Report Card: Defense bent but didn’t break as Oklahoma escaped BYU

Saturday was an odd day for the Oklahoma Sooners. The result is all that matters, but how the Sooners got there was a fascinating journey.

Oklahoma lost Dillon Gabriel at halftime to a concussion, and the Sooners had to roll with untested five-star freshman Jackson Arnold off the bench. The defense was not up to par and jeopardized Oklahoma’s chances of winning. However, two big plays from Billy Bowman and Danny Stutsman changed the game’s complexion.

The game was anything but clean, yet somehow, the Sooners passed their final road test of the season after failing in their last two trips away from Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

Without further ado, here are grades for the Sooners win against BYU.

Quarterbacks: A-

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

In the first half, Dillona Gabriel looked like he had begun to pick up right where he left off against West Virginia. He was 13-21 for 191 yards and two touchdown passes, which went to Nic Anderson and Jayden Gibson.

He wouldn’t play a single snap in the second half, and instead, we saw the first bit of action for Jackson Arnold in quite some time.

It wasn’t with a 35-point lead like he had when he came in during the Tulsa game, but the Sooners needed Arnold step up to help them win this game.

He started off rocky, which is to be expected for a true freshman playing an actual road game against a team fighting for bowl eligibility.

Arnold settled in, showed off the arm talent that had people gushing over him out of high school, and didn’t turn the ball over. He was only 5 of 9 for 33 yards, but his final completion was his best.

He made the proper read at the line of scrimmage, checked into slants based on the look the BYU defense gave him, and threw a dart to Jalil Farooq to seal the game for Oklahoma. That’s high-quality coaching and quarterbacking from a true freshman. The Sooners look to be in good hands.

Running Backs: A

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Gavin Sawchuk has put a stranglehold on the starting running back position.

His performance since UCF has been inspiring, and he’s head and shoulders been the best back on the team the last few weeks.

He’s explosive, patient, and has the home run ability to turn a 17-yard run into a 45-yarder or even a touchdown. His touchdown yesterday highlighted many of those traits. He was patient at pressing the line of scrimmage, accelerated through the left side, ran through some arm tackle attempts, and got in the endzone for a 16-yard touchdown that would be the game-winner.

Sawchuk finished with 14 carries for 107 yards and a touchdown. It was his third straight 100-yard effort.

Tawee Walker spelled Sawchuk with five carries for 25 yards, but it’s clear that Walker has been relegated to RB2 on the depth chart.

Wide Receivers: B+

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Jayden Gibson led the way in receiving yards on Saturday, hauling in two catches for 82 yards in the first half. One of those was a 27-yard touchdown. He has scored in back-to-back games and is quietly building a case to be a significant rotation piece for the remaining two games.

Jalil Farooq recorded the most catches on the day, with five for 53 yards. His most important was the pass he hauled in from Jackson Arnold on that last third down that sealed the game.

Drake Stoops continued to show up with four catches for 63 yards.

The passing offense was humming with Gabriel under center and, understandably, hit a wall when Arnold came in. If Gabriel cannot go for TCU, the Sooners receivers have to show up in the same way for Arnold as they have for Gabriel.

Tight Ends: B

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Stogner was the only tight end with a recordable stat on Saturday as he hauled in one catch for 10 yards, but the work Stogner did blocking was commendable.

These last few weeks, Stogner has elevated his level of play.

Offensive Line: B

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Bedenbaugh’s group performed pretty well on Saturday despite the absence of Tyler Guyton. Jacob Sexton held his own at the right tackle spot.

Besides some penalties, the offensive line did a decent job.

The Sooners have found something with their running game with their gap running schemes. Pulling the guards has helped Oklahoma get athletic guys in space and out in front for Gavin Sawchuk.

Walter Rouse was rock solid in pass protection earning a pass-blocking grade of 87.7 from Pro Football Focus. Cayden Green was second at 80.3.

No one truly excelled individually on the ground, but as a collective, the line did enough to open holes for Gavin Sawchuk.

Defensive Line: C-

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday was a disappointing display by this Oklahoma defensive line.

Entering the game, the BYU offensive line had some significant issues and was considered a weak point on this team. Yet, you couldn’t tell from their performance on Saturday as they mauled the Sooners upfront en route to over 200 yards on the ground.

BYU RB Aidan Robbins had 182 yards and routinely reached the second level when he got carries. Da’Jon Terry posted the best run defense grade at 73.2 and recorded two stops.

The Sooners also struggled to get any significant pass rush going either. Their lone sack came from linebacker Danny Stutsman, who came in off a blitz. Jake Retzlaff regularly had more than enough time to make plays in the passing game.

The Sooners had four tackles for loss, none of which were made by defensive linemen either.

Linebackers: C-

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma’s linebackers had a rough time Saturday in Provo. Danny Stutsman was playing sick but had a game-changing strip sack that flipped the game in Oklahoma’s favor. He recorded the highest pressure grade on the team, with 78.1. and he had five stops, according to PFF.

The rest of the linebacking core didn’t record a defensive grade over 60. It was an abysmal showing. They struggled to fit gaps properly all game long.

Defensive backs: B

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

While the front seven struggled, the Sooners’ secondary helped hold BYU to less than 200 yards passing. They recorded another interception to strengthen their grip on their number two ranking in the nation with interceptions. Billy Bowman recorded the highest defensive grade on the team yesterday, grading out at 90.7 with a 92 grade in coverage. His 100-yard pick-six flipped the momentum.

Freshman Peyton Bowen had a good day with a 72.5 tackle grade. Woodi Washington was tough in run defense while holding it down outside.

More: Social media reacts to Billy Bowman’s Pick-6

Specialists: C

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Brent Venables has a kicker problem. He has to realize that Zach Schmit is not reliable. He missed a chip shot 27-yard field goal, and if he can’t hit field goals under 40 yards, he can’t be your starting kicker. Whether it’s the remainder of the season or in the offseason, kicker is firmly on the list of things Oklahoma needs to address from a personnel standpoint.

On the punting side, Luke Elzing did well,  flipping field position, and even threw a dime of a pass on a fake that was eventually negated because of offensive pass interference.

Gavin Freeman on punt returns is becoming an adventure each week. It may be time for Jay Nunez to look elsewhere for his punt returner.

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Story originally appeared on Sooners Wire