's something that will continue going forward. Kasitati played just fine, it was just odd as most assumed Irwin would be the starter again coming into this season.
* 1st Qtr - 3rd & 10 OU from their own 25. Well, it didn't take long for Knight to show one of the primary reasons he was named the starter. After two quick unproductive downs, he's quickly facing his first third and long. OU lines up in the shotgun with four receivers, three to Knight's right. This looks like one of the instances many predicted where Knight pulls the ball down a little earlier than he probably should and takes off with the ball before going through all of his reads. Though to be fair, Tyrus Thompson does get a little beat to his inside so it might have been more about Knight feeling that pressure coming. Either way, making plays with his legs is obviously won of the reasons he won the job in the first place. For instance:
As you can see above, Knight is about to split defenders and scamper for a 24-yard gain. The thing that stands out to me here however is how he's set up two different defenders to be blocked as illustrated. To his credit, he also has the burst to beat the unblocked defender pursuing him from behind and when you watch this play you can really see him turn it on when he plants his foot in the ground to get up field.
Impressive. And if I'm honest, I am not sure if that is a play Blake Bell can make. He may or may not get the first down by simply lowering his shoulder, but Knight's burst and elusiveness is just something Bell doesn't really have.
FWIW, I think Knight could have easily put a move on the ULM defender who eventually brings him down and potentially have taken this to the house. The defender was ripe for a cut back move had Knight been a little more patient, but that will come with more time and experience.
* Credit ULM for some good early run blitz calls which played a big role in OU's initial struggles running the ball.
* 1st Qtr - 3rd & 4 OU from the ULM 43. This Knight throw looked really bad, missing his receiver by a good foot or two over his head. To be fair, Knight was hit low by a blitzer just as he releases the ball which was the primary reason for the poor throw. That said I don't think even if it is on target it's a first down as the receiver is well covered and short of the marker. Again, credit ULM for good coverage and a blitz call taking away any scramble options for Knight.
* Here you can see OU lining up in their 3-3-5 defensive formation for ULM's first offensive series.
You can see Eric Striker walking up to the line of scrimmage as an extra pass rusher, which was something they did a lot of throughout the game and, more importantly, had a considerable amount of success with.
* Within the first two ULM plays, Mike Stoops has moved Striker from the left side (as you see above) to the right on the very next play. He'll be a guy they move around a lot to create havoc for opposing offenses.
* The ability to have Gaby Lynn and/or Quentin Hayes man up on wide receivers will likely play a huge role in this defense. It allows Stoops to be much more creative with this blitzes and bring all guys from all over the field.
* 1st Qtr - 2nd & 3 ULM from their own 31. Geneo Grissom just flashed the potential we've all heard so much about. His first step to the inside is way too quick for the ULM offensive lineman attempting (which is being kind on my part) to block him. Grissom swallows up the running back, almost from the instant he takes the hand off, for a two yard loss.
It's one play, on the first defensive series of the season, but that (guys making plays behind the line of scrimmage) is not something we saw a lot of last year.
* 1st Qtr, 10:16 - 3rd & 10 OU from their own 17. For all the criticism of Knight's early throws, this one is right on the money to Jaz Reynolds. When have been a long gain and the ULM defender does appear to get a hand on the ball knocking it away from Reynolds, but that throw was where it needed to be. Well, for the most part anyway. It would have been a little further out in front and farther away from the defender, but they're not all going to be 100% perfect.
* No disrespect to Jed Barnett, but there is just something wrong with an OU punter being allowed to wear the #44 jersey.
* 1st Qtr, 9:26 - 3rd & 6 ULM from their own 40. Several things happening on this play. The first being an example of what Stoops can do with his blitzes from this 3-3-5 formation. Here he chooses to bring Frank Shannon and Julian Wilson while presenting Striker as well but who drops back into coverage at the snap.
The ULM right tackle makes a poor attempt to cut block Charles Tapper, who quickly realizes it and does an exceptional job of keeping his feet and avoiding being tripped up and taken out of the play. He then recognizes Browning trying to escape the pocket and immediately closes the gap wrapping him up for a sack. Unfortunately, his hand did graze Browning's facemask which drew a penalty flag. Technically it's the right call, but it was still pretty weak.
* Just a simple question. How nice is it to see OU linebackers making plays again?
* ULM leaving Tapper unblocked on a 3rd & 18 just about got Browning killed.
* This isn't necessarily all that insightful, but this OU defense just seems so much faster than last year's version.
* We saw more of the Diamond formation in this first quarter than we probably saw all of last year. Granted, OU hasn't had a ton of success with it to this point in the game but just the fact that they're using it has to make a number of OU fans happy.
* ULM running a number of stunts up front, which I what I think gave the OU interior offensive linemen trouble early opening up running lanes. So you'd think Josh Heupel might call a run or two outside and/or off the tackles, but nah why do something crazy like that?
* True freshman Matt Dimon definitely in the game at nose tackle as the first quarter winds down to a close.
* Wow, Striker just made the ULM right tackle look like he was standing in quicksand. This kid is incredible explosive off the edge. Just barely missed a sack, but Shannon and Nelson are there to pick him up and bring down Browning behind the line of scrimmage.
