Welp, this could get interesting.
Contrary to popular opinion given the role I seem to play here, putting this type of post together following a game in which Oklahoma did not play particularly well (at least offensively) is really not an enjoyable experience. While I'd like to believe I'm capable of maintaining a certain level of objectivity, I'm still just a fan like most of you so trust me when I say I want OU to play well just as much as the rest of you.
To that point, when perusing the interwebs on the morning after an OU game as I tend to do I came across an interesting comment I wanted you to ponder as we go through this WVU game.
Many of us as OU fans have been clamoring for a dominant run game and the return of an intimidating defense. With the obvious caveat that it's only been two games, it would appear OU has both. And yet here many of us sit still unhappy.
Is it a case of having become so accustomed to an explosive passing game that such a drastic change to the opposite has left us befuddled? It is a case of 'Joe Q. Fan' being impossible to ever truly satisfy? Or is it a case of OU fans having a legitimate reason to gripe?
I suppose that's up to each of you to decide. I guess my point is if you're holding out hope for a defense like we think we may have, a running game like we think we may have, and a passing game like we use to have all on the same team in the same season it could be an awfully long wait.
But I suppose we need to get to the business at hand.
* Not even gonna lie, incredibly disappointed to find out Nick Hodgson was mainly a product of the wind at his back. Still better than what we've had in the past, but not quite the weapon he appeared to be in the season opener.
* 1st Qtr, 14:24 - 2nd & 7 WVU from their own 28. I suppose the downfall of playing so many inexperienced guys is something like this happening. Oklahoma gets decent, but not good, pressure on Millard forcing him to scramble from the pocket to his right. As he's doing so, Charles Sims releases out into the pass pattern. At first, Eric Striker recognizes this and is there to make a tackle should the ball be thrown to Sims.
However, Striker gets a little over aggressive and leaves Sims taking off to try and come up to make a hit on Millard.
In doing so, he leaves Sims pretty much wide open with a Corey Nelson too far behind the play to prevent the eventual 24-yard gain.
Credit Sims as well for making a nice move in the open field to gain additional yardage.
* Hard to say who that botched snap was truly on, but from the angle behind the play it sure looks like it is well to Knight's right. Maybe it was a play designed to go in that direction and a directed snap was meant to lead it? I don't know, but in my own humble opinion that looked to be more on Ikard than Knight. Although on another replay they do show Knight looking away at the last second, so I guess it could really go either way.
* As good of blocks as the o-line get on that Brennan Clay long first down run, the block that allows him to get what he does is one my Lacoltan Bester on the outside. The kind of blocks that often get overlooked and are under appreciated.
* Even early, it's easy to see Knight REALLY staring down his receivers. Already missed a couple wide open guys that would have been his second or third read. The problem with that kind of stuff is with freshmen that really only changes with experience barring them being the exception to the inexperience rule.
* WVU doing a pretty good job early of picking up the OU blitzes.
* 1st Qtr, 9:09 - 2nd & 10 WVU from their own 25. I can't even begin to describe to you how bad this play was for the OU defense.
Looks fairly decent right? Maybe a modest gain.
Even better now right? I mean surely with Corey Nelson draped all over him he's not going anywhere.
Wait....well Nelson missed the tackle but that's okay. OU has two more defenders converging on Smith simultaneously so surely both of them will be capable of bringing him down.
Wait.....what? They both missed the tackle as well? Well, okay I guess. But now he's seemingly surrounded by OU defenders so surely they can mitigate the damage at this point, right?
No? Well, s#@*.
7-0 WVU leads.
* "Dreamius Smith is supposed to be a power back with not much speed." The exact quote from the FOX announcer in the midst of watching the replay and Smith pulling away from multiple OU defenders. Not exactly encouraging.
* I'm not saying it makes any sense, but it certainly appears as though Knight throws better on the move than he does standing stationary in the pocket. You'd think the coaches making six and or seven figures would be capable of recognizing this and adjusting the play-calls accordingly.
You would be wrong.
* Frustrating to think just how many points OU left on the field in this game of which I'm reminded of with that early roughing the punter call.
* It's simply impossible to overstate just how good of a lead blocker Trey Millard is. He'll get drafted much later than he should and NFL personnel guys will wonder WTF they were thinking at the time. I don't care if he's a fullback. The guy is a freaking football player.
* Sterling Shepard doing a spot-on impersonation of the old Trey Franks. And I say the old Trey Franks because dude is making some plays on special teams. Should have been playing safety from the jump.
* 1st Qtr, 4:37 - 3rd & 8 OU from the WVU 27. Couple things going on here with this play. Some good, some bad. The good being Knight standing strong in the face of pressure and stepping into his throw. More good being Jaz Reynolds beating his man to the inside on a post route and were it not for he and the defender inadverently tripping one another being open by a step or two for what would have been a fairly easy pitch-and-catch.
The bad being it sure looks like Knight made up his mind where he was going with the ball before he ever got the snap. Because Jalen Saunders could not possibly have been more wide open underneath on a short crossing route.
