Oklahoma Sooners: Inside Slant Sept. 15

Oklahoma Sooners: Inside Slant Sept. 15

The Sports Xchange breaks down the Sooners after their first two games and with Air Force coming into Norman this weekend.

INSIDE SLANT

Isn't it interesting how one game leads to another every college football season? No game is played in a vacuum. Every game is played in the context of last week, next week, and in Oklahoma's case quite often, the Big 12 and national championship races.

With that in mind, after winning a dud game over Utah State, the Sooners proved how explosive they can be offensively and how dominant they can be defensively against Florida State in last week's 47-17 victory.

Now, with Air Force coming to Owen Field Saturday afternoon the new storyline is whether the Sooners do it again. Can they fire on something approaching all cylinders a second time and define themselves by playing their game back-to-back, or are they simply a very capable team still not accomplished in the art of consistency?

If they're something approaching the team they were against Florida State, they will quickly be right in the middle of the national picture. Though ranked No. 7 momentarily, wins over Air Force on Saturday, at Cincinnati next week and over Texas inside the Cotton Bowl, in Dallas, the following week, would give OU a legitimate claim as the nation's No. 1 team, even as other teams might have to lose for them to actually get there.

The most impressive thing about the FSU victory was the complete nature of it. Not just offensively or defensively, but with impact being made deep into both lineups. No defender dominated so much as the entire unit dominating. Offensively, wide receiver Ryan Broyles caught 12 passes, but his ratio of catches was way down from 9 of 17 total completions against Utah State to 12 of 30 total completions against the Seminoles.

All of a sudden, OU appears to be a team capable of coming at an opponent in all directions. The Sooners are even taking care of the ball, losing only a fumble last time out when the ball slipped from Landry Jones' hand as he wound up to throw.

The Falcons will present a real test. They're 2-0 after a 35-14 victory over BYU, and their pedigree as a service academy has Sooner offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson coming up with great quotes.

"They're not sissies now," he said. "They're trained to kill people."

Saturday, though, will only be football.

NOTES, QUOTES

--WR Ryan Broyles is not-so-slowly making a case for being the best receiver in program history. Through two games, he's caught 21 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns. He has five straight 100-yard receiving games. He's coming off a school record 89-receptions season in 2009. Also last season, with 109 points, he became the first receiver to lead OU in scoring. His 24 career TDs are already third all-time among Sooner receivers. All of this from a hometown -- Norman High School -- recruit, who was offered a scholarship at the very end of the recruiting season after he had already verbally committed to Oklahoma State.

--Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson's strategy heading into Saturday's game with Air Force is to just go score. He mentioned how important that was in the context of Air Force being a ball control team, giving the opposing offense fewer chances. Asked if that forced the Sooners to respond in kind, being more careful with their drives, Wilson said no, as though it played into the Falcons hands. Just go score, by any means necessary.

--There's a bit of controversy brewing as Air Force descends upon Norman on Saturday. In short, it's about the last line of the national anthem, which many Sooner fans, rather than singing "home of the brave," as the last line, instead sing "home of the Sooners," yelling the final word as loud as they can. With a service academy coming to town, what to do about that has become a topic. Coach Bob Stoops said Tuesday that he wished Sooner fans would show as much class as possible. Asked if he would address the fans, he said he would "do whatever they want me to do." The fans still screamed "Sooners" last week on the ninth anniversary of 9-11, even after the P.A. announcer mentioned the last line of the anthem and asked fans to honor the brave by singing along to the Pride of Oklahoma's (the band's) playing of it. It will be interesting to see if the university tries to get in the middle of it and says anything prior to the anthem being played or sung Saturday.

SERIES HISTORY: Oklahoma leads Air Force 1-0 (last meeting, 2001, Oklahoma 44-3).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: A week ago, it was struggling. A week later, it's soaring after scoring touchdowns on its first four possessions against Florida State, racking up nearly 500 yards along the way. Still, almost all of the difference came in the passing game, where Landry Jones hit 30 of 40 attempts with four scores without a pick. No ball carrier averaged even 4 yards per carry. So, the Sooners can still fire another cylinder, even after their great outing against the Seminoles. Also, one thing they want to keep going is spreading the wealth. Against FSU, four Sooners carried the ball other than the quarterback, 12 Sooners caught passes and five Sooners scored a touchdown.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: It really can't play much better than it did against Florida State, when it allowed a first-drive touchdown before forcing seven punts and making two interceptions over the Seminoles' next nine drives. But the Air Force challenge is different. Even if the Falcons fail to come up with points, they can still hold the ball for long chunks of time, keeping the game close longer than OU would prefer. Saturday, the onus will be on Sooner defenders to limit that ball possession by forcing punts. Statistically, safety Jonathan Nelson leads the team with 15 tackles. LB Travis Lewis has 14, while CB Jamell Fleming has 14 and two interceptions.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Well it interrupts your natural flow of playing more traditional pro-style offenses. We're all pro-style offenses but with all of the options and formations that they use it's just different." -- OU football coach Bob Stoops on the nature of preparing to play Air Force.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Air Force at No. 7 Oklahoma, Sept. 18. Both teams are coming off very impressive wins, the Falcons over BYU and the Sooners over Florida State. OU will bring a 32-game home winning streak into the game.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Keep Air Force punting, avoid three-and-outs offensively and don't help the Falcons' cause with penalties. Those are pretty good keys every game, but particularly so against Air Force, which is very capable of exercising ball control, playing keep-away from opposing offenses. The Falcons are capable of landing an upset if they can stick to their victory template of shortening the game, keeping the score close and waiting for a big mistake from the other side. Adhering to those keys should keep OU out of the Falcons' template.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

QB Landry Jones -- If he can have another game like the last one (30-of-40, 380 yards, four touchdowns) OU is going to have a hard time losing the game. But if he goes the other way, forcing Tress Way to punt as frequently as he did against Utah State, eight times, the Sooners could be in quite the fight to victory.

LB Travis Lewis -- He has led OU in tackles each of the last two seasons. In this, his junior year, he has 14 through two games. But the way Air Force likes to keep the ball moving on the ground, this could be one of those games Lewis, who is very nearly on pace to be OU's all-time tackles leader after four seasons, really breaks out.

ROSTER REPORT

--TE Austin Haywood has not been forgotten, though the true freshman -- one of 12 true freshman to play against Florida State -- didn't get in the game until the fourth quarter. Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said he believes all three of his tight ends (Trent Ratterree, James Hanna and Haywood) will be counted on this season. Haywood is believed to be the top talent of the trio.

--PK Patrick O'Hara still has Bob Stoops' confidence. "Good" was Stoops' first word when asked to describe O'Hara's season to date, even after the kicker missed an extra point and a field goal against Florida State. It would appear Stoops will show nothing but confidence in the kicker, who won a four-man race that went all the way to opening day mostly because nobody could separate from the back, as long as he chooses to rely upon him.

--RB Brennan Clay was down and out for several minutes before being carted off on a stretcher against Florida State. He suffered a concussion and will not play against Air Force.

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