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Can Sooners avoid embarrassment vs. Kansas?

October 4, 2019 ▪ By Ray Dozier

A year ago, the Kansas Jayhawks nearly derailed Oklahoma’s bid for a Big 12 Championship and a College Football Championship berth. The No. 6 Sooners were favored by 5 touchdowns but escaped senior night in Norman with a 55-40 decision. The Hawks took an early 7-0 lead and countered OU’s first touchdown with a field goal for a 10-7 lead.

The Sooners got a couple of TDs in the second quarter and seemed in command, but Kansas would not go away without a fight. After KU closed the gap to 21-17 in the third quarter, Oklahoma took charge and outscored KU 34-23 in the final 20-and-a-half minutes.

Defending the pass, which had been Oklahoma’s bane throughout the season, gave way to the running game as the Jayhawks pounded out 348 yards on the ground. Freshman running back Pooka Williams Jr. rambled for 252 yards on 15 carries, scored a couple of TDs, and threw another on a halfback pass. Khalil Herbert, Williams’ backup, ran for 67 yards and scored twice.

Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray rushed for 99 yards and 3 touchdowns and passed for 272 and 2 TDs. Running back Kennedy Brooks picked up 171 yards on the ground and scored twice.

No. 4 Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) travels to Lawrence Saturday for an 11 a.m. matchup with the Jayhawks (2-3, 1-1) on ABC. The top running backs for each team are back. Murray is off to the NFL, and Herbert left the team last week for undisclosed reasons.

Williams hasn’t been doing much rambling so far this year. He’s run for 308 yards (4.6 per carry) and one touchdown. Herbert is the leading rusher, but that matters no more since he left the team.

Kansas opened with a 7-point win over Indiana State, then was upset by Coastal Carolina. Everyone figured the Hawks would struggle again this year after losing to the Chanticleers. Trailing Boston College 24-21 late in the first half, KU rolled up 27 unanswered points en route to a 48-24 victory. KU returned to normalcy by dropping its first two conference games — 29-24 to West Virginia and 51-14 to TCU.

The Jayhawks rank 97th nationally in scoring (23.4 average) and 106th in total yards (353.4). Quarterback Carter Stanley has completed 65 percent of his passes for 945 yards with 9 TDs and 4 INTs. Andrew Parchment leads the receivers with 28 receptions for 377 yards and 4 TDs.

Kansas’ defense ranks No. 70 in points allowed (26.6) and No. 98 in yards allowed (424.4). Linebacker Dru Prox is the team’s leading tackler with 39 stops, including 2 sacks, and he forced a fumble. Fellow ‘backer Najee Stevens-McKenzie leads with 4.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Punter Kyle Thompson ranks 16th with an average of 46 yards per kick. This would be crucial in flipping the field and possibly forcing opponents into long drives. But the Sooners have completed 17 drives of 75-plus yards this year.

Oklahoma leads the nation with 668.5 yards per contest and is No. 2 in scoring with 55.5 points per game. Quarterback Jalen Hurts leads the country with a 249.9 QB rating. The Alabama transfer has completed 77.6 percent of his passes for 1,295 yards with 12 TDs and one interception. Baker Mayfield scored a 228.2 rating in the first four games of his Heiman season two years ago. Kyler Murray held a 141.6 rating through four games last year. Mayfield finished the 2017 season with a 198.9 rating, while Murray posted a 199.2 mark.

Hurts also leads OU with 470 rushing yards (9.4 average) and 5 TDs. The Sooners’ top three running backs (Trey Sermon, Kennedy Brooks, and Rhamondre Stevenson) have combined for 8.3 yards per tote.

Cee Dee Lamb leads the receiving corps with 414 yards on 16 catches, and he’s scored six times. Charleston Rambo (13-373-4) and Jadon Haselwood (12-192-1) each have double-digit receptions.

Defensively, the Sooners have made tremendous strides. The D has yielded 18.8 points per outing (No. 29) while giving up 343 yards per game (47th). Linebacker Kenneth Murray leads OU with 31 tackles, including 4 for loss and 1.5 sacks. End Jalen Redmond leads with 5 stops behind the line, including 2 sacks.

While Kansas was begin throttled 51-14 by TCU, OU destroyed Texas Tech, 55-16, last week for the school’s 900th victory.

Oklahoma has been fantastic on third downs on both sides of the ball. The offense has converted 52.8 percent (No. 9), and its opponents have had success, only 19.6 percent of the time.

Kansas coach Les Miles once was Oklahoma State’s coach, and his Cowboys twice upset the Sooners with inferior talent. The Jayhawks are vastly inferior to Oklahoma, and Miles is going to have his hands full in trying to slow Oklahoma’s offensive juggernaut. One hope is that the Sooners would be looking ahead to Texas the following week. Since the Red River Showdown has been held in Dallas in 1929, Oklahoma is 60-15-1 the week before playing the Longhorns.

The Sooners must stop the run game and force Stanley to beat them with his arm. Stanley isn’t a great quarterback, but quarterbacks in the past have embarrassed Oklahoma. This OU defense appears to be improved compared to recent years.

Sooners 63, Jayhawks 10.

Fast Facts

  • OU leads the series 76-27-6, including 14 straight wins.
  • OU is 37-15-4 in Lawrence, including 7 straight wins.
  • OU is favored by 33.
  • Lincoln Riley’s record: 28-4 (.875) overall; 2-0 vs. KU; 9-0 on the road; 22-1 vs. unranked opponents; 18-2 vs. conference foes.
  • Les Miles’ record: 144-58 (.713) overall; 2-2 vs. OU (as OSU’s coach); overall record at KU (2-3).
  • OU is 10-1 on October 5.
  • KU is 9-5 on October 5.
  • Both teams met once on October 5. The Jayhawks won 52-24 in 1996.

Articles by Ray Dozier