Big edition of our 'Film Series' this week coming off the win in South Bend. A lot took place in this game so there will obviously be quite a bit to try and detail.
Will certainly be paying attention to the play along the lines on both sides of the ball and both from a positive and negative aspect, the play of Blake Bell, and some of the different things Mike Stoops did with his defense in this game.
Let's get started.
* We've mentioned it on the site and the podcast, but the weapon that Nick Hodgson has become cannot be under estimated. He put all but one of his kickoffs thru the end zone in this game and limited the return opportunities for George Atkinson who obviously proved on that 80-yard run he has speed to burn.
Also, to that same point, you have to love what Jay Boulware has been able to accomplish in his first year as special teams coach.
* As I and others predicted, ND goes right at Zack Sanchez early and he plays this first pass perfectly. Still hard to believe he's just a redshirt freshman given his level of play thru four games.
* First of several plays Frank Shannon is going to make in this game, doing a superb job of not getting swept in the trash, avoiding the block of the ND tight end, and blowing up an Atkinson run on 2nd down.
* 1st Qtr, 14:23 - 3rd & 7 ND from their 28. Corey Nelson's pick six. This is the first of several examples of just how creative Mike Stoops can be out of this 3-3-5 defensive set.
Here you can see OU pre-snap.
From top to bottom you have: Striker, Nelson, Grissom, Phillips, and Tapper. They have five guys on the line, overloaded to the left side of ND's line, with only Grissom and Phillips having their hands on the ground.
At the snap, Nelson is going to twist to his left and off of Grissom's rush which confuses ND's left tackle and guard who both crash down on Grissom and leave Nelson for the center. Which obviously leaves Striker untouched coming off the edge. Here it is from a better angle.
To be fair, Nelson is really just a right place/right time in terms of the ball literally falling into his waiting arms. Given the number of sure INTs he's already dropped so far this season, OU was probably pretty lucky this actually turned into six points (sorry, Corey). Still as I said earlier, creative call from M.Stoops and Tim Kish as to my knowledge this is the first stunting we've seen from the linebackers this season.
From a ND perspective, I can certainly understand the frustration on this play from Rees' perspective. You would hope he could have some sense of the rush and either throw the ball away or tuck it before it's knocked loose. I know we did with Landry who seemed to have the same problem. 7-0 OU
* 1st Qtr, 14:04 - 1st & 10 ND from their 29. Shannon's INT. In my opinion, this Rees INT was a result of a couple things. (1) A bad throw from Rees who led his receiver too much to the inside. (2) The ND receiver, T.J. Jones, having a case of alligator arms coming across the middle with Frank Shannon baring down on him.
I'll leave it up to you to decide. As you can see from the play and replays, Rees has a clean pocket with virtually zero pressure. It just looks to me like a really poor throw on his part, which from what I heard at the game certainly is not an anomaly.
Oh, and props to Shannon for hauling that in even with the club he was playing with on his right hand.
* Honestly, I think a lot of what OU did in their short passing game (which I HATE people calling an "extension of the run game") was simply a matter of Heupel taking what ND was giving them. The Irish corners were playing so far off it was too tempting to pass up. They did that a number of times, often backed up in their own end, for an easy first down or something close to it.
AND credit to the OU receivers who did an outstanding job blocking on the edges. I can't remember who called me out on the site for saying in a previous week that this was something they excelled at, but you know who you were and I hope you were watching on Saturday! (haha)
* 1st Qtr, 12:25 - 2nd & 2 OU from the ND 9. Several good things happening here on this Damien Williams TD run and one not so good thing.
First, the not so good thing. This play will not go on Nila Kasitati's personal highlight reel as he gets obliterated by ND's Louis Nix. Here is the beginning of the play with Nix easily tossing Kasitati aside with a simple swim move.
From the look of the play, it appears as though Williams is going to have to bounce it to the outside regardless but this . . .
. . . made it an absolute necessity.
Fortunately, Williams has the speed to (easily and understandably) run away from Nix and thanks to two blocks from Trey Millard and Jalen Saunders is able to sneak it into the front corner of the end zone. No chance he scores without either of those blocks.
