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Oklahoma Sooners Football: Observations from a Bedlam blowout

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Lincoln Riley’s faith in Alex Grinch is paying off.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a cliche to say a team played a “complete game,” but what else can you say about the Oklahoma Sooners’ 41-13 victory over the Oklahoma State Cowboys?

Aside from the 28-point margin on the scoreboard, the stats tell a compelling story about OU’s dominance over the Pokes in this year’s edition of the Bedlam rivalry. The Sooners doubled them up in yards per play, 7.2 to 3.6. Both numbers represent the best showing by one of OSU’s opponents this season. Despite a missed field goal, OU acquitted itself well enough on special teams via sound kick coverage.

A few thoughts on what went down at Owen Field on Saturday night:

Defense

*Let’s start off by recognizing that this is far from a vintage OSU offense – yada yada. OU’s defense still hasn’t played that well in perhaps a decade. That had to be what Lincoln Riley envisioned when he hired Alex Grinch as defensive coordinator last year.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

*Hard not to wonder what this unit would have looked like if defensive end Ronnie Perkins had played in the first half of the season. On a night when he tallied three tackles for loss, including two sacks, he was the top player on the field.

*Two other standouts: Woodi Washington and David Ugwoegbu. Their transitions to new positions are going as well as you could expect. Washington is already OU’s best cornerback. Meanwhile, Ugwoegbu’s size and athleticism give the Sooners an active, attacking presence in the middle of the defense, as evidenced by his impressive interception of a Spencer Sanders throw in the first quarter deep in OSU territory.

Those two should develop into all-conference players next year.

*OSU star receiver Tylan Wallace had just four receptions for 68 yards in the game.

*We need to talk about Bookie.

ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler went in on nickelback Brendan Radley-Hiles after he got tagged for a taunting penalty that extended an OSU drive ending in a touchdown. Herbstreit went so far as to call for Riley to bench the junior DB. Frankly, they were just voicing the frustrations that Bookie’s WTF moments routinely trigger around Sooner Nation.

The rub is that you can easily spot the situations in which a player’s antics cost the team. Bookie has a knack for picking awful spots to let the dog off the leash. On the other hand, when a defense faces 70 plays in a game, the moments when players are doing their jobs become less salient.

Bookie consistently sees more snaps than any other defensive player. The most likely explanation why? He plays a pivotal role in the defense as the nickel and understands OU’s scheme as well as anyone else on the field. He doesn’t typically bust assignments and coverages. He probably grades out very favorably from play to play in film review.

Put another way: You’d rather a player stick out for picking up the occasional personal foul than for getting torched repeatedly. Sometimes you have to resign yourself to taking the good with the bad. It’s possible that asking Bookie to dial it back a notch would make him a less effective player. Keep in mind the coaches might actually like that he plays with an edge.

Offense

*It didn’t feel like Spencer Rattler played some kind of otherworldly game, but the numbers don’t lie. He completed 17-of-24 pass attempts for 301 yards and four touchdowns. That works out to a passer rating of 231.2. Rattler also added a touchdown and 32 yards on the ground. He did all of that with zero turnovers.

That is a superb outing against the OSU D, which has one of the best secondaries in the country. You could make the case, however, that Rattler didn’t handle pressure from the Pokes all that well. Specifically, he worked his way into trouble in the pocket too often. It seems as though Rattler still has some misgivings about the offensive line’s ability to protect him. He also appeared to be missing his favorite target when plays break down, tight end Austin Stogner.

*Speaking of the line, the unit certainly looks stronger than it did earlier in the season. It’s not going to gel the way it has in recent years, though. It’s very interesting that OL coach Bill Bedenbaugh is relying almost exclusively on Erik Swenson at left tackle after giving freshman Anton Harrison some run early in the season.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

*The OU running game functioned like a sledgehammer throughout the game. The Cowboys didn’t give up much on the ground until later in the game, when the Sooners’ commitment to feeding running back Rhamondre Stevenson started paying off. Stevenson rushed for 73 of his 141 yards in the fourth quarter.

*Freshman H-back Mikey Henderson has grown into a legitimate offensive threat in the course of the season. The way Riley incorporates H-backs into his offense arguably separates him from the pack as a tactician.