For the second time this season, the Oklahoma Sooners will play under the brand new lights at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. The team that awaits them will be their toughest test in this young season, the Kansas State Wildcats.
Other than Deuce Vaughn, Brent Venables’ alma mater doesn’t boast much in terms of offense, but their defense ranks second in the Big 12 in points allowed per game and total yards per game.
The Sooners have all the firepower on offense to pull ahead of the Wildcats early, but Kansas State has a habit of playing up to the Sooners. Chris Klieman’s squad is not to be taken lightly. K-State already had their wakeup call with a close loss to Tulane.
They’re going to come into Norman ready to play.
For the first time in the Brent Venables era, Big 12 play begins. Here are five offensive players to watch in week four.
Dillon Gabriel, QB
Sep 17, 2022; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) runs for a touchdown during the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Only one secondary has more interceptions than the Wildcats’, and Dillon Gabriel hasn’t turned the ball over yet in a Sooners uniform. With how tough K-State has played Oklahoma in the past, the Sooners just can’t have any turnovers.
Gabriel showed just how much of a dual threat he is against Nebraska, and with how good K-State’s defensive line is, he’ll need to be able to move.
I had a bit of a debate with one of my professors. He was unsure that Dillon Gabriel is good enough to take the Sooners where they want to go. I disagreed.
Let’s see what happens.
The entire Offensive Line
Sep 17, 2022; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Oklahoma Sooners tight end Jason Llewellyn (87) and Oklahoma Sooners tight end Daniel Parker (22) and Oklahoma Sooners offensive lineman McKade Mettauer (72) and Oklahoma Sooners offensive lineman Andrew Raym (73) and Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) and Oklahoma Sooners offensive lineman Anton Harrison (71) and Oklahoma Sooners offensive lineman Savion Byrd (59) against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
The Sooners’ offensive line looked like a completely new unit once Wanya Morris came in at right tackle. Gabriel had plenty of time to throw, and the running backs had a surplus of running lanes to go through.
Gabriel was sacked twice against Nebraska, and the Wildcat defense is averaging 1.5 sacks per game. Keeping Gabriel upright and clean is of the utmost importance.
Kansas State is 8th in the Big 12 and 54th in the country in rushing yards allowed at 127.0 yards per game. That’s not nearly as lackluster as Nebraska’s rush defense, but still not great.
Brayden Willis, TE
Oklahoma tight end Brayden Willis (9) catches a pass against Nebraska during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Lincoln, Neb. (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)
Weight Room Willy has been an absolute beast.
While Brayden Willis hasn’t found the endzone since scoring twice against UTEP, he’s been a rock as a blocker. He’s had quite a few “assists” on Oklahoma’s touchdowns.
Keep an eye on the big fella. He doesn’t take any plays off.
Eric Gray, RB
Sep 17, 2022; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Eric Gray (0) runs for a touchdown during the first half against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Last week established that Eric Gray is indeed RB1 for the Oklahoma Sooners. When the offensive line is opening lanes, and Gray gets loose, there’s just no catching him.
He’s averaging nearly eight yards per carry.
Gray, Marcus Major, and Jovantae Barnes complement each other so well, but Gray has the most burst out of the running back room.
He finally found the endzone against Nebraska. Can he do it again against the Wildcats?
Jalil Farooq, WR
Sep 17, 2022; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Jalil Farooq (3) stiff arms Nebraska Cornhuskers defensive back Tommi Hill (0) during the first half at Memorial Stadium. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Lebby was onto something when he said he wasn’t concerned about Farooq. Farooq found the endzone against Nebraska after a somewhat frustrating start to the season. Had Dillon Gabriel hit him in stride on one incompletion, Farooq could have had an even bigger day.
The Sooners’ wide receiver room looks much more explosive and is racking up yards after the catch, which was such a problem for OU last year.
Against this talented KSU secondary, Farooq and the other receivers need to step up.
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