Now Millard's block is certainly no thing of beauty, but he gets just enough of the ND defender it allows Williams to use his speed to get the corner. And while Saunders is never going to pancake someone, he is at minimum effective enough at getting in the way that he seals the edge giving Williams the sideline and a path the the end zone. 14-0 OU
* I thought the Corey Robinson offensive pass interference call was a pretty obvious one and not just because I'm an OU fan. Saw on the ND site they thought it was a bad call, which wasn't overly surprising I suppose, but he did pretty clearly push off. I would concede that it's a call that doesn't normally get made however.
* I just want you to watch what Jordan Phillips does to the ND right guard on this play.
That's a play that will never show up in the box score, but good lord does he ever destroy the pocket for Rees with that ridiculous bull rush. I mean, wow.
* Bell definitely missed I think three throws here in the first quarter that could have easily helped OU extend their lead. You have to take the good with the bad and Bell is never going to be Sam Bradford when it comes to accuracy, but Sammy B wasn't extending plays with his legs like Bell does either. So like I said, you take the good with the bad.
* I don't see a Big 12 team on OU's schedule that will run the ball like Notre Dame did on Saturday (outside of possibly Texas, though their o-line doesn't scare me), but the limitations of this 3-3-5 set as it's currently constructed from a personnel standpoint is pretty obvious. But Mike Stoops didn't design it with the Irish in mind, he designed it for Big 12 play and the plethora of spread offenses OU will face.
* Shallow crossing routes are still an OU defense's kryptonite.
* 1st Qtr, 6:17 - 1st & 10 ND from the OU 40. Um, Mr. Striker your jock strap is waiting for you on the 42 yard line. Boy, did Atkinson ever put a move on him in the backfield. He (Atkinson) turns a sure loss into a one yard gain primarily because of the pursuit from Grissom and Nelson, but Striker is going to hear about that one in the film room.
* 1st Qtr, 5:41 - 2nd & 9 ND from the OU 39. As I mentioned above about the limitations, here they are really on display. On this particular play, you have OU in a 3-4 (with Dominique Alexander in for Julian Wilson) and ND in a heavy set to their left side.
And on the play you're going to have 6'7" 270 pound Troy Niklas matched up with 6'0" 220 pound Eric Striker. That's a lot to ask of Striker to be able to hold up and on this play the mismatch is particularly glaring as you'll see below.
Nicklas has driven Striker all the way from the line of scrimmage almost to the 35-yard line. And he blocks Striker so effectively that he actually drives him back into Gabe Lynn (who also takes a poor angle) which leads to the big run from Tarean Folston.
That's not a match up Striker should be expected to win, but it's one you can bet future OU opponents will pick up on and try to replicate when they face this undersized Sooners defense.
* For all the things Sanchez did well in this game, he gets beaten pretty badly on ND's first touchdown throw from Rees to Jones. Kind of looked like he got caught with his eyes in the backfield and just lost his man. Did not appear to me, based on his reaction, like he was expecting inside help from the safety.
* 1st Qtr, 3:57 - 1st & 10 OU from their 24. Here is a really good example of just one of the creative ways the offensive line dealt with Nix. On this particular play, Gabe Ikard snaps the ball and immediately releases into the second level, basically ignoring Nix altogether. Adam Shead crashes down to his right, while Trey Millard is left to deal with the monster in the middle.
Millard (wisely) goes for the cut block on Nix who, to his credit, does a good job of not being taken off his feet but who is also effectively taken out of the play regardless.
As a result, Williams has a clear lane to run thru and uses his vision to cut it back behind Bronson Irwin, who has also released to the second level, and Saunders on the outside once again allowing Williams to find the sideline for a nice gain on first down.
(Okay, we're not even out of the first quarter yet and we're pushing 2,000 words. I'm going to have to move this along a little quicker. Apologies.)
* 1st Qtr, 1:19 - 3rd & 4 ND from their 26. Just wanted to point out the fantastic move here from ND's T.J. Jones. He runs a simple quick option route right at the marker and has to leave his feet for just a second to bring in Rees' pass. But in doing so, Jones lands with both feet simultaneously while also spinning away from Julian Wilson and easily picking up the first down. Looks like a fairly simple play and it's probably a first down regardless, but it was incredibly athletic and equally impressive.