OU has to settle for a field goal. A 44-yard field goal mind you which is far from a gimmie, but oh so nice to have a kicker we can count on for those type of kicks (and yes I'm aware he missed one at the end of the game). 7-3 WVU
* When Jordan Phillips wants to be, he can be as dominant as any player on the football field. If you care to, go back to the 2:51 mark of this first quarter and watch him just abuse the WVU center & left guard with a swim move and completely collapse the pocket forcing Millard to complete a pass about eight yards short of the first down marker.
* It's crazy just how much more athletic this OU defense looks on film compared to last year.
* Was it just me or did Damien Williams not appear to have the same kind of burst through the hole that we're used to seeing from him?
* One more is it just me type question. Does it seem like sometimes in the open field Knight is really indecisive with what he wants to do? Thinking back to last week against ULM with that play near the sideline where he makes an awkward move and winds up fumbling the ball out of bounds. Could be a product of the coaches being in his head about getting down and not taking unnecessary hits?
* Seemed like on more than one occasion OU had multiple receivers in almost identical spots, which obviously isn't supposed to be how things work and makes things much easier for the defense. Not sure how that could be on Knight, so maybe there are some growing pains with this new offense for others besides just the new QB.
* For whatever criticism you may have of Knight and his passing abilities, he made a hell of a throw to Millard for that one yard touchdown. Millard's catch was probably even better though hauling in that rocket, controlling it, and getting down in-bounds. But by all means, continue to not find ways to get the ball into his hands. 10-7 OU
* 2nd Qtr, 12:49 - 3rd & 6 WVU from their own 18. You might not see a prettier pass than this one from Millard to Carswell. Perfect coverage from Zack Sanchez on the play, but Millard just floated the ball in there beautifully. Hell of a pass and catch.
* Torrea Peterson playing quite a bit at NT in this first half. Definitely doesn't get the same kind of push as Phillips does, but also playing fairly well for a guy who has rarely seen the field in his OU career.
* Nice to see Kass Everett making plays and forcing that somewhat controversial fumble. Loved his JUCO film when he signed with OU.
* Curious choice to not play Quincy Russell for a single down in this game.
* Tough night for Tyrus Thompson, prior to his injury I mean.
* Just unlucky for Bester on that big gain, which was also a really sold throw from Knight by the way. Good hustle from the WVU defender to run Bester down from behind and knock the ball loose.
* At about the nine minute mark here in the second quarter and noticing OU playing more 3-4 in this game than they did against ULM. Interesting choice that at least here the preference for that fourth LB seems to be true freshman Dominique Alexander.
* 2nd Qtr, 9:24 - 2nd & 6 WVU from their own 22. Allow me to introduce you to Jordan Phillips' Beast Mode.
Here's OU pre-snap, again lined up in a 3-4 set.
Phillips is lined up to the outside shoulder of the WVU center, but is actually going to come across his face back to Phillips' right to blow this play up.
You can see him below just as he's gotten across the center and about to get into the WVU backfield.
Here he's already past his man and zeroing in on Sims.
And while Sims is able to spin out of Phillips' initial attempt to tackle, there are a number of OU defenders there to bring him down.
So not a perfect play with the missed tackle, but still a really good example of the kind of chaos Phillips has been causing in these first two games.
* I think in a rare instance we have to take Stoops at his word when describing that Knight fumble where he got blindsided. Shepard never even makes an attempt to run a route and that is clearly where Knight wanted to go with the ball. The odd thing is that hit almost seemed to settle him (Knight) down.
* You could probably second guess just about every decision made in a zone read offense when a QB decides whether or not take the ball himself or allow the RB to take it. So I'm simply say OU's zone read offense is still a work in progress. When Knight is decisive, it tends to work out very well. When he appears indecisive, the yards don't come nearly as easy.
* 2:55 remaining in the first half and we have the first (and only?) swing pass called by Josh Heupel in this game. Completed by the way for a gain almost ten yards.
* 2nd Qtr, 1:11 - 1st & 10 OU from the WVU 23. Damien Williams had the burst on this play. Eleven yard gain.
* Oklahoma having most of their success running on the right side of their o-line. Also had a lot of success in this game with that Diamond formation, so hopefully that's something they continue to utilize like many of us had been asking them to do for the last three years.
* Knight immediately grabs his leg after that hit he took trying to score here on the closing seconds of the first half. Very fortunate that his leg wasn't planted when he got hit of that could have been really ugly.
2nd Qtr, 0:18 - 3rd & 1 OU from the WVU 4. I hate this play call. OU tries to run a pick play with Saunders and Shepard, but neither do a great job of executing it. As a result, Saunders is covered in the end zone on what turns out to be a really horrible attempt at a fade route. With a guy who is probably 5'9", mind you. OU used to do this all the time with Ryan Broyles and even as great as he was it never made sense to me. You've got multiple guys over six feet tall, if you really want to run a fade trying throwing it to them!
Not Knight's fault there and honestly he made the wise decision throwing it high where only Saunders could have made the catch. Couldn't afford a turnover and missing out on the three points they get on the following play.
At the half, OU leads 13-7.
* You can see Knight isn't quite himself here early in the third quarter as he's forced to roll out to his right to avoid pressure on OU's first offensive possession.