* First designed QB run in the closing seconds of the first quarter and it goes for nine yards. That'll work.
End of 1st Quarter, game tied 0-0.
* 2nd Qtr, 14:21 - 3rd & 3 OU from their own 44. This is an incredibly impressive three yard run from Damien Williams. The odds of me being able to do it justice by verbally describing it are incredibly low, but fortunately we have a visual aid.
Were you keeping track of how many guys he made miss in an incredible effort to actually get that first down? That's an NFL run, people. AND it's a run that kept the drive alive allowing the Sooners to finally get some points on the board.
* Said it last night on the podcast and the film only further reemphasizes my point, Damien Williams just has a burst Brennan Clay does not have. I know the coaches have an affinity for Clay, but for my money Williams should easily be the guy getting the most carries for this OU backfield.
* OU just ran the option? OU JUST RAN THE OPTION!
* It might have taken a full quarter, but you can see the OU offensive line starting to wear down the ULM front. Some big holes here early in the second quarter.
* 2nd Qtr, 11:27 - 3rd & 6 OU from the ULM 13. Really poor defense here from ULM leads to Knight's first touchdown throw of his OU career. ULM doubles Lacoltan Bester, running an underneath drag route, which leaves Saunders one-on-one with a safety. Saunders runs a simple corner route to the near end zone pylon on the left side of the field. The ULM safety is playing way too far off and Knight, who was given a pristine pocket by the OU o-line, makes the easy touchdown throw. 7-0 OU takes their first lead of the game.
* Trevor Knight's twin brother, Conor, and walk-on tight end the first person to greet Knight on the sidelines following the TD throw.
* The other thing that stands out about this year's OU defense (thru one game) is their pursuit of the football. There are almost always multiple defenders meeting at the ball carrier. This is a good thing.
* Second time ULM has left Tapper unblocked coming off the edge and the second time he's barely missed a sack while also nearly taking Browning's head off. It's no coincidence that both times Browning had to get rid of the ball before he wanted and that both were incompletions.
* Cannot possibly overstate how impressed I've been with Jordan Phillips in this game. He is destroying people. If he could play at this level all year long, this OU defensive line could be infinitely more dangerous than any of us expected going into the season.
* With seven minutes remaining in the first half, it looks to me like Knight has really settled in. Several of his incompletion in this second quarter have been drops that were right where they needed to be.
* Naturally, as soon as I say that Knight overthrows Bester, who was behind the defense, in the end zone. Just put too much air under it and the ball sailed on him.
* The batted ball thing is going to be an issue going forward because now that opposing defensive coordinators are aware of it, they'll coach their guys to get their arms up into the passing lanes. Knight was pretty fortunate not to have had more than the one interception he was credited for in this game.
* Michael Hunnicutt drills a 41-yard field goal. Man, it's nice to have a kicker you can count on (*knocks on wood*). 10-0 OU leads.
* Roy Finch's 21-yard scamper was the epitome of why OU fans have been screaming for him to get the ball more these last three plus years. He's a legitimate threat to take it to the house every single time he touches the ball. One can only hope the six touches he received in this game is something Heupel and the OU offense continues to build on. Oh, and check out Trevor Knight as a lead blocker!
* I thought Knight's decisions on the zone read got much better, as you'd expect, as the game went along. Seemed hesitant to keep the ball in the early going, but made some good choices later in the game that lead to some pretty good gains.
* Aaron Ripkowski lining up some at tight end, something I didn't necessarily pick up on during my first viewing of the game.
* 2nd Qtr, 1:15 - 2nd & 9 OU from the ULM 16. Here is a swing pass where Knight put the ball right on the money and if Reynolds doesn't miss his block (badly), then Saunders probably walks into the end zone.
Instead, Saunders gets tackled for no gain.
* Reynolds makes up for it on the very next play breaking up an overthrow from Knight in the end zone that could have easily been an interception and cost OU the three points they eventually settle for.
At the half, OU leads ULM by a score of 13-0.
* What a weapon Nick Hodgson can be for this OU team if he can continue to consistently put his kickoffs deep into and/or through the back of the end zone.
* Wow, Jordan Phillips. Just wow.
* I may have missed it, but three minutes into the third quarter I've yet to see OU in a four man defensive line.
* Nice reaction by Julian Wilson to recognize the tip ball and get to it in time to get his hands under it for the INT.
* Frozen rope from Knight to Saunders that is dropped. Probably would have been another 15 or 20 yards passing for Knight if Saunders could have hauled it in.
* Millard with a perfect lead block on a Knight zone read keeper. The first of I believe three consecutive quality lead blocks prior to OU punching the ball into the end zone.
* Pretty impressive drive from OU to make it a 20-0 ball game capped by a Clay touchdown run. Sooners just run the ball right down ULM's throat and as previously mentioned, most of it was behind lead blocks from Millard. Nice decision from Clay to bounce his run outside, though he got a little careless trying to reach the ball across the goal line. Not a big deal or anything, just a little bit of an unnecessary risk.
* Damien Williams just announced his presence with authority!