End of the first quarter, OU leads 14-7.
* Can't possibly overstate how impressed I already am with OU's interior line and the game plan Bill Bedenbaugh instituted for his game. They've brought blocks from a variety of different people and spots against Louis Nix and it's very obviously slowed him down, if for no other reason than literally on every down his blocker/s could be coming from different spots.
* 2nd Qtr, 13:39 - 3rd & 3 ND from the OU 39. Really impressive play from Nelson here who is out in space all by himself against a mobile Andrew Hendrix who keeps the ball on a zone read.
So many impressive aspects of this play, namely if Nelson doesn't make this play it looks like an easy first down to extend a potential Irish scoring drive. Never mind the fact in the split-second he has to make the play, he makes the right read and doesn't crash down on the running back. Then the quickness and athleticism he possesses to make the hit on Hendrix and blow the play up.
* This Blake Bell arm punt of a pass to Lacoltan Bester is so bad it actually inadvertently causes the ND corner to create the contact and draw a pass interference call. Bell put WAY too much air under that ball as Bester actually had a step on his man and a better, leading throw could have produced a big gain.
* Two short yardage situations now, including this 4th and 1 at the 9:15 mark of the 2nd quarter, where ND has stuffed OU. And on both there really isn't much to point out other than the Irish flat out winning the battle at the point of attack.
* 2nd Qtr, 9:09 - 1st & 10 ND from their 42. Rees and the offense take over after that big fourth down stop and OU gets incredibly lucky here with a really poor pass from the ND quarterback. Folston leaks out from the back field and as we've seen in weeks past, Shannon reacts slowly in coverage leaving the ND back basically wide open.
Rees horribly overthrows Folston, who with his speed and absolutely nothing but green grass in front of him easily takes this to his house. I remain 100% convinced if this pass is completed and doesn't take Folston off his feet, it's a ND touchdown that ties the game and could seriously have changed how this game plays out. Especially considering ND is coming off that fourth down stop and if on the very next play they get a 58-yard touchdown every ounce of momentum would be on their side. Like I said, OU was VERY lucky here.
* 2nd Qtr, 5:40 - 2nd & 10 ND from the OU 24. Two things here on this almost INT. (1) Sanchez should have been able to haul in this interception. (2) I've seen some people say he was beat on the play, but from everything I can see that is not the case as it really looks to me as though he has inside help from the safety and played his man (to the outside) accordingly. Great position and another solid play from the redshirt freshman, but you still got to haul that in.
* Then Rees comes back on the very next play and throws his third INT of the game. And while the first two may not have been on him, though I'd argue with you on the second, there is no question about this one.
This throw is late, a touch behind the receiver, and thrown into blanket coverage from the aforementioned Zack Sanchez who could have just as easily got the INT instead of tipping it to Julian Wilson.
* Huge scramble by Bell at 3:14 mark on a 3rd and 8. Looks like he never comes off his initial read, but not sure it would have matter as the Irish look to have solid coverage across the board on the play. This, my friends, is what a mobile QB can do for you.
* I'm not telling any of you anything you didn't already know, but Bell's poise in this game has been amazingly impressive.
* 2nd Qtr, 0:54 - 1st & 10 OU from the ND 29. While this is an impressive play both from Bell and Bester that extends OU's lead to 21-7, Bell actually misses him on the initial route. Bester is running a skinny post and gets a step on his man to the inside. It's not an easy throw for any QB to make and I'm not going to speculate as to whether or not that's why Bell doesn't make this throw on the initial read.
But to his credit, Bester does not pout and quit on the play instead improvising on the fly and working his way back towards Bell. The OU quarterback maintains his technique and footwork then unleashes a pass to Bester who also does a good job coming back to the ball instead of waiting on it which, in my opinion, would have allowed the ND defender to break up an eventual touchdown pass. OU leads 21-7.
* I'd have been just as upset as the ND fans around me were if it was Bob Stoops choosing to take a knee with 40 or so seconds remaining on the clock.
Sooners lead 21-7 at the half.
* 3rd Qtr, 12:43 - 1st & 10 ND from their 20. Even on this 80-yard Atkinson touchdown run, it's not much more than ND winning the battle at the point of attack. Well, okay, actually that's not entirely accurate. First and foremost, credit to the Irish up front for a very well executed play. But OU could have prevented this from being the huge gain that it was and at the very least preventing the touchdown.
