After giving up a mere 54 yards on the ground in the season opener, the Oklahoma Sooners front continues to live up to hype. However, when taking to the road this weekend against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, a new challenge presents itself as the secondary must come up big.
Oklahoma's Secondary vs Tulsa's Passing Game
Quarterback Dane Evans threw 53 passes completing 31 of them for 438 yards and four touchdowns in the season debut. Targeting a handful or receivers, it becomes impossible to shutdown the offensive scheme. Tulsa connected with six different players while three of those are averaging 14+ yards per catch. Yet, the main source of attention is none other than Keevan Lucas who secured 233 yards on 13 receptions. Behind him, Keyarris Garrett pulled down five catches for 87 yards after missing most of last season. Not a bad comeback performance.
At this point it goes without saying, this is a group of receivers with the ability to stretch the field vertically.
Of course, with each throw the risk of a mistake leading to an interception remains intact and Evans is no exception. Although he completed 58.5% of the passes attempted, Evans threw two interceptions. Head Coach Bill Blankenship seems to think his QB and the offense can have the same success against Oklahoma.
"The things that [Evans] has developed are a quick release and the ability to see the field," Blankenship said. "If he will again, do those things, I think you'll see that he'll give us a chance to move the football." - Fox Sports
The Sooner's Zack Sanchez added his own thoughts on the Tulsa receivers.
''They're athletic, man,'' Sanchez said. ''I watched a little bit of the Tulane game. They can go deep down the field. They have a whole lot of explosive plays in the game. The quarterback can throw it. He can definitely throw it. They have the receivers to take it down the field. We have to be on our Ps and Qs.'' - Fox Sports
With the new addition of Ahmad Thomas as a starter in the secondary along with Julian Wilson sliding over in the vacated cornerback spot, the Sooners will need to be on point. Expect these two to be tested early and often which could rattle their confidence. In the past, a receiver getting behind the safety or putting separation between himself and the defender has proven costly for inexperienced talent. Could that be the case this weekend as Oklahoma travels to Tulsa?
Tulsa's Run Defense vs Oklahoma's Three-Headed Rushing Attack
Against Tulane, the Golden Hurricane gave up 254 yards on the ground on 30 attempts translating to 8.47 yards per carry. Even more glaring of an issue is that Sherman Badie averaged 14.33 yards per touch. After building a quick lead, it's a wonder why Tulane refused to ride this back to victory. Regardless the point is that this is not exactly a strong outing by any means for the defense in retrospect. As Tulsa plays host to the Oklahoma Sooners this weekend, their defensive line will be outweighed by an average of just under 50lbs by the Sooners' offensive line that refused to give up a sack and dominated the line of scrimmage against La Tech.
In the season opener, the experienced line of the Sooners proved capable of opening up running lanes for the backs. Using an old school approach, OU racked up five touchdowns and 183 yards in route to a blowout win. The surprise performer was none other than freshman Samaje Perine while Keith Ford flashed his versatility. With differing styles, the running game should continue to excite Sooner fans near and far.
"We feed off each other," Perine said. "We do stuff in the weight room that other people just can't do. As a running back group, I think we are one of the strongest - if not the strongest - running back groups that's ever come through Oklahoma."
So far the statement seems to have some traction but will it hold throughout the season? If Tulsa hopes to slow down these powerful backs, the defensive line needs to establish dominance early on while the linebackers plug gaps. The task is tall but not quite impossible. For the game to remain close, the Golden Hurricane must start here.