Sooners set to open season with Miners

By Michael Kinney

In his first game week press conference as head coach, the 33-year old Lincoln Riley seems fit for the role he has been inserted into. With less than three months under his belt as Oklahoma’s head coach, he has shown no signs of his life being any different than before he assumed the position.

But now things get real for Riley as games start to be played. It all begins this week when the No. 7 Sooners host UTEP in the season opener.

It’s been a long camp and our guys are really, really excited to go play somebody else,” Riley said. “It’s so unique. We don’t have scrimmages like you do in high school. We don’t have preseason games like you do in the NFL. I feel like we did some things creatively to change up the schedule to keep our guys fresh and excited. They have certainly been counting down towards this week. We are all looking forward to getting the season kicked here at home.”

Kick off is set for Saturday 2:30 p.m. at Owen Field. This is the fourth all time meeting between the teams. The Sooners lead the series 3-0 and has outscored the

Miners 147-21 in those contests.

UTEP is coming off a 4-8 season. But Riley says the Miners were getting better down the stretch.

We’ve had a chance to take a look at and start preparing for head coach Sean Kugler,” Riley said. “That guy has been there a few years. He’s got an NFL background, offensive line background. He is doing a nice job for them there.”

For the Miners, opening up the season against a talented and highly ranked team like the Oklahoma is a challenge Kugler hopes his squad will rise to meet.

“I’m hoping that everybody in our program gets to play in this game, and I talked to the coaching staff about that, not only for the experience but also it’s going to be a hot and humid game, it’s going to be 86 degrees and humid,” Kugler said. “We train in the heat but not the humidity.  Especially on defense, we’re going to have to rotate guys and keep them fresh so everybody can go out and play 100 percent at all times.  You talk about newcomers, we’ve got 44 guys in our two-deep and 26 are new to the program and have not stepped on the field as UTEP Miners.”

Kugler is especially impressed with what he has seen from Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. He heaped high praise on the OU signal caller Monday during the UTEP press conference.

“We’re playing an outstanding team and an outstanding program.  They are loaded on both sides of the ball, in particular offense,” Kugler said. “I feel like they have probably the best returning quarterback in the country.  He is one of the leading Heisman candidates. This guy is a 71 completion percentage quarterback.  He threw for close to 4,000 yards, but his efficiency is what sets him apart with 40 touchdowns and only eight interceptions.  So he makes great decisions with the ball.  He can hurt you multiple ways, he can scramble, he can make plays with his legs.  He had six touchdowns rushing last year.”

This will be the first game Mayfield has played at Oklahoma where he doesn’t have the services of Sterling Shepard or Dede Westbrook.

But it does seem two players have stepped to the forefront in terms of becoming Mayfield’s go to receivers. They are veteran tight end Mark Andrews and true freshman CeeDee Lamb.

While Andrews was expected to be out front, Lamb’s is a different story. Even though he didn’t participate in spring football, he has already made a name for himself.

He is a very talented, natural athlete,’ Mayfield said. “It just kind of has that it factor. Has the ball skills to be able to go up for a ball and attack it. He is a guy who is going to be able to make a lot of plays. The thing that I most respect out of him, he has the dog in him. CeeDee just has that dog factor. When he steps on the field, it’s straight business.”

Tailgating change

For fans who have made it a ritual to tailgate before Oklahoma games, things have changed this season. OU officials have eliminated all tailgating along Lindsey Street.

Some of the reasons officials have given include security concerns at new residential housing, planting sod in renovated areas and not allowing tailgating near student housing.

Tailgating is still allowed along Jenkins and parts of Asp and Brooks. But overall, the tailgating areas have shrunk by a great amount over the past two seasons.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

NBA schedule shows Thunder are still a fan favorite

(Photo by Torrey Purvey)

By Michael Kinney

Many thought when Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City, that the franchise would lose its appeal nationally. As great as Russell Westbrook was, the feeling was the Thunder had dropped to the B-level when it came to must see TV.

However, that has proven to be a false narrative. First came last year’s ratings whenever the Thunder played in nationally televised games.

Second, is the NBA schedule for the upcoming season. Once again the Thunder appear in several big time matchups for the rest of the nation to see. They will play on national television 36 times, including six matchups each on ABC and TNT.

That includes the season opener for Oklahoma City. They are one of a few teams that will be featured in the first three nights of the season.

The Thunder will host the New York Knicks Oct. 19. In the past the Thunder have normally kicked off the season on the road. The game will be seen on TNT.

