Oklahoma’s season ended on Thursday night with a 35-32 loss to the No. 13 Florida State Seminoles in the Cheez-It Bowl — yet another one-possession loss this season.
While the final result is far from desirable, the performance the Sooners put forth, given the circumstances, was very commendable.
The Sooners started fast, going up 14-3 in the second quarter. Their fast starts have been a consistent theme this season. The Seminoles responded with a strong second-half push. Oklahoma answered after falling behind 32-25 to give themselves a chance, but it couldn’t put anything together on its final drive as it tried to earn a last-second field goal try.
With the loss, Oklahoma finished under .500 for the first time since 1998. Here are five takeaways from the Sooners’ performance.
Young offensive line pieces were encouraging
Dec. 29, 2022; Orlando, Florida; Oklahoma Sooners running back Jovantae Barnes (2) celebrates scoring a touchdown against the Oklahoma Sooners during the second half in the 2022 Cheez-It Bowl at Camping World Stadium. Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports
Much of the pregame discussions centered on Oklahoma’s offensive line and how it would perform against a stout Florida State defensive line.
Offensive tackles Anton Harrison and Wanya Morris opted out of the game to prepare for the NFL draft. Right guard Chris Murray and center Andrew Raym were out because of injuries.
That opened the door for Jacob Sexton, Aaryn Parks and Tyler Guyton to get a lot of run at tackle. Savion Byrd, a former four-star top 60 recruit, received his first career start at left guard. Parks replaced Sexton after the second play of game due to an injury.
While their performance wasn’t perfect, they had some highly encouraging moments. They paved the way for 253 yards on the ground. That’s exceptional for a team starting four new guys. Parks, Byrd, Sexton and Guyton all look poised to return next year and can build on this performance.
Buy Gavin Sawchuk stock now
Dec. 29, 2022; Orlando, Florida; Oklahoma Sooners running back Gavin Sawchuk (27) runs with the ball against the Florida State Seminoles in the second quarter during the 2022 Cheez-It Bowl at Camping World Stadium. Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Probably the biggest takeaway from this game is that Gavin Sawchuk will be a big-time part of the offense in 2023. He’s simply earned it with one game.
His performance in the first meaningful action of his collegiate career was explosive and exciting.
He carried the ball 15 times for 100 yards and one touchdown. A second touchdown run was wiped away because of a holding call. Sawchuk showed toughness, speed, and the ability to make defenders miss. He’ll be on breakout watch for next season.
Oklahoma’s secondary needs more talent
The Oklahoma Sooners lead the Florida State Seminoles 17-11 at the half of the Cheez-it Bowl game at Camping World Stadium on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat / USA TODAY NETWORK
While the defense as a unit has room to grow, there have been noticeable improvements from certain players at both levels of the front seven.
Aside from Billy Bowman, can the same be said for the secondary?
The Sooners were torched for over 400 yards passing for the second consecutive game, and the secondary is a big reason. Jay Valai and Brandon Hall have their work cut out for them this offseason to retool that unit.
The 2022 and 2023 recruiting classes provide a start to the secondary rebuild, but how many of those guys will make meaningful contributions in 2023?
Oklahoma has to learn how to finish games
Dec. 29, 2022; Orlando, Florida; Oklahoma Sooners band perform prior to a game between Florida State Seminoles and the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2022 Cheez-It Bowl at Camping World Stadium. Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports
It’s significant to note that records in one-score games don’t tell the whole story of a team. Oklahoma could have one or two more wins if a few plays went its way in other games this season.
In this game, they didn’t. That’s been the case all year.
Oklahoma has been good enough to be in games late, but can’t get that one extra stop or convert one additional third down to come away with a win. That failure has defined their season and tonight was no different. The Sooners were 0-5 in one-score games; four of those losses were by three points.
From the called-back touchdown to the missed field goal that came after it. Or the long bomb Florida State receiver Johnny Wilson caught with less than five minutes in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma just missed the mark all year long.
The coaching staff deserves (some) credit
Dec. 29, 2022; Orlando, Florida; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) drops back to pass against the Florida State Seminoles during the first quarter in the 2022 Cheez-It Bowl at Camping World Stadium. Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports
Yes, the result matters. On that front, Oklahoma failed.
In the end, the bowl game is an exhibition with extra pageantry. For most teams, it allows them opportunities for younger players to showcase their abilities in real game action.
Oklahoma did that and remained competitive in a game that most believed they wouldn’t win. Good coaching ensured they were motivated and had a good plan on both sides of the ball, especially in the first half.
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