The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly from the Oklahoma Sooners’ 28-14 win over Iowa State

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It’s always a good feeling to get a win. Though it would be nice to have a blowout win like Michigan, Notre Dame, or Ohio State got, that doesn’t seem to be the way things are going to work for the Oklahoma Sooners in 2021. They seemed destined to play as many close games as possible this season and Saturday was no different.

Oklahoma’s won a lot of football games in the course of their history, so it creates high expectations. But in a sport that’s seeing more and more parity all the time, it’s important to enjoy and cherish each win. With just one regular season game remaining, potentially a Big 12 championship game, and a bowl game, the Sooners may only have as many as three games left this season.

As has been the case for much of this season, it may not have been a complete performance for the Sooners, but they got the win and that’s the most important thing. Now they get set to face Oklahoma State with a chance to clinch their spot in the Big 12 championship game.

But before we look ahead, let’s look go back to Saturday’s win and take a look at this week’s “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” including some bonus “goods.”

Up Next: Is this a Defensive team?

The Good: Defense Answers the Call

In each of the last two weeks, the Oklahoma Sooners offense has struggled at times. Last week against Baylor, they couldn’t get anything of substance going. This week the offense provided some help on the ground via the run, but the passing game continued to struggle.

Like last week, the defense held the opposition in check for much of the game. Unlike last week, they didn’t let the game get out of hand in the fourth quarter.

Though Iowa State was able to score 14 points in the fourth, the defense continued to battle and came up with just enough plays to hold on for the win.

The pass rush was relentless throughout and the defense was opportunistic, forcing three turnovers and creating twice that in turnover opportunities with six forced fumbles. As impressive as the turnovers was Oklahoma’s ability to bring the ball carrier down on first contact. They missed just six tackles. That’s only the second time all season where the Sooners have missed fewer than 10 tackles in a game.

Oklahoma rushers collected a total of 34 pressures per Pro Football Focus and seven sacks. They were after Brock Purdy all game, and while he had a decent day throwing the football, was never able to attack the Sooners down the field.

The Sooners bottled up Breece Hall, which was huge considering the day the Baylor Bears had against them the week before. Hall averaged just 3.1 yards per carry and 1.56 yards after contact per attempt. He had only one run of more than 10 yards and forced only one missed tackle. I can’t understate how important that was to the outcome of the game.

Oklahoma’s defense was on the field for 89 plays, not counting penalties. And they continued to show up in the fourth quarter and make plays. If there was any area where the Sooners showed some holes it was in the secondary, which is understandable. Pat Fields, Delarrin Turner-Yell, Woodi Washington, and Justin Broiles each played all 89 snaps. That’s incredible conditioning and also provides some context as to how Iowa State was able to score 14 in the fourth and nearly come back to tie late in the game.

Up Next: Offensive Line Provides more Good

Running Game has a Good day

Kennedy Brooks and the offensive line bounced back from their performance against Baylor to help carry an offense that was struggling to move the football through the air.

Brooks averaged 6.8 yards per carry and had three runs of 15 yards or more. On their fourth quarter scoring drive, the Sooners didn’t attempt a pass. Brooks carried the ball three times for 43 yards and drew a 15-yard face mask penalty as well.

Eric Gray took over in the red zone and carried the ball twice for 10 yards and the touchdown that made it 28-14.

The offensive line blocked it perfectly on Caleb Williams touchdown run. He went 74 yards virtually untouched for the Sooners first score of the game.

The only negative from an overall good day was when they needed a drive at the end of the game, they couldn’t get any push. On their final drive, after Iowa State scored to make it 28-21, the Oklahoma Sooners ran three plays and gained -6 yards.

As they were trying to run out the clock, it would have been nice to see the Sooners get some positive gains, but credit to Iowa State for blowing up the run game.

Up Next: Injuries always Hurt

The Bad: Losing D.J. Graham to Injury

Lost in the second half to an undisclosed injury, D.J. Graham was forced to miss the rest of the game. While Key Lawrence and Justin Broiles played well on Saturday, Graham is one of this team’s best cover corners.

It remains to be seen if the injury will keep him out of Bedlam, but the Oklahoma Sooners could use him as they get set to take on Tay Martin and the Cowboys.

The Ugly: Where’d the Passing Game Go?

For the second consecutive week, the Oklahoma Sooners passing game was nonexistent. Much like last week, Caleb Williams and the Sooners receivers struggled to get anything consistent going in the passing game.

Caleb Williams was under pressure on 10 of his 24 drop backs. That might indicate he didn’t have enough time to throw, but if you look a little bit deeper, that’s not the case at all. According to Pro Football Focus, Caleb Williams averaged 3.98 seconds from the snap to the throw. That’s an eternity. When he was under pressure, Williams held the ball on average for 5.5 seconds. Quarterbacks should look to get rid of the ball in 2.5 to 3 seconds. When Williams was kept clean, he did that, letting go of the ball at an average time to throw of 2.89 seconds.

Under pressure, Williams was 2 of 6 for 25 yards and a touchdown. He was also sacked four times. Iowa State opted to play coverage vs. Williams. He was only blitzed twice. Against four or fewer rushers, Williams had 22 dropbacks, was 6 of 16 for one touchdown and one interception and had a passer rating. (NFL) of 41.4. Against the blitz, Williams was 2 of 2 for 36 yards. He averged 3.06 from snap to throw against the blitz.

It appears as if teams know how to combat the talented freshman at this point and that’s something Lincoln Riley and the offensive staff need to look into to combat. Dropping seven or more players into coverage appears to have created issues for Caleb Williams and the Sooners passing game. Williams is an incredibly talented player. Too talented to be held in check like he has the last couple of weeks. The coaching staff needs to come up with a better gameplan for how to combat the opposition’s coverage packages. Whether that means a heavy rushing attack featuring Caleb Williams or underneath throws to take what the defense is giving, the Sooners have to figure it out.

Oklahoma State brings to Bedlam the eighth best Pro Football Focus coverage grade to Bedlam, so you know Jim Knowles and the Cowboys defense is going to throw some challeges at the talented freshman.

Up Next: Bonus Good – QB1’s Resiliency

The Bonus Good: Caleb Williams Resiliency

The last couple of weeks have been a struggle for the Oklahoma Sooners passing game. Caleb Williams was just 8 of 18 on the day. He was 4 of 10 in the first half but bounced back to go 4 of 8 in the second half with a touchdown and an interception.

50% passing in the second half certainly isn’t great, but it was an improvement from the 40% completion percentage he accrued in the first half. More important than the completion percentage, Williams was able to find Mario Williams in the end zone for a spectacular toe-touch score that put the Sooners in front 21-7 in the third quarter.

While it’s a far cry from the numbers Williams and the passing game put up against Texas Tech, he made a play when it needed to be made.

Caleb Williams might be hitting a freshman wall. Defenses certainly have an idea of how to slow him down. The good news for Sooners fans, like we saw in the Texas game, he’ll never give up on a play or on a game. And that’s an intangible that can’t be schemed against or game planned for.

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