The Oklahoma Sooners will look to bounce back after coming off what was one of the more disappointing performances in recent program history. The 38-35 blunder at home to the Kansas State Wildcats still likely has some OU fans ready to skip forward to 2021, but Lincoln Riley insists that this team is set to respond to adversity. That will remain to be seen until the Sooners take on the Iowa State Cyclones this weekend, but here are three things we’ve learned so far:
Spencer Rattler is still a work in progress.
The long-awaited Rattler era is officially underway in Norman, but it hasn’t had the perfect start many had hoped for. Now, the expectations for Rattler are inflated by both his No. 1 QB ranking coming out of high school as well as how much success his predecessors have had in Lincoln’s offense. However the reality is that Spencer Rattler, despite his elite arm talent, is still a young, inexperienced QB, and with that comes growing pains. Timing in the pocket does seem to be a work in progress, and for a young QB with a gunslinger mentality, the former is a learned skill that may not happen overnight. It’s a lesson that will come with time and experience as it did with former Heisman trophy winner Baker Mayfield. One thing you can expect is for Rattler to dial in more with his receivers going into their matchup against Iowa State. You can attribute that to what is expected to be better offensive line play and stronger game planning, but expect his chemistry with receiving targets to improve week-to-week.
Oklahoma’s offensive line has issues, but they’re fixable
Kansas State exposed what was supposed to be the best personnel group on Oklahoma’s entire roster. A solidified starter at left tackle likely doesn’t change the outcome either, as the Wildcats were able to create pressure all throughout the second half of Saturday’s game.
It’s not the first time Oklahoma’s offensive line has gotten off the a slow start under Bill Bedenbaugh, and it should be noted that after true freshman Anton Harrison replaced Erik Swenson, there was some noticeable improvement. That said, this is a group that came in heavier than anticipated, and it showed as the game entered the second half. That said, this is an offensive line that showed a lot of promise last season, so the biggest hurdle in front of them is themselves. It stands to reason that this is one they’ll overcome.
Without Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma’s defense lacks an elite playmaker
Replacing Kenneth Murray, Parnell Motely, and Neville Gallimore was never going to be a small task, but the need for more talent (particularly depth of talent) has never been more evident for Oklahoma.
In their first two games of the season, the Sooners have recorded just four sacks against two unmanned and frankly subpar offensive line groups. 2.5 of those sacks are credited to a linebacker — DaShaun White. Junior DB Brendan Radley-Hiles and true freshman Reggie Grimes are both credited with a sack apiece. That’s worrisome production for a defense whose strength is supposed to be its front seven.
On the back end, it’s no secret the Sooners have been looking to upgrade it’s talent pool, and from a pure recruiting perspective, they have. Alex Grinch has recruited more body types and better talent on paper, but it will take some time to develop. It wouldn’t be surprising if a name or two work their way into a role later in the season, but as of now Grinch looks like he’ll continue to lean on his experience until that time.
Bonus: There’s a culture missing this season
It wasn’t alarming against Missouri State, but it was obvious against the Wildcats: Oklahoma doesn’t have the cut-throat mentality of top-tier programs.
The Sooners have no issues getting out in front of their opponents by three or more touchdowns. The biggest issue that haunts Oklahoma is when it feels like it has a comfortable lead, it turns it off. Saturday wasn’t the first instance of this happening. OU fans can remember all too well the nail-biters of TCU and Iowa State last season — games in which Oklahoma was lethargic up until the final minute. While Oklahoma’s defense came up big in those instances last season, it was Kansas State that was able to create a late turnover to ice the game.
So why can’t Oklahoma click on all cylinders? It all starts at the top. Lincoln Riley must set a precedent from here on out that every game, regardless of the opponent, is four quarters. That mentality and attitude of not getting comfortable in these scenarios starts with him. Once he finds that, Oklahoma as a program takes another step towards a championship.