It wasn’t the kind of game most expected, but the Oklahoma Sooners found a way to get the ‘W’ over the Army Black Knights in a 28-21 overtime thriller. With the nightmarish triple option attack now firmly in the rearview, it’s time for Lincoln Riley and the boys to dive head-first into conference play.
One thing Riley was asked about on Monday was the passing of Hall of Famer Tommy McDonald, who had a legendary career at Oklahoma under Bud Wilkinson and made his mark in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Second-year head coach Matt Rhule and the Baylor Bears (3-1, 1-0) are coming to Norman this Saturday for the 2:30 p.m. kickoff. Riley spoke a little about the upcoming game against the Bears, the challenges the staff faced in preparing for Army, the kind of impact former players staying close with the program has and more during his Monday presser.
Riley on defense creating turnovers
Through the first four games, Oklahoma’s defense has forced four turnovers. It’s not a bad number, but if the Sooners want to take the next step on that side of the ball, creating more takeaways could be an area where that next step is made.
“We’ve got to do better. I mean, we do have a lot of fourth down stops, especially in the first couple of games we had a lot of fourth down stops, which those are turnovers to us. We’ve got to get our hands on more balls. We’ve been able to pressure people, and that’s where the turnovers have come. And then we’ve got to knock some balls loose. That’s the one thing you’d say — we haven’t created a lot of fumbles yet. They tend to come in spurts. We’ve ended the game the last two weeks with some, but that’s definitely going to be a point of emphasis for us.”
Riley on injury updates
Running back Marcelias Sutton, cornerback Tre Brown and safety Robert Barnes all missed the Army game with various injuries. Riley addressed each of their statuses and outlooks moving forward.
“(Tre Brown) was out, had an injury last week, late in the week, kind of an unexpected deal, but expect to have him here going forward.”
“Barnes is good, he’s back, fully available. I expect that he’s going to have some opportunities here going forward. Sutton didn’t improve quite through the week like we thought he would physically after the Iowa State game. Could have played the other day, but with the low number of snaps offensively, and then Trey (Sermon), T.J. (Pledger), Kennedy (Brooks) and those guys, we were comfortable with them that we hoped to be able to maybe buy Sutton some time, which I think we successfully did.”
Riley was also discussed defensive linemen Marquise Overton and Tyreece Lott, who have been out for some time. Fortunately, Riley doesn’t consider their situations to be long-term, saying that they would likely expect them back in “days now instead of weeks”.
Riley on Trey Sermon’s performance
Riley said Trey Sermon is the definitive No. 1 running back on the team following Rodney Anderson’s season-ending knee injury. On Saturday, Sermon rushed for a season-high 119 yards, and his second-career 100-yard performance. So how did Coach assess the sophomore’s latest outing?
“I thought he was good. His assignments were good, pass protected well. Has some really nice runs. I think he had probably two or three that he wishes he had back, but I think he’s getting better. It’s different when you’re the one-back. For him, even though he played a lot for us last year, he kind of assumed that role as kind of our closer a little bit, and it’s different going into a game where you’ve seen what’s happened for two or three quarters , you’ve got an idea of what’s going on, you’ve had a chance to kind of settle in to now, where you’re out there right off the bat and going. So I think, even though he’s played a lot, he’s still learning. I think he’s still getting in sync with our offensive line, with Kyler, with what we’re wanting to do offensively, but I think he played well, and I think he’s close to playing really well.”
Riley on Bookie
As is the case with most true freshmen, Bookie’s had both ups and downs. So what does Riley think of the former five-star’s play so far?
“He’s been eager. He’s almost been I think at times maybe so eager to make big plays that I think he’s having to learn to let the game come to him a little bit right now. He’s done a lot of things well. He’s fearless. He plays extremely fast, extremely decisive for a young player. I think he’s really just kind of starting to settle in, so the big plays are coming for him, I mean he’s a big play kind of guy. He’s going to do some things through the year that’ll wow people and it’s just a matter of time there. The key for him is just like we’ve talked to him about, is don’t try to force it, just let the game come to you, and as you continue to grow, the big plays will come.”
Riley on Austin Seibert’s apology
With only a few seconds remaining in regulation, senior kicker/punter Austin Seibert had a chance to break the tie for a walk-off field goal for-the-win, but instead hooked it left. Following the game, he posted a message on Twitter, apologizing for missing the kick and letting his team down.
Seibert received an outpouring of encouragement from fans and his teammates, and Riley also expressed his appreciation for the team captain’s body of work.
“We hamstring those guys in some regards to social media, but I got to let them be themselves a little bit, too. I don’t have a problem with it. He didn’t let anybody down. Like I told him that night, he’s saved our tail throughout his entire career. Again, doing (double-duty) and all the big kicks he’s made, most notably the one he made the week before, he’s going to make a lot more than he’s ever going to miss. He’s done a lot more good here than he’s ever done bad, there’s no doubt. I still have the same confidence that I’ve always had in him, and we’ll be in more situations like this as the year goes on, and he’ll be ready to perform like he has the majority of his career.”
Full Press Conference Links
After making a whopping 28 tackles on Saturday, Kenneth Murray claimed the Walter Camp National and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week awards. Naturally, he was happy about breaking the program single-game tackle record, and while he admits his goal going into the game was to set the record, he had no idea what the record was. Now he’s well aware of the mark because his name is all over it.
Baker Mayfield was at the game on Saturday, and his presence alone had the recruits buzzing. Whenever former players come back to Norman, whether it’s just to catch a game or spend individual time with the current players in the film room, it strengthens the program unlike anything else. Lincoln Riley welcomes and encourages all generations of Sooners to keep the Oklahoma family bond fresh and well established.
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