After decisively discarding Houston on Sunday night, the Oklahoma Sooners are switching their focus to this Saturday’s game against South Dakota. Jalen Hurts’ night couldn’t have gone much better, as he accounted for six touchdowns and 508 total yards, a program-record for a player in his debut.
Speaking of Hurts, the former Alabama QB channeled his inner Nick Saban during his time at the podium. With an opponent from the FCS ranks on deck, it’s only natural that finding motivation would be more challenging, but back in Tuscaloosa, that kind of talk was famously labeled as ‘rat poison’ by the Crimson Tide head coach. Now it’s apparently made its way to Norman.
Saban would be quite proud to see his teachings haven’t been forgotten by his former quarterback. If the rest of this team adopts Hurts’ mentality, that would go a long way towards countering any future trap game situations.
With the Labor Day weekend offsetting the schedule by a day, Lincoln Riley and company caught up with the media on Tuesday for their weekly press conference. In his presser, OU’s head coach addressed the defense’s play, the lowlights of the opener, and also Jalen Hurts’ personality away from spotlight.
Riley on the defense’s performance
While a few plays were reminiscent of the kind of defense that has plagued Oklahoma over the past couple seasons, the overall takeaway for the group’s performance in the first game under DC Alex Grinch has been positive, especially considering the opponent’s capability. Riley was certainly pleased with what he observed.
“First quarter and a half was outstanding. Very few yards, very few first downs (given up). We flew around, we tackled extremely well for a first game. We had a couple missed tackles, but not many. A lot of that was made up for effort and guys knowing what to do, where to be. There were a lot of positives.”
Riley on injury updates
According to Lincoln Riley, no players sustained any new injuries during Sunday’s win over Houston. However, he was able to provide an update on the status of a few players aiming to return to the field.
“Injury front, we did well. Some normal bumps and bruises, but nothing with anybody out for an extended time. Dillon Faamatau (redshirt senior DT), we expect to have him back this week. He was really close. Probably could have played him the other night, but (the team) separated some there early so we didn’t feel the need. Kenneth Mann (redshirt senior DE) also very close. Wasn’t an option to play, but it’s not weeks away now, it’s a matter of days. T.J. Pledger (sophomore RB) had an injury, happened in practice last week. Had a hand injury. Did have to have a minor surgery, but we do expect him back this season.”
Riley on most disappointing parts of the opener
Amid all the big plays and breakout stars, there were still plenty of negatives to learn from, which isn’t uncommon for a season opener. Riley dished on the two lowlights that stood out to him.
“Probably the two most disappointing parts of the game would be the penalties, certainly. I think that really extended drives, gave (Houston) some momentum offensively that you can’t do, especially against a good group like that. And then I thought we lost a little bit of focus the couple of times that we really separated and got way up. That was the majority of our mental mistakes in the game. Came in those two moments when we had the biggest leads.”
Riley on Jalen Hurts behind the scenes
Much has been made about Jalen Hurts post-game comments following his historic debut performance. While he wasn’t completely tearing himself down, he did show definite displeasure with the sloppy play at times. Also, during his meetings with the media, he’s been rather stoic or buttoned-up with his answers. Riley was asked about whether that’s simply his personality, or if he loosens up more when he’s with his teammates on the field or in the film room.
“Compared to most players, (Hurts) is a pretty serious guy, but there’s a different side of him certainly that you guys don’t always get to see. He certainly loosens up and laughs and jokes and has fun. There’s certainly that side of him as well, but as you can see he’s about business. That is certainly his mentality, not that he can’t loosen up and smile and have fun. He can, but he’s a very driven and a very focused guy.”
Full press conference links
The defense showed a lot of promise in the first game of the Alex Grinch era, and one of the standouts on that side of the ball was junior MIKE LB Kenneth Murray. One of the aspects of his game he concentrated on this offseason was play recognition, and his diligence paid off by allowing him to play faster and more downhill.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more no-nonsense kind of player in college football than Jalen Hurts. You can hear Nick Saban’s preaching in him whenever he speaks about staying focused and working towards the team’s goals.
The Sunday night white out for the 2019 season opener was an overwhelming success according to Lincoln Riley, who thanked the OU fans for filling the stadium early and creating an electric environment for the team as well as the recruits.
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