So first of all, apologies for my ranting in the threads. I think this loss was tough for all Sooner fans, probably more so than any in recent memory given the timing and the total national stage bed shitting. We all handle things in our own way I suppose.
But now, after taking a few breaths (and realizing I have a ton of other stuff to do!) I wanted to offer some simple thoughts as to what has happened this season, and what the Sooners can do about it.
1.) The Run Game. After watching some of the game tape (painstakingly) and remembering the Tech game and several others this year, it occurred to me our run game concepts are far too complex, slow developing, and aren't taking advantage of our physicality advantage that we have over most Big 12 teams. We don't run power I, stretch plays (that literally every other team in the world run) or just base concepts in general. Our GT counter is a staple, and I get it works very well against weak defenses, but many of our concepts are rarely run at the NFL level, and I think it's really hurt our ability to punish teams up front. It's probably also been more challenging for the younger pieces of our OL, as they're always having to pull and sometimes hold blocks for others while they pull for an extraordinarily long time. This was magnified in the Baylor game, and I think it cost us big time. Riley likes to be creative and clever, and he's a genius in some respects, but I think he needs to learn to simplify some things, particularly when we SHOULD have a size advantage in the trenches.
2.) The Pass game- I was saying during the game that they should find quick hitters underneath, and that it seemed like they were just going for the home run too often. The post game crew pointed out that Baylor's underneath zone coverage was excellent, and that's a part of what made that difficult. Baylor was also allowed to commit PI with total impunity the whole game, some of them probably among the most egregious no-calls for P.I in the history of the sport of football, and no I'm not exaggerating. The one on Rattlers first deep ball was Saints/Rams 2019-esque, a full on bear hug tackle of the WR before the ball was close to being there. Of course that changed the game. But in general, I would like to see more side to side screen passes (like the blitz beating play to Eric Gray,) and setting up the edge. I also would like to see more quick hitters/slants and what-not, just to keep the defenses pressed at all levels.
Caleb Williams was simply not good in this game. His 2nd INT, was a total freshman moment. He forgot to signal to the RB to come in for the P.A, and didn't realize it until the ball was snapped and no one was there, but he faked the handoff anyways, then threw a pick to the guy who was guarding Brooks.. Yikes. He'll learn. He's gonna be great, but the larger concept here is, Riley needs to simplify things sometimes and just take advantage of his usual talent advantage in the big 12. Sometimes, we just get too clever IMO.
3.) The Defensive Front- Defense is not something I know nearly enough about schematically to talk about like coach (and I'd love to hear suggestions from those who maybe know more technical terms for stuff) but I could see pretty clearly that the Sooners were able to blow right into the backfield for huge losses on the Baylor RB when they new which direction he was going. When they ran Bohanan on the RPO, or used misdirection, it was like we had amnesia every time it happened. To be fair the, the defense actually played pretty damn well in this game. We were looking at a 10-7 game late in the 4th quarter. It's pretty hard to ask much more of them than that. You could argue they just couldn't hold any longer when the offense couldn't produce the whole game. We also haven't been able to get the kind of QB pressure I would have hoped this year. Jalen Redmond has been a non-factor since he came back, and the guys up front haven't gotten many, if any sacks in recent weeks. But that brings me to the bigger issue.
4.) The Secondary- It feels like this has been a problem at OU forever, and it's certainly been arguably our biggest issue this year. Even when our front does okay, the secondary has been regularly out of position. Whether its busted coverages, bad angles, or just bad "eyes' I.E not reading the play correctly, it feels like something is clearly wrong there. It got better when we got healthy, but it's not good enough. I don't know if it's poor coaching, young players making fundamental mistakes, or just a combo of all things. I am wondering if an evaluation of the position staff is in order at seasons end.
5.) The team chemistry, leadership, intangibles etc- This is another area where I try to use caution. I don't know what goes on in the locker room, but I have some speculations. For one, a mid-year QB change on a team (and QB) that was hyped as much as Rattler and this team were can't be easy on the locker room. Yes, Caleb has done about as well as you could ever ask of a true freshman overall, (and he will be the guy going forward for sure) but he hasn't been perfect. He's made some really bad freshman mistakes, and I can imagine on some level, even beyond Spencer, that it's created a bit of an awkward and maybe at times tense locker room environment. I'm sure other guys can feel that, and some may even be friends with Spencer, or at least maybe preferred things about his game. I doubt it's all peaches and cream in there over that. Beyond that, I think the youth at key positions has created a dearth of leadership this year. There just aren't really many veteran guys who can lead by example. Most of our best players are freshman and sophomores, which is great long term, but not great right now
6.) Outlook I'm not ready to call for coaches heads yet, although I reserve the right to revise this depending on what happens the last 2+ games. Riley is safe no matter what for at least next year (too much winning- doesn't matter what it looks like, winning is winning), but Grinch maybe less so headed into next year. This season has clearly not lived up to expectations, but I also wouldn't be surprised if fixing things at the margins suddenly makes this team look closer to what we expected Fix the run game, and the WR suddenly come more open. Fix the secondary, add one of the best DL recruits in years, and the defense might look like last year's D, but better. But at the same time, things do look a bit uncertain until we have answers to some of the befuddlements that seem to continue to plague this team.
I'm open to hearing your thoughts or additions/subtractions! Boomer Sooner! Let's finish this season strong and at least try to have a good taste headed into next season.