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Sooners must contain Wildcats running attack

October 25, 2018 ▪ By Ray Dozier

The big question for Oklahoma after changing of the guard at defensive coordinator was whether the D would make improvements from their 97th national ranking. The Sooners defeated TCU, 52-27, last weekend, and yes, the defense made improvements. Tackling seemed crisper, and adjustments were made when the Horned Frogs threatened to make a game of it in the second quarter.

The defense held the Frogs to 21 yards in the first quarter, and though OU led, 14-7, the Frogs got a touchdown on a 99-yard kickoff return. TCU changed quarterbacks in the second quarter and put up 17 points and 120 yards. Backup quarterback Michael Collins began by completing five of six passes for 99 yards with two touchdowns. A 21-point TCU deficit suddenly became four points (28-24).

In a 16-minute span of the two middle quarters, the Frogs rolled up 142 yards in 18 plays; 7.9 per play. OU’s defense held TCU to 133 yards on 37 plays (3.6 per pop) the rest of the way. Collins finished by completing only 2 of 16 for 43 yards and a pick.

Oklahoma’s offense continued to show its mastery of a well-oiled machine. Kyler Murray earned Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week for a fourth time with a 19 of 24 performance for 213 yards and 4 TDs. The ground game had its best showing of the year with 323 yards. Kennedy Brooks led the way with 168, and a touchdown and Trey Sermon added 110 and a couple of scores.

After four weeks away from Norman, the No. 8 Sooners (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) return home to host Kansas State (3-4, 1-3) in a homecoming tilt (2:30 p.m. FOX). The Wildcats beat a couple of creampuffs and lost big to Mississippi State (31-10) and West Virginia (35-6) to begin the season with a 2-2 record. K-State then lost to Texas by five, and Baylor by three before stunning Oklahoma State by 19 in Stillwater.

Coach Bill Snyder’s philosophy is to run the ball and milk the clock. Oklahoma had problems with Army controlling the clock (74 percent of the time) and running the pigskin (90% for 339 yards). The Cats have held the ball an average of 52 percent. They run the ball 63 percent of plays and average 191.6 yards per outing. Junior running back Alex Barnes tops the Big 12 with 788 yards (5.7 per carry) and (9 TDs).

Quarterback Skylar Thompson has added 305 yards and 3 TDs on the ground. He’s completed 55.3 percent of his passes for 880 yards with 5 TDs and 3 INTs. Isaiah Zuber leads KSU with 39 receptions for 478 yards and 3 TDs.

The Cats rank 109th in scoring offense (23.3 ppg) and 104th in total offense (356.3 ypg).

Defensively, KSU ranks 61st in scoring defense (25.0 ppg) and 83rd in total defense (406.1 ypg). The Cats D has 10 takeaways—8 of those are interceptions, and it has logged 11 sacks. Cornerback Duke Shelley leads the defense with three picks and nine pass breakups. End Reggie Walker has recorded 7.5 tackles for loss, including 5.5 sacks.

KSU has averaged 14.2 yards per punt return, 26th best in the nation. Zuber has handled most of the return duties averaging 23.4 yards on six returns with a touchdown. He doesn’t have enough returns to rate nationally, but if he did, he’d be No. 1.

Last year, OU was favored by a couple of touchdowns but had to rely on Sooner Magic to pull out a 42-35 victory in Manhattan. K-State took a 21-10 halftime lead, and the Sooners fought back to take a 35-28 with 5:18 to go. The Cats answered with a 75-yard drive to tie the game with 2:51 remaining. Oklahoma then drove 76 yards for the deciding tally. Rodney Anderson, who rushed for 147 yards, scored on a 22-yard run with only seven seconds left.

The Wildcats ran for 268 yards last year, and if the Sooners’ defense shows it has turned the corner, it must stop them this year. Stop the Cats’ running attack and get off the field. Don’t allow long drives or the defense will be exhausted. Thompson isn’t a good thrower, so if the ground game is hindered, it might be a long day for the KSU. And, OU’s D mustn’t go to sleep on KSU’s pass game. KSU coach Bill Snyder is smart enough to expose a weakness if he sees it.

Kyler Murray will continue his wizardry with his arm and his feet. Not known if Sermon will play Saturday from an injury suffered against TCU. So, Brooks should get plenty of carries and will hit the 150-yard barrier for the second straight week.

Oklahoma will score seven touchdowns against the Cats—four by air and three by ground.

Sooners 49, Wildcats 14.

Fast Facts

  • OU leads the series, 75-19-4, including three straight wins.
  • OU leads 38-8-4 in Norman.
  • OU is 78-21-4 (.777) on homecoming, including three straight wins.
  • OU is 8-1 vs. KSU on homecoming.
  • OU is favored by 24.5.
  • Lincoln Riley is 18-3 (.857) overall; 1-0 vs. KSU; 9-1 at home; 11-2 vs. conference opponents; 14-1 vs. unranked foes.
  • Bill Snyder is 213-114-1 (.651) overall; vs. OU; 8-15 vs. OU; 62-63 on the road; 124-87-1 vs. conference foes; 27-59-1 vs. ranked opponents.
  • OU is 9-4-1 in games played on October 27.
  • KSU is 3-11-1 in games played on October 27.
  • OU and KSU have met four times on October 27; OU leads 4-0.

Articles by Ray Dozier