First of those being the hold ND's left guard is allowed to get away with on Frank Shannon. Now to be fair, it wasn't egregious enough of a hold that you would make that big of a stink about it. We all know the 'they could call holding on every play' saying and that probably applies here. Second, Dominique Alexander basically removes himself from the play with a horrible recognition of where the play was going. If he attacks towards the play immediately, he might not make the tackle but he likely forces Atkinson towards the hash and at least close enough for Colvin to make a tackle from behind. Third, Quentin Hayes takes a horrible angle on the play and much like Alexander essentially removes himself from the play. Gabe Lynn didn't have anywhere near enough of an angle, or more importantly the top end speed, to catch Atkinson so once he got into the open it was pretty much academic.
If there is a positive here, it's that a lot of what happened is correctable.
* I can't believe I'm actually about to type this, but I think Trey Franks needs to be given a chance to return kicks full-time.
* 3rd Qtr, 11:34 - 3rd & 1 OU from the ND 43. This will go down in the box score as a simple two yard from from Damien Williams, but he should have easily been stopped short of the first down line. He essentialy beats two completely unblocked ND defenders and powers through the second to get the yardage he needs for a first down.
I don't care that it's only two yards, that's a big time run.
* People want to ask why Trevor Knight won the starting job, go back and watch that run he makes on the zone read on his first play from scrimmage. Yeah, it's one play but that it's that kind of play that helped him win the job. You just saw essentially the exact same play right before it with Bell and he took it for about eleven yards. Knight it for thirty.
Understand, I'm not saying that alone justifies the decision as much as I'm simply pointing out it as that kind of play-making ability that played a significant role in the choice of Knight as the starter to open the season.
* I'm not entirely sure I agree with Stoops' comments in his presser on Monday that Knight's goal line run for a loss of six or so yards was on the running back (Williams) missing a block. Just looks to me like a solid job by ND defending the zone read and there being very little there even if Williams makes the block Stoops expected him to make.
End of the third quarter, OU leads 27-14.
* I think we sufficiently covered ND's final touchdown on the podcast. Just a busted coverage/assignment from the OU secondary, one of the few mistakes they made on Saturday. Stuff happens. OU leads 27-21.
* 4th Qtr, 12:35 - 3rd & 3 OU from the ND 46. This will be a play I remember for a long time.
And not just because I was there to witness it, though that certainly doesn't hurt, but mainly just because of how big of a play it was in the game. Notre Dame had just scored to make it a one possession game, it's on a third down, and if OU doesn't convert the Irish could theoretically go down and take a lead which I'm not sure I see OU recovering from.
Oh, all that and how hilariously helpless #59 for ND looked trying to (1) get over in coverage against Sterling Shepard and then even more so (2) how he futilly reaches out attempting to make a tackle as Shepard easily pulls away from him on the way to the end zone. Also enjoyed Shepard's 'flexing' celebration at the end.
* Don't sleep on that throw Bell made to Shepard for the two point conversion either. Put it right on the money and low enough where only his many could make a play on the ball. OU leads 35-21.
* Some really solid play from the OU defense from here on out limiting the Irish offense to essentially nothing and never allowing them a chance to believe they were still in the game. Notre Dame helped them by having to throw, but that takes nothing away from what Mike Stoops and this OU defense accomplished on Saturday.
* Equally as impressive a job on the part of the OU offense to pick up first downs and keep that clock running.
* 4th Qtr, 9:05 - 2nd & 9 OU from the ND 48. Another little detail, but Damien Williams ability to make the catch on this screen pass and both (1) not lose this balance while (2) getting up field for positive yards was very impressive.
I mean look where he catches that ball. Like I said, impressive.
* Brennan Clay running really hard here in the fourth quarter AND that's after the nasty hit he took earlier in the quarter.
And that's a wrap. Plenty to be excited about while still several things Stoops and his staff and sell their guys on needing to improve upon as they prep this week for Saturday's game against TCU.
We'll see you back here next week once again for another edition of our 'Film Study' series. Thanks for reading!