If the loss to Kansas State two weeks ago represented a jarring break from the norm for Oklahoma football, the Sooners’ domination of Texas Tech on Saturday signified a promising correction.
OU did what it always seems to do under Bob Stoops: bounce back from defeat. The Sooners hadn’t lost back-to-back games since 2003 and rarely drop a game coming off an open date.
Of course, if any OU team was going to break with tradition, this looked like the one. Yet, Stoops’ team played as ruthlessly in blowing out the Red Raiders as it was sloppy two weeks ago in falling to the Wildcats. The discombobulated bunch that couldn’t keep from shooting themselves in the foot earlier this year took advantage of every opportunity that Texas Tech handed to them and made plenty more of their own. As the Sooners rolled to a 41-20 victory, they actually looked like a team that could contend for the conference title, rather than one destined for another pre-New Year’s Day bowl bid.
While the build-up to the game tended to focus on how the Sooners would kickstart their sputtering offense against a D that was leading the nation in total defense, OU’s own defensive unit made all the difference against Tech.
The Sooners did some bending, allowing the Red Raiders to string together a handful of sustained drives. They never truly broke, though, against an offensive attack that entered the game averaging 6.69 yards per play, ranking 15th nationally.
The D forced the Red Raiders to earn their yardage by keeping Tech’s wide receivers in front of them and bringing the wood to to the screen game. Tech’s four scoring drives went between nine and 13 plays. As the game wore on, OU’s pass rush finally started getting to Seth Doege, who tossed three interceptions and sustained plenty of punishment when dropping back. Ultimately, the Red Raiders were held to 4.9 yards per play, nearly two yards below their season average.
Yet, more importantly for the team’s psyche, the Sooners finally showed some glimpses of the offense that has lit up scoreboards for years. Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel made greater use of the run game, even though OU still leaned on the pass (29 rushes, 40 passes). OU also made use of the wide array of offensive weapons at its disposal. Six players combined to pound out 121 net yards rushing, while quarterback Landry Jones took his eyes off Kenny Stills (7 receptions, 43 yards, 1 TD) long enough to hook up with six players through the air.
Let’s be clear: This remains a team with its fair share of flaws. The Sooners are competing in a brutally tough conference that will offer few gimmes the rest of the way. An undefeated Notre Dame team also awaits for a non-conference contest later this month. The times when OU can simply show up and coast to an easy win won’t come often in the course of the next eight games.
Bringing that kind of effort for eight straight games rarely happens for any college football team, but the one that whipped Tech on Saturday can beat any other opponent left on its schedule.