* Corey Nelson can do a lot of things, but apparently catching the football is not one of them.
* 3rd Qtr, 12:24 - 2nd & 5 OU from their own 28. Really nice job up front by the OU offensive line to crash hard to their right and given Clay a big cutback lane to run through.
But honestly, it's Clay's vision once he gets into the second level to bounce it outside that turns this into the 33-yard gain it becomes.
* Next play is another big Clay run this time over the left side, which sets OU up at the WVU six yard line and the first of two Knight interceptions.
On this first one, it looks like a well executed play. Play-action freezes the defense and Bester gets behind them in the back of the end zone. I suppose you have to say it was a bad throw on the part of Knight since it gets picked off, but really looks like just a hell of an individual effort on the part of the WVU defender to leap for the football and come down with it.
In his postgame, Stoops said the play was a run/pass option and that Knight obviously chose to pass. Knowing that now, if true, the run to his left was wide to the point it appears as though he could have walked into the end zone.
You can see Millard sealing off the left side and nothing but green grass out there in front of him. Worst case that second defender comes off of Bester and Knight has to make a move or fake to get into the end zone, but I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that's possible. Seven more potential points left on the field.
Fair to assume his knee might have had something to do with the decision not to scramble? I think so.
* Really veteran play from Gabe Lynn on his interception. Poor decision by Millard with the football to be sure, but to Lynn's credit he really baited him into that throw. Read his eyes the entire way.
* Now Knight's second INT is pretty much indefensible even with it being a tipped ball. Stared down his receiver the entire way and could not have more obviously telegraphed his pass. Pretty easy play really for the WVU defense.
* Still trying to figure out, as I'm sure many a WVU fan is as well, why Sims & Smith only had a combined 14 touches on the ground in this game.
* 3rd Qtr, 5:55 - 2nd & 10 WVU from the OU 37. Lynn comes from a long ways away to break up what should have been an easy touchdown pass. And it's actually not anything that he does physically to break it up on the replay so much as his presence appears to cause the WVU receiver to lose his concentration. Who knows what happens if that gets completed. Sanchez bites really hard on a double move there which allowed the WVU wideout to be that wide open. Rare bad play for Sanchez thru these first two games.
* Not sure how much credit the OU defense deserves for that last WVU turnover. Looked like the guy lost the ball transitioning it from one arm to the other in anticipation of getting hit. I suppose credit Lynn for being in the right place at the right time to pick the ball up.
* So following that turnover, this is pretty much the point in the game where Heupel threw in the white towel in terms of his play-calling. In his defense, if Knight cannot run it that seriously hampers things for him and the offense. But to that point, if Knight cannot run and you don't trust him to pass it then what the frick is he still doing in the game to begin with?!?
* Have to like what you see from Knight on the sidelines when the decision is made to go with Bell. Or at least I did.
* I guess Bell just being in the game presented enough of a threat to pass that Knight did not to allow OU to continue moving the ball entirely on the ground. Although it's not like Bell has some stellar track record as a passer. Not sure why you wouldn't just load the box and dare Bell to beat you with his arm. I mean at this point it's still a six point ball game, you score a TD and you're leading 14-13.
* OU o-line just destroying guys at this point. WVU players have been going down for most of the game, but you can clearly see them worn down at this point in the ball game.
* Chuka Ndulue played pretty well in his first action on the season. Still think Geneo Grissom-Jordan Phillips-Charles Tapper is by far their best defensive line combination by a considerable margin though.
* Not to discredit his play, but it's not like Bell came into the game and lit the world on fire. He threw it all of one time and had the luxury of a worn down WVU defense. Does that mean he didn't earn a shot to start and see what he can do with this offense against Tulsa? I'm not saying that at all. If you're going to try it now is the time with Tulsa and a bye week before the Notre Dame game.
* I don't care what the score was, that prevent defense OU employed in the closing minutes of this game was freaking pathetic. I've never understood the logic behind it. You play great defense all night, then allow them to move the ball at will so long as they run clock. It's stupid. I hate it. Hated when Venables did it and I hate it even more now when you have a quality defense yet you hamstring them with passiveness.
* One other takeaway from this game is that I really felt like Heupel made a drastic overreaction to his game plan. There were zero option plays ran, something that worked very well in the opener, and only one swing pass which I realize Knight struggled with in the opener but are easy throws and never should have been completely removed from the game plan. I stand by my opinion that Heupel doesn't really know either (1) what he truly wants to do with this offense and/or (2) how to utilize the pieces he does have to the best of their abilities.
Coming out of this game, still very excited about what OU is doing on defense and obviously still very worried about the continued struggles on offense. Will be interesting to see how much the offense changes if in fact they do decide to go with Bell, be it because of his play and/or Knight's reported injury.
I do believe Bell is more suited for what OU is currently running in terms of keeping a stationary pocket. If they go back to Knight, I'd be very disappointed (though not in the least bit surprised) if Heupel didn't try and do more with Knight on the move.
We'll be back again next week with what should hopefully be a much better performance against a Tulsa team that looks much, much worse than what many predicted.