The Oklahoma Sooners met their first of two major non-conference games this Saturday in Houston. While many expected Bob Stoops and his team to come away with a comfortable win, the Houston Cougars played with a giant chip on their shoulder. Houston was able to come away with the victory. We broke down the units to give a better understanding of just why the game went the way it did.
The Sooners looked to be in midseason form to start the game but we all know everything that glitters isn’t gold. After putting it in the end zone on their opening drive Oklahoma slowly started to regress in their offensive efficiency. The Houston defense settled in to blanket Oklahoma receivers and clog the line making for a tough day for Lincoln Riley and company.
Running Game: D
Oklahoma features two of the top two running back in all of college football, yet they only managed 70 yards rushing Saturday afternoon. These running struggles can be explained in many different ways. The easiest way to put it is that Samaje Perine got knocked backward for possibly the first time in his life and was never the same the rest of the way. His injury makes it difficult for the Sooners to run their favorite personal package with both Joe Mixon and Perine in the backfield, thus throwing off the entire game plan for the Sooners. What may be hard for Sooner faithful to see is that their offensive line was abysmal from the start of the second quarter on throughout the remainder of the game. Oklahoma has some questions to answer in the running game and the answers lie between the tackles.
Passing Game: C+
Heisman hopeful Baker Mayfield had a decent stat line at the end of the day. He finished with 323 yards through the air and two touchdowns but the receiving core looked out of it at times. With the absences of Sterling Shepard, many figured Dede Westbrook would be a big producer for the Sooners which in time he will be. His supporting cast is slim with only Mark Andrews proven as a reliable target for the Sooners. Mayfield completed 24 passes in the game, nineteen of those landed in the hands of either Mixon, Andrews, Westbrook, or Perine. Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley did a great job of getting the ball in playmakers hands early, but would like to see him do a better job spreading the ball around the field.
The Cougars first punt didn’t come until the opening of the second half. They did a great job of extending drives and wearing this Oklahoma defense down. The Sooners didn’t help themselves by giving up several big plays on third down causing them be on the field for an overwhelming 80 snaps.
Run Defense: B
Houston’s Greg Ward Jr. ran for 1108 yards last season. He put up just 1 yard on Saturday on 18 carries. The Sooners did a phenomenal job of containing him within the pocket and clogging his running lanes. Duke Catalon ran for 88 yards but the bulk of his runs came from pitch options. The teeth of the Oklahoma defense stood strong as expected. Many were worried how the Sooners were going to replace Eric Stricker, Dominique Alexander, and Devonte Bond. Outside of mental errors, Tay Evans, and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo had a great game fitting downhill. Teams should continue to struggle running the ball against this Sooners front seven.
Pass Defense: C-
The Sooners miss Zack Sanchez. Not because he was a lockdown corner by any means but because of his aggressive nature. As many comeback routes, and back shoulder throws that Houston threw, an aggressive and gambling corner like Sanchez is likely to get his mitts on one. The secondary that trotted out there Saturday played a tad bit soft and were the primary reason that the Sooners struggled to get off the field. Even preseason All-Big 12 selection Jordan Thomas struggled to make plays in the secondary. Cornerback Dakota Austin was on the wrong end of a few questionable pass interference calls that extended drives, but in the end, the secondary was exposed. Oklahoma gave up 321 yards to a quarterback that isn’t known for his arm. If they continue to perform like they did against Houston it could be
If they continue to perform like they did against Houston it could be tough season for them in the Big 12.