Oklahoma City will also play host on Christmas Day. This time the Houston Rockets are coming to town for a night contest that will feature Westbrook and Paul George against James Harden and newly acquired Chris Paul.

On New Years Eve, the Thunder will play host to I-35 rival, the Dallas Mavericks. This will be the eighth straight season Oklahoma City has played at home on New Years Eve.

One of the bigger games on the schedule not centered around a holiday is the first time the Thunder take on Durant and Golden State. The Warriors come to Oklahoma City Wednesday, Nov. 22, days before Thanksgiving.

The Thunder have also been slated for the unique opportunity to play one of its regular season games in Mexico. They will be taking on the Brooklyn Nets Thursday Dec. in Mexico City.

“We’re excited to be asked to participate in the NBA Mexico City Games 2017 as the NBA expands its global reach,” Thunder GM Sam Presti said. “As we enter only our 10th season of Thunder Basketball in Oklahoma City, we feel incredibly fortunate that our team and fan base will get to experience our first regular-season‎ game abroad.”

The Nets will be playing two games in Mexico City. One against the Thunder and the other versus the Miami Heat.

These games will be our 25th and 26th in Mexico, the most played in any country outside of the United States and Canada,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “They will also mark the 25th anniversary of our first game in Mexico City, a milestone in our relationship with our Mexican fans and a further indication of our desire to strengthen our ties to Mexico and Latin America.”

The games will mark the first time the NBA has hosted four regular-season contests in Mexico in the same calendar year.  Last January, the Phoenix Suns took on the Dallas Mavericks (Jan. 12) and the San Antonio Spurs (Jan. 14) in Mexico City. 

What is becoming another tradition I nthe NBA is having games played on Super Bowl Sunday. The Thunder will take part in are one of six games that will start before 6 p.m. as they hosts the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 4 at 1 p.m. on ABC

Also, 70 of the Thunder’s 82 regular season games will be available in Oklahoma City on Fox Sports Oklahoma, and all will be broadcast on WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network.

Injury Update

As great of an offseason as the Thunder have had, some bad news crept into the cycle.

Free agent signee Patrick Patterson had an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee Aug. 10.

According to the Thunder it was proactive and he will be re-evaluated in 4 to 6 weeks.

Patterson is expected to be back by the start of training camp in September.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

OU defense looking to turn heads

By Michael Kinney

Steven Parker knows what is being said. The senior safety has heard the comments about his Oklahoma defense and how they could be the liability again this year.

But Parker isn’t paying too much attention to what others are saying. He is going by what he has seen in the offseason and how the team finished up the 2016 campaign when he proclaimed opponents better be on high alert.

I’m just going to say we are some monsters out there,” Parker said. “We’re practicing great and running to the ball. I feel like this defense right here is a lot more together and a lot more willing to basically go and attack to get turnovers.”

That may sound like hyperbole for a unit that allowed 432 yards per game. That included 269 through the air.

However, the players who had to deal with defensive collapses say they have brought a different attitude into this season.

It’s definitely a different mentality,” Jordan Thomas said. “I know for sure this is my last camp and know now that I couldn’t come back even if I wanted to. It’s something I’ve learned to appreciate. This fan base is great and we have another opportunity to go win a national championship, so we just have to play every game like it’s our last.”

The turnaround for the Oklahoma defense actually began last season. After several outings where they were getting embarrassed, it all came to a head against Texas Tech when they allowed future first round draft pick Patrick Mahomes throw for 734 yards and amass 819 total yards..

Despite winning the game 66-59, it essentially kept the Sooners out of the College Football Playoffs.

But from that dismal performance, the Sooners slowly began to find their form and ended the season by shutting down Auburn in the Sugar Bowl.

I feel like the Sugar Bowl was a great start,” Parker said. “Last season I felt like we had a great defensive performance. We kind of started off slow but we ended really great as the season went on. I feel like now we are starting off on that great streak. We are starting off early instead of slow like we have in the past years. I feel like we are getting it done.”

Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops took a lot of heat for the way his defense played last season. But he seems to see some good signs early on from his unit.

Each game it varies. We know when we play good defense and we know when we do not play very good defense,” Stoops said. “It’s the way the world is and the way this league is. It’s different than any other in football. But we still know what winning football is and what not winning football is. I will let you know if we played good enough. As a whole, we need to play better and our players know that.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

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