5 Final thoughts on the Oklahoma Sooners vs. the Texas Tech Red Raiders

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The Oklahoma Sooners have an opportunity to move to 9-0 today when they take on the 5-3 Texas Tech Red Raiders. The good news for Oklahoma is they still have room to improve and hopefully reinforcements are coming that will help that.

Lincoln Riley hinted that several defensive players could be back this week or after the bye and it appears that Jalen Redmond is one of them.

On the offensive side, he said Michael Woods and Mario Williams were close to returning as well. If the Sooners can maintain a relative level of health this week and during the stretch run of the season they still have a great shot to complete an undefeated 2021.

On paper, the Oklahoma Sooners are the better team, but they’ve played six of their eight games close and this one has the potential to be a close one as well. As we get ready for Oklahoma vs. Texas Tech, here are some final thoughts on Saturday’s game.

Could Fatigue be Setting In?

At this point of the 2020 season, the Oklahoma Sooners had played just five games heading into their Halloween weekend matchup with the Texas Tech Red Raiders. In that opening stretch of the season, Oklahoma had two off weeks.

In 2021, the Sooners have already played eight games, and they’ve done it without a week off. Because of COVID-19 limiting the non-conference schedule and the cancellation of the West Virginia game, the Sooners had already had two bye weeks in the first two months of the season.

While players prepare in the offseason to play an entire season and understand the grind that comes with a college football season, it certainly can have an affect on players. Even if a player is physically healthy, the grind of playing eight straight weeks can also affect them mentally.

That’s a likely explanation for the sluggish start to the game against Kansas on Saturday. Several mental lapses in the first quarter got corrected as the game went along, and Oklahoma ultimately overcame their slow start to win the game. Still, they can’t afford a slow start today or as they embark into “Championship November.”

For the Sooners to overcome the Texas Tech Red Raiders in Norman today, they’ll have to avoid the mental mistakes that allowed Kansas to march the ball down the field on their opening drive for a touchdown.

With the bye week coming after the Red Raiders, there’s no excuse not to be mentally locked in and ready to give a great effort as the Sooners look to get to 9-0 on the season.

Unleash Caleb Williams Running Ability

Last week, against Kansas, the Sooners looked desperate to create a big play right out of the gate. That’s where the offsides penalties came from on defense and what led to Caleb Williams’ interception on the second drive of the game.

One way for the Oklahoma Sooners to help their young quarterback settle into the game is to scheme some easy throws for him. A bubble screen or quick slant route will help him get comfortable early.

Another way to help him would be to give him a couple of designed quarterback runs early in the game. Run a quarterback power or quarterback counter on the first drive or even the first play of the game.

We’ve seen Williams make big plays in the running game in each game since taking over in the Red River Showdown. He’s a big-play threat on the ground in the quarterback run game.

While he’s got a great arm, Williams also needs to be more willing to tuck the ball and scramble for yards when there’s nothing available downfield. Even if he picks up only a few yards, that’s always more preferable to a questionable throw or taking a loss in a sack.

He’s just three games into his Sooners career, so he’s still growing at the quarterback position. The early returns have been incredible, and as he plays more, he’ll get more comfortable with what he can do on the field. And that’ll make him even more dangerous. But one way to help him get comfortable early is to put the ball in his hands and have him run the football.

Caleb Williams isn’t Jalen Hurts. He’s a better passer than Hurts, and he doesn’t have the same body type as Hurts, but he’s also a bigger guy than Kyler Murray and Lincoln Riley wasn’t afraid to give him the ball in the running game. Time for Lincoln to take the brakes off and use his quarterback running ability to demoralize teams.

Big Plays from Unheralded Receivers

We’ve talked a lot this season about the wide receiver depth on this team, and they do have a ton of it. It’s one of the best position groups on the Sooners when everyone is healthy. Unfortunately, they’ve been unhealthy the last few weeks with Michael Woods and Mario Williams dinged up, however, one or both of those guys may be back against Texas Tech.

Oklahoma seemed to miss two of their leading receivers last week, but they were able to overcome with big plays from two guys who don’t necessarily figure into the top of the wide receiver depth chart: Drake Stoops and Trevon West.

And it’s become a regular occurrence that Stoops and West make big plays for the Sooners. Though they have a combined 15 receptions, more than half of those receptions have gone for a first down.

Even if Woods or Williams come back this week, expect Stoops and West to have a critical play that helps the Sooners win the game against Texas Tech.

Is this the week for Austin Stogner?

One would think that with Michael Woods and Mario Williams missing last week that Austin Stogner would figure more heavily into the passing game for the Oklahoma Sooners. Yet, he finished with just one target and was held without a reception for the second straight week.

Through eight games, Stogner has just 19 targets and nine receptions. He’s run a route on 82% of his snaps and has averaged just 0.79 yards per route run. That’s the worst number of any Sooner with at least 10 targets.

He’s getting opportunities to run routes in the passing game. But he’s not getting targeted much. Is it a point of emphasis to get the ball to the wide receivers?

In seven games last year, not counting the Florida game where he played sparingly, Austin Stogner had 25 receptions on 37 targets for 410 yards and three touchdowns.

In 2020, Stogner had just one game with one or fewer receptions, and that was the season opener against Missouri State, in which he didn’t play the whole game. In 2021, Stogner has been held to one or fewer receptions in six of the Oklahoma Sooners’ eight games.

He’s nearly a year removed from the initial injury against Kansas and doesn’t appear limited when he’s on the field. At some point, a breakout game is going to happen.

Could this be the week for Austin Stogner to reassert himself as a passing game threat?

Pat Fields doing his best Ironman impersonation in 2021

With all of the injuries to the Oklahoma Sooners secondary, senior safety Pat Fields has been forced to play a ton for the Sooners defense. A leader on the field and in the locker room, he’s been good this season as well.

Fields has played 88% of the defensive snaps in 2021. And that’s with only playing 31 of the 66 snaps against Western Carolina. He’s played 100% of the defensive snaps five of the last six games.

Fields is second on the team in tackles to Brian Asamoah and has been a steady presence on the back end of the defense. Pat Fields may not be the best player on the Sooners’ defense, but he’s arguably been the most important player for an Oklahoma Sooners’ secondary that’s relied on backups and young players to get the job done as several starters have struggled with injuries.

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