Oklahoma gets all it can handle from Army

(Photos by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

NORMAN — Throughout the week, the Oklahoma coaches tried to hammer into their player’s heads that Army was a different team. Despite not having a roster full of five-star recruits and running a throwback offense, they knew what type of fight the Black Knights would bring if they were allowed to hang around.

Even though the players said they headed every word, it wasn’t until they face Army on the field that reality set in and they found themselves in an all-out battle.

It took a takeaway in overtime before the fifth-ranked Sooners (4-0) were able to call it a night with a 28-21 victory over the Black Knights. At Memorial Stadium Saturday.

“This army team, them boys were tough. You can say what you want,” OU linebacker Curtis Bolton said. “It’s a little outdated, the triple option. But at the end of the day, them boys are out there trying to win a football game. They did a good job. They played a hell of a football game. I’m glad we came out with the W.”

It took a couple of huge defensive stops for Oklahoma to leave the stadium without one of the biggest upsets in school history on their ledger.

The first came near the end of regulation with the Black Knights driving toward the Sooner’s endzone. With the game tied at 21-21, all they were looking to do was keep churning minutes off the clock and set themselves up for a game-winning field goal.

But the Oklahoma defense forced Army into a passing situation on third down and the Sooner’s Mark Jackson deflected the pass from quarterback Kelvin Hopkins and defensive end Kenneth Mann made the interception to give the Sooners the ball at their 38-yard line.

That led to Oklahoma quarterback leading the Sooners down the field to the Army 16-yard line for a chance to kick their own game-winning field goal. However, Austin Siebert attempt went wide-left and the game went into overtime.

“I was surprised he missed it, but he’ll make the next one,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “I knew he had full confidence obviously centering the ball and getting it to the spot he wanted it. I had full confidence in him, (holder Connor McGinnis) and our entire offensive line to protect him. I had full confidence he was going to make it. If I’m ever in the same situation again, I’ll probably do exactly the same thing.”

In overtime, the Sooners got the ball first. Murray hit CeeDee Lamb for the go-ahead 10-yard touchdown pass to put Oklahoma up 28-21.

“Mindset was just to keep our composure and play our game,” Lamb said, “do things that we got and use every player that we have, make sure everybody gets their win and push.”

The Black Knights attempted to respond but once again the Sooner’s defense forced them into a passing situation on fourth down. Under pressure, Hopkins was picked off by Parnell Motley to end the game. Up until that play, Army was 4 for 4 on fourth downs.

“I think adversity is good for any team and every team needs it at some point during the season so we don’t get to the end of the season and be shocked,” defensive end Armani Bledsoe said. “But a good team win and a great win overall.”

Bolton ended the night with a total of 23 tackles, which broke the school record. However, he still didn’t even lead the team. Middle linebacker Kenneth Murray smash the record with 28 tackles, which is the highest total in the FBS since 2000.

Murray said he knew coming into the night he had a chance to have a special game.

“That’s the first thing I thought as soon as I saw them on tape,” Murray said. “They obviously like the run the ball. Coach told me as soon as I got done with the Iowa State film, he said they had the ball for like 40 something minutes last week. I was like it’s going to be an opportunity for me to go out there and make plays. I just went out there to make tackles and stuff like that. I just honed in on what I needed to do, paid attention to my keys and made plays.”

Army held the ball for 44:41 against a tired Oklahoma defense. The Sooners offense was only on the field for 15:19. Their 40 plays were the third-fewest in recorded program history.

Murray attempted only 15 passes and completed 11 of them. He threw for 165 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. He also carried the rock for 84 yards and another score.

Trey Sermon paced the Sooners with a season-high 119 yards rushing on `18 carries. It was his second career game with more than 100 yards rushing.

Oklahoma gets back into Big 12 play next Saturday when they host Baylor.

“I’m glad to get back into what we’re comfortable with,” Bolton said. “The game last week against Iowa State, we’ve got a lot to build off of from that. I know there are a lot of Big 12 teams that are watching that tape, they think they’re going to get us in a few spots. We’re just trying to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

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Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Story will run in The Yukon Review

Army presents Oklahoma defense with unique challenges

(Photo by Jay Beauchamp)

By Michael Kinney

When Oklahoma hosts Army Saturday night at Memorial Stadium, they will be facing something unique. In a time where seemingly every team runs the same type of offenses, the Black Knights will come into Norman with a style very few of the players have seen.

Led by Kelvin Hopkins Jr., Army is second in the nation with 62.3 rushing attempts per game. They pound out 306 rushing yards a game.

Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops knows his Sooners will have their hands full stopping the potent triple-option attack of the Black Knights Saturday.

“It’s very unique and it’s difficult to transition into more patient, react to box, try to keep people off your legs,” Stoops said. “So there’s a lot there, and then their ability to execute so many different variables in the triple option is challenging in a lot of ways. The difficult part is the amount of time they could hold the football. When you look at, they’re averaging I think close to 40 minutes a game holding the football, and that can be very difficult.”

One of the traits of the triple option is offensive linemen blocking low and into the legs of defenders.

“The hardest things to do is to keep people off your legs,” Stoops said. “We’re not used to everybody crawling. They’re gonna dig through and what they do is … It’s how they do it. They stay low and try to rip their gaps and get in people’s legs and tie people up. And we’re gonna have to be good with our hands and protect ourselves and try to keep ourselves free.”

Lethal passing game?

The Black Knights put up only 13 passing attempts a game, but lead the nation at 23.3 yards per completion.