He let him know about it to when he got up.
* 3rd Qtr, 6:40 - 3rd & 1 OU from their own 30. Looks like a mix up between Knight and Williams here leading to a busted play. Fortunately, Knight recognizes it very quickly and is able to get up field just far enough to convert the third down. Pretty lucky, but that's pretty much a guaranteed sack with Landry Jones last year and OU is then forced to punt. Stating the obviously, but that's one advantage of having a mobile quarterback.
* I don't know how much they're going to run it in the future, but Knight running the option could be very, very dangerous. Time and experience doing it will be the biggest key, so hopefully it will be something they continue to sprinkle into the offensive game plan.
* Zack Sanchez just barely missing his first interception late(ish) in the third quarter. Read the out route perfectly and jumped it. You can't play it any better than that, other than bringing in the football I suppose.
* Smart play by Gabe Lynn on that big hit he had. Those are the kind of opportunities that can get guys ejected this year, but he had perfect form and didn't launch himself at the receiver.
* Charles Tapper has the potential to be really, really special. That is all.
* What were they thinking with that fake punt?!?
* One play touchdown drive on a pretty little floater of a pass from Knight to Saunders coming across on a drag route. Good job from Knight as well to sell the play fake then roll out to his right. Sooners lead 27-0.
* For whatever issues we expected to have at punter, Jed Barnett had a really good first game.
* Frank Shannon had a really good game. Always been a guy capable of making plays sideline-to-sideline, nice to see both he and Nelson actually being given a chance to play this year.
* So close on that punt return, Jalen. Just oh so close.
* 3rd Qtr, 0:47 - 3rd & 3 OU from the ULM 13. What you have to like about this touchdown pass to Trey Metoyer is the fact he does not appear to have been Knight's primary read on the play. Knights stands confidently in the pocket, no one anywhere near him helps with that, and delivers a perfect strike to Metoyer in the back of the end zone. For all the OU fans whining about Knight's struggles passing the ball early, I'd direct them to this play as an example of the progress he made even in just this one game. Oh yeah, also it's 34-0 OU now.
* And Metoyer didn't catch the ball out of bounds! That's what we call progress, y'all.
End of the third quarter, OU leads 34-0 (which we obviously know will be the final score).
* Hopefully this fourth quarter will go by much quicker than the previous three from a recap perspective. I'll probably try to focus on some individual play and the backups/younger guys that got in the game.
* The interception call. As I now understand it, I guess by the letter of the rule it was technically the right call. If you want to debate it more in the comments I certainly wouldn't disagree with you if you're not buying it. My only explanation for anyone is that it's a stupid rule. And I think it's that simple.
My reaction to the call at the time however was something pretty similar to that of Metoyer himself.
Though it's certainly worth crediting the ULM defender for making a heads up play
* Pressure on the quarterback, again from Striker, once again forces an incompletion. Not sure how anyone could fail to be impressed with what Mike Stoops drew up in this game.
* 4th Qtr, 12:17 - 2nd & 6 ULM from the OU 44. The Sooners defensive line on this particular play is (from left to right): Tapper, Quincy Russell (seeing his first action if memory serves), and Matt Dimon. Not a big development necessarily, just found it interesting.
* Nice play from DT Jordan Wade absorbing a block, then fighting it off to tackle the ULM running back for a minimal gain.
* 4th Qtr, 11:30 - 3rd & 7 ULM from the OU 16. OU gets pretty lucky here to preserve their shutout. For all the things Zack Sanchez did well in this game, he gets beat pretty badly on this play. But another QB pressure from Eric Striker forces Browning to get rid of the ball earlier than he'd like and he leads his receiver out of bounds for what could have been a touchdown.
With nothing to lose, ULM goes for it on fourth down, fails to convert with Shannon blowing up Browning, and the OU defense preserves their shutout.
* Keith Ford = Grown. Ass. Man.
* Nice scramble by Bell, showed some vision to turn it outside for additional yards and a first down rather than simply lowering his shoulder and taking what was there in the middle of the field.
* Ford delivers the blow on a ULM linebacker (knocking his helmet off in the process). Um . . . isn't that generally supposed to work the other way around?
* Brannon Green in the game which is the first time I've seen anyone actually listed as a tight end on the field in this game.
* No clue what Alex Ross was thinking. The guy whose head/face he shoved came in a late, but made no attempt to do anything to Ross. Immature overreaction in my own humble opinion.
* If you attempt to arm tackle Keith Ford, you might find yourself less an arm. Just sayin'.
* I'm a fan of Keith Ford's if you couldn't already tell.
@Jordan_Esco watching the end of the game the 2's played a legit 3-4. With Nelson and striker outside and Alexander and Gastelum inside— AJ Winters III (@AJWinters3) September 2, 2013
* Can confirm the above.
* Just found this to be humorous.
That'll pretty much wrap things up as both teams are perfectly fine with running of the rest of the clock. Apologies for this approaching nearly 4,000 words, but with the first game of the season and it being pay-per-view I felt it important to get a little more in-depth with things. Hopefully you all enjoyed it.
Same bat time, same bat channel next week where we'll breakdown the West Virginia game.