OU football report card: Sooners' grades reflect rollercoaster nature of game
A rough start but a strong finish for the Sooners, who beat Texas Tech 42-30, outscoring the Red Raiders 35-3 after falling behind 21-7. The grades reflect such a rollercoaster game.
The Sooners have struggled all year with third-and-short. But not Saturday. They faced nine third downs when needing less than four yards. They converted eight and followed the only failure with a fourth-down conversion. OU went to a secret weapon — fullback Aaron Ripkowski, who gained 11 yards on four carries, three of which converted on third- or fourth-and-short. Fill-in quarterback Cody Thomas also threw for two third-and-short conversions, one to Ripkowski. Tech’s run defense is awful, but OU has struggled in short yardage against all kinds of opponents.
PASS COVERAGE: C
The Sooners were frequently burned by Tech redshirt freshman Patrick Mahomes, who completed 27 of 50 passes for 393 yards. A 59-yard TD pass to Ian Sadler was on a short pass over the middle in which the Sooners blitzed and busted coverage. No one was even close to Sadler at any point in the play. A 47-yard deep ball to Devin Lauderdale came when safety Ahmad Thomas ran into cornerback Jordan Thomas, but Lauderdale already had gotten behind Jordan Thomas. Still, Jordan Thomas played reasonably well in his first start. And after OU took its first lead, 28-24, Zack Sanchez and Quentin Hayes made back-to-back nice plays knocking down Mahomes deep balls.
SIDELINE DECORUM: D
More screaming at players from OU coaches, notably Mike Stoops. Both Stoops brothers jumped freshman safety Steven Parker after he mistakenly came up to cover a short route and Tech threw a touchdown pass. Here’s a suggestion, try a different form of communication. The yelling isn’t working.
OFFENSIVE GAME PLAN: B
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Josh Heupel had a variety of cool wrinkles that flummoxed Texas Tech. The Ripkowski addition. A bunched formation, with three split receivers close to the linemen and a slotback, usually Ripkowski, who often would move back to fullback just before the snap. And a quarterback counter, with Cody Thomas faking one way and sweeping the other, often finding a running angle on the edge. That latter play alone produced 37 yards on four carries. The only knock on Heupel was a little too much reliance on the pass in the first half. Thomas threw 17 times in the first half but only thrice in the second half. Some of that was caused by penalties. But Thomas threw six times on first-and-10. No reason to do that against Tech.
DEFENSIVE AGGRESSION: B
The Sooners repeatedly blitzed Mahomes and notched two sacks and three quarterback hurries. Eric Striker had a big sack to end Tech’s drive after Sanchez’s and Hayes’ pass breakups. Tech occasionally made OU pay for blitzing, but mostly by failing to contain Mahomes, who is quite mobile. The Sooners also didn’t give up the easy pass, like they did a week earlier against Baylor. Jordan Thomas, a freshman, played well in replacing the injured Julian Wilson at cornerback, and Thomas didn’t give much ground to Tech’s receivers, playing close to the line of scrimmage.
Cold Friday in west Texas, and it’s supposed to be colder Sunday. But Saturday was a chamber of commerce day. Temperature at kickoff was 71 degrees. After the sun went down, the temp still was in the low 60s. Fabulous day for November football.
CODY THOMAS DECISION-MAKING: B
Rough first half for Thomas, with three interceptions, a couple of them on poor decisions. But Thomas threw just three times in the second half; his decisions resorted to option plays, and Thomas excelled, showing a knack for knowing when to hand off and when to keep. Thomas ended up rushing for 103 yards on eight carries.