Oklahoma Sooners: Inside Slant Oct. 5

Special to SI
Posted Oct 5, 2010


The Sooners are now into their idle week unscathed.

INSIDE SLANT

Oklahoma is 5-0. Not with a bullet. More like a pinball.

Getting there took beating Red River rival Texas 28-20 at the Cotton Bowl. It was also the first conference game for the Sooners. So, not only did they beat their biggest rival after just one win in the previous five meetings, but they've started the Big 12's South Division off right.

And still, there's the sense OU hasn't quite arrived.

"We'll have to let it go, regroup and polish some things up," said head coach Bob Stoops. "And we even found a way to make this one not so pretty."

The Sooners appeared in control of the game the whole way. After OU established a 14-0 lead, Texas was never in position to mount a drive for the lead. Still, OU could never put the game away, which has been a season-long theme.

Now OU has a week off before playing host to Iowa State. That shouldn't be so difficult, though the rest of the season could be a gauntlet with land mines everywhere. The Sooners are at Missouri on Oct. 23, at Texas A&M on Nov. 6 and at Oklahoma State on Nov. 27.

There are also home games with Colorado (Oct. 30), Texas Tech (Oct. 13) and a road game at Baylor (Nov. 20).

In a way, OU is right where it wants and needs to be.

It is unbeaten, with all kinds of improvement to still be made. Also, Stoops' teams have a history of getting better over time. If the Sooners can make that improvement this season, it could take them to a very good place.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Oklahoma is 5-0 but has outgained an opponent only once all season. That was Florida State, whom the Sooners beat 47-17, winning the yardage battle 487 to 345. That wasn't the case against Utah State (412 to 421), Air Force (367 to 458), Cincinnati (452 to 461) or Texas (360 to 373).

--The Sooners continue to do two things they did very well on the way to the 2000 national championship, and that's take care of the football and taking the football away defensively. Against Texas, OU suffered no turnovers while intercepting a pass and getting a fumble. OU has 14 takeaways (seven interceptions and seven recovered fumbles) against just four giveaways (three interceptions and one fumble lost).

--Six freshmen, including four true freshmen, have started for the Sooners this season. Fullback Trey Millard and defensive back Aaron Colvin, both true freshmen, joined the list Saturday against Texas. Colvin was in for CB Jamell Fleming, who sprained an ankle against Cincinnati. Millard may reflect a change in philosophy geared toward his talents. He carried five times for 16 yards; more carries than any fullback has had in a game for OU in many seasons.

GAME BALL GOES TO:RB DeMarco Murray -- He scored two touchdowns and picked up 115 yards on 25 carries, while also catching four passes for 31 yards. He has 55 career touchdowns as a Sooner, putting him second on the all-time list, two behind Heisman Trophy winner Steve Owens.

KEEP AN EYE ON: FB Trey Millard -- The freshman carried five times for 16 yards and caught two passes for 9 yards, but the more telling thing is that Millard appears to have become OU's short-yardage back. Also, getting six touches in a single game marks a shift to the fullback being a primary part of the offense, rather than playing a perpetual supporting role, as has been the case for many seasons before this one. Because he's a true freshman, his role still has plenty of time to grow.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I will take the win, by three, by one, by 20, it doesn't matter. I don't care. I will take the win. That's the great thing about this year. We are winning games. Coach Stoops is right, we're making the games a lot closer than they need to be, but we are winning them. We're 5-0 and I will take it." -- OU LB Travis Lewis

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

LOOKING GOOD: Red zone defense. The Sooners gave up a bunch of yards again, but twice Texas drives stopped inside the 5-yard line, which made a big difference in the game. For the season, opponents have scored 13 of 14 times in the red zone, but only seven of those scores have been touchdowns.

STILL NEEDS WORK: Fourth-quarter offense. OU entered the Texas game having been outscored 41-10 in the fourth quarter. After the Texas game, it's 51-17. OU has been able to establish leads all season, but the Sooners have not built on them. Instead, they've hung on for four of their five victories. Putting together a drive of their own in the fourth quarter would not only push a Sooner lead but keep the ball away from the opponent.

ROSTER REPORT:

--WR Ryan Broyles, OU's most electric offensive player all season, was a non-factor against Texas. He made one beautiful touchdown grab, but it was brought back on a penalty. He finished with five catches for 36 yards, ending a nation's-best run of seven consecutive 100-yard games.

--CB Jamell Fleming did not play against Texas because of a sprained ankle suffered against Cincinnati.

--FS Jonathan Nelson was limping during the game and missed some time before returning.

--WR Dejuan Miller appeared to twist or sprain an ankle against Texas, but the injury was not considered serious.



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