“I think when you look at their ability to throw the football has been a little more prevalent this year than they did in the past,” Stoops said. “I thought the quarterback last year was really outstanding handling the football. This guy throws the ball maybe a little bit better, they feel a little bit better with their passing game under him. He throws the ball well, but that’s the effect of crowding the line of scrimmage, trying to crowd their run game, get an extra body in there to defend the run; then they’re gonna hurt you with a play action pass. So, those have been very effective for them this year and that’s something that we’ve worked a lot this work and will continue to work the rest of the week.”

Secondary can’t lose focus

Because the Black Knights will lull opposing defenses to sleep with a constant run game, Oklahoma’s defensive backs know they can be hit for a bomb downfield at any moment.

OU cornerback Tre Norwood says it all starts with discipline.

“It’s gonna be different. As a corner, especially in the Big 12, you’re used to pass heavy teams,” Norwood said. “It’s one of those games you have to be fundamentally sound, disciplined, just read your keys and just stay locked in. You can’t get laxed today because it’s just run, run, run and then that’s when a pass comes. It’s just one of those things you have to work on. Work on your eye discipline and just doing your job, that’s the main thing. Focus on doing your job and not trying to do too much.”

Old style new to Sooners

Since only the service academies and a select few FBS teams still run the triple option, very few members of the Sooners have ever seen it in person. With most high schools running some version of the spread or RPO offenses, Saturday will be the Sooners first indoctrination to the offense.

‘I believe it’s going to be the second time,” defensive tackle Neville Gallimore said. “Tulane last year had something similar like the triple option. But it’s new. It’s going to be another challenge to me. As long as we prepare the right way, we should be fine.”

Bounce back week for defense

Despite beating Iowa Saturday, the Oklahoma defense knows it didn’t play to the level they had in the first two games. Missing tackles was their biggest issues. That is an element the team says its focusing on during the week.

“It starts there in practice. I’m pretty sure you’ve all seen it. Wasn’t pleased with tackling and all this, this past week so we got to coming in practices,” Norwood said. “Focus on tackling and no matter what always getting to the ball. Wrapping up, that’s going to play a big part in this game. Everybody knows they’re run heavy team. Strong guys, so you have to make sure you wrap up and tackling is going to be the main key to this game.”

Mental toughness

“Tackling at the end of the day is our effort,” Norwood said. “You can teach it. You can always teach it at practice, the fundamentals. Taking the right angles and such things like that. But when it comes down to it in the game, it’s just a will to want to get those guys down. Make the play. I feel like it’s all effort and just the want to.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer

Story first appeared in The Yukon Review

Small frames, big games for Sooners

(Photo by Jay Beauchamp)

By Michael Kinney

At 5-foot-10, Oklahoma Kyler Murray wouldn’t be considered an NFL prospect by most observers. Even if he wasn’t destined to take his talents to Major League Baseball, the Texas native would be considered too small to make it in the league.

However, don’t tell him that. Murray, who threw for 348 yards and three TDs against Iowa State, believes height is not a requirement to play the position. At any level.

“I don’t believe in those,” Murray said. “There are a lot of 6-foot-5 guys in the (NFL) that aren’t very good I feel like. If you can play quarterback, you can play quarterback. If you have the feel to play quarterback, then you can play it. Some guys have it, some guys don’t.”

The same mentality appears to be shared by wide receiver Marquise Brown.  Coming off his nine reception, 191-yard performance against Cyclones, Brown has continued to catch the attention of NFL teams. Despite only being listed at 5-foot 10, 168 pounds, he is proving he can play at the next level.

“Marquise is playing with a chip on his shoulder like all the other small guys,” Murray said of Brown. “Me, myself Baker (Mayfield). Every guy they say can’t play a position because their too small, you have to have that chip on your shoulder. That is something he has on his shoulder. He is trying to prove himself, obviously. For NFL scouts and things like that. He wants to play at the next level, just like anybody else does. He has to prove those things like come across the middle, catch competitive balls. Not just be a one trick pony type of guy. For scouts to think that he can do that or take a chance on him, a small guy, he has to do those things and he’s doing them all right now.”

 

Lack of catches

Through three games tight end Grant Calcatera has recorded six receptions for 70 yards.  He had two catches for 41 yards versus the Cyclones. It’s not the output many expected of the 6-foot-4, 221-pound sophomore heading into the season.

Everybody wants to get balls,” Calcatera said. “But at the end of the day, we’re winning every game. We’re executing, I’m blocking well. So when you’re not getting the ball all you can do is do everything else right. I think for me I just got to focus on my assignments every week. If balls come my way, they come my way. If they don’t, I’m going to continue to do my best to try and help the team any way I can.”

However, quarterback Kyler Murray said Calcatera’s time will come.

“Right now, he hasn’t caught a lot of balls yet,” Murray said. “But obviously, we have a lot of weapons. Which is kind of a blessing for me. For those guys, they sometimes might not get the ball as much as they like. But it’s a team game. We’re all in it for one reason and that’s to win. Defenses are going to key in on Marquise (Brown) and CeeDee (Lamb) and those guys. You can’t sleep on Grant. I’m glad we have him.”

Close to breaking a long one

Riley said tailback Trey Sermon is close to breaking a long run for a touchdown. Sermon agreed.

“I definitely feel that way,” Sermon said. “My offensive line does a great job and just every time I touch the ball I feel like it’s getting closer and closer.”

Sooners settle on starting center

After watching his two centers go back and forth for three games in and out of the starting lineup, offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh announced that redshirt freshman Creed Humphrey has won the starting job. Senior Jonathan Alvarez will be the back.

“It’s happened. We needed continuity at that spot,” Bedenbaugh said. “It’s happened and we’re going to move forward. Creed is going to be the guy. Yes he is.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Story appeared in The Yukon Review

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