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Oklahoma Sooners Football: Game of ‘Clones

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The Sooners slowed things down to protect a second-half lead and barely hung on in Ames.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

The Sooners won their Thursday night contest in Ames 34-24, but nobody seemed particularly happy about it.

ESPN’s sideline reporter kept delivering tales of frustrated players and angry coaches. She said Lincoln Riley was berating the offense for leaving points on the field.

And maybe it was just me, but Dede Westbrook did not look like he was having a good time out there.

It’s kind of weird because, objectively, both the offense and the defense played fine. The defense gave up too many big plays and long drives, but most people will take 24 points in a Big 12 matchup. And considering the offense was down two of its most important players, its performance was a solid if unspectacular accomplishment.

But when you add everything up—the personal foul penalties, the sacks, the missed tackles, the blown assignments and the big plays—you get the picture of a team that can’t win three straight games against the Big 12’s best. Which, starting next weekend, is exactly what the Sooners have to do.

Now, there were certainly some heartening performances in this one. Jeffery Mead only caught the ball twice, but it’s nice to see him involved again and his first-quarter touchdown was an absolute spin-move clinic, the kind of play you see in YouTube instructional videos.

Dimitri Flowers was a revelation—on two days of practice at halfback, he basically took Abdul Adams’s carries and even added a receiving touchdown to boot. Flowers has to be one of the smartest, most versatile players on the offense.

Jordan Thomas had a good night, finishing with two pass breakups and forcing the Cyclones to line up star receiver Allen Lazard away from him. Caleb Kelly got OU’s only sack on the night and complimented Obo nicely from the other side. He may well keep that starting spot for the rest of the season.

But the inside ‘backers struggled. On Joel Lanning’s crazy fourth-down touchdown run, Emmanuel Beal got caught out of position and left his gap, and the entire middle of the field, open for the Cyclones QB. Jordan Evans, too, struggled with positioning and tacking and made only three total tackles on the day.

On offense, Mayfield and the line struggled to pick up the blitzes ISU was throwing at them. They starting corner blitzing consistently and caught Baker off guard for three sacks, and also made him scramble for short gains or losses. Several times Baker left the pocket and tried to extend plays until his downfield receivers could get open, but the Cyclones secondary kept things clamped down. Baker will need more help over the next few weeks to get those passes out.

Going into halftime with an 11-point lead, the OU offense was asked to do something it rarely does: run the ball and eat the clock. In a vote of no-confidence, the coaching staff tried its best to keep the defense off the field for long stretches. And it pretty much worked—the Sooners ended the day with almost 37 minutes of possession.

Still, one definitely got the feeling that only ISU’s lack of talent was saving the Sooners last night. They didn’t do enough things consistently well and, more than that, they didn’t look like they really wanted to. It may be that the reinsertion of Joe Mixon will give this offense, and this team, the jolt it needs to beat Baylor. But just because it worked in Ames doesn’t mean it’ll work for the rest of the season.