Saturday’s dismantling of Tulsa was a much-needed conclusion for the Sooners to their nonconference schedule. The Sooners needed to erase any doubts, bouncing back and disposing of teams handily after a grind-it-out win against SMU.
The concerns about the conservative nature of the offense against SMU were put to rest as Oklahoma slung the ball all over the field for 476 yards.
Defensively, the Sooners grounded the Tulsa passing attack, allowing less than 250 yards through the air.
It was a convincing win and a pleasant, feel-good tuneup before they turn their heads to Cincinnati. Big 12 play is upon them, but before we turn the page, let’s pass out grades for this weekend’s performances.
Dillon Gabriel is playing high-level football right now. Saturday capped an impressive three-game stretch.
Against the Golden Hurricane, he shined bright, completing passes to all parts of the field with surgical precision to the tune of a completion percentage of 90%.
It was a clinic.
He put the ball where it needed to be, and aside from a heat check throw that led to an interception, his offensive coordinator, Jeff Lebby, has to be proud of what he saw.
His backup, Jackson Arnold, came in during the fourth quarter and showed us why he was a five-star prospect out of high school. His arm talent is certifiably elite. On a first down play-action call, Arnold dropped a dime along the sideline to sophomore Nic Anderson for a 50-yard score.
The only complaint anyone should have about the quarterback play this week? The usage of Jackson Arnold as if he’s Blake Bell. Stop it.
Running Backs: B-minus
Give credit where it’s due. The fan base and media wondered why Jovantae Barnes and Gavin Sawchuk hadn’t received much work, and Jeff Lebby made sure to get them some in this game.
Both played a decent amount and led the team in carries against Tulsa. Barnes had 13 carries for 68 yards and a touchdown. Sawchuk had nine carries for 25 yards and a score.
The duo didn’t look like they did in the Cheez-It Bowl, but maybe that’s just it. Both were reportedly nicked up over the offseason and could be finding their groove.
They weren’t explosive as they were in December against Florida State, and that’s the leading cause of concern. Is it a product of them getting healthier? We don’t know yet, but seeing them in extended roles was good.
The coming weeks should tell us more about their health and how Lebby plans to use these backs. Marcus Major and Tawee Walker, the workhorses from the first two games, didn’t register a carry against Tulsa.
It sounds like Lebby and the Sooners coaching staff will go with a hot hand moving forward.
Offensive Line: B-plus
Oklahoma’s offensive line dominated in pass protection on Saturday. And when it did, Dillon Gabriel dissected the Tulsa secondary. Gabriel was 22 of 24 with a clean pocket for 361 yards on 15 yards per attempt. He also threw all five of his touchdowns in this scenario.
Hopefully, Savion Byrd is OK after leaving the game. Before he left, he had an outstanding bounce-back performance after struggling against SMU.
His replacement, true freshman Cayden Green, came in and looked rock solid. We also saw Jacob Sexton return to action and play left tackle next to Green at left guard.
The only ding on Oklahoma is the run-blocking. The Sooners aren’t mauling teams yet like they did at times last year, and it’s a certainty Bill Bedenbaugh wants better from his group there.
Their first major test comes this week. They will take on an excellent Bearcats front that will give us an accurate benchmark of what this offensive line can be.
Wide Receivers: A-plus
In the offseason, many believed Oklahoma’s wide receivers were improved. Now, it looks like we, as a collective, still sold them short.
Saturday was one of the better days of wide receiver play since the Sooners trotted out CeeDee Lamb and Hollywood Brown on the same team. It was masterful stuff. Jalil Farooq, Andrel Anthony and Nic Anderson each racked up more than 100 yards receiving.
Andrel Anthony continues to be a playmaker for this team. He’s a star in the making for the Sooners. He had four catches for 112 yards, headlined by a big 55-yarder on the Sooners’ first offensive possession.
Jalil Farooq is in a nice rhythm after being shut out against Arkansas State. He has posted scores in back-to-back games. He had six catches for 126 yards and a touchdown to open the scoring.
The final 100-yard receiver, Nic Anderson, was the most surprising. Every time he touched the ball, he scored. He had three catches for 120 yards, and three touchdowns. It was an incredible performance. He is a testament to Emmett Jones’ teaching and development prowess.
This type of playmaking, along with Drake Stoops’ steady play in the slot (eight catches), makes Oklahoma a dangerous offense.
Tight Ends: B
As the season wears on, it’s becoming increasingly clear the Sooners will not get much production from the tight end room week to week.
Austin Stogner was the only tight end to record a touch, and it was a 10-yard reception. This group hasn’t figured as much into the offensive game plan as it did last year with Brayden Willis in the building. We’ll continue to monitor it as the season goes on, but the most Oklahoma can ask is that it gets good blocking from Blake Smith and Stogner when it goes to 12 personnel (two tight ends).
Defensive Line: A
Saturday, we saw the Sooners defensive line produce a little bit. Trace Ford posted one of the highest defensive grades on the team and almost returned an interception for six points.
Gracen Halton shined with his 12 snaps. Isaiah Coe and Da’Jon Terry also had good days, as both were a big reason the Tulsa Golden Hurricane could not run the ball.
The Sooners defense held Tulsa to 75 yards on 46 carries, a paltry average of 1.6 yards per rush. That’s elite.
Five-star freshman Adepoju Adebawore had his first sack, 2.5 tackles for loss, and totaled three stops on Saturday. He continues to impress.
Jonah Laulu also chipped in with two QB hurries. It was an outstanding day for Todd Bates and Miguel Chavis’s position groups.
Stop us if you’ve heard us before, Danny Stutsman was the best defensive player on the field on Saturday. Stutsman continues to dominate games for Oklahoma, and in the win, he continued with a pick six. He graded out as the best player on defense per PFF. He also added a QB pressure, three stops with nine tackles, and two for a loss.
Jaren Kanak may have had his best game of the season, as he graded out favorably. He had a sack of the quarterback and graded out well in coverage.
Kip Lewis and Kobie McKinzie also saw some action and played solid.
Defensive Backs: A
Emmett Jones is getting a lot of deserved love for his development of the wide receivers, but Jay Valai should also be getting praise for his work with the corners.
Oklahoma has multiple options behind its starters at cornerback, and they have shown up in a big way the last two weeks.
Last week, it was Kani Walker. This week, Kendel Dolby posted the highest coverage grade among defensive backs and gained his first interception.
Starting corner Gentry Williams hauled his second career interception in front of his family and friends early in the first quarter and finished with six tackles.
Woodi Washington continues to be rock solid, and Key Lawrence had an interception, his second big play in as many weeks.
Outside of the back-to-back drives in the second quarter where the Sooners ran a lot of soft Cover 2 and had a few busts in the secondary, Oklahoma’s secondary was excellent.
Peyton Bowen started at Cheetah with Justin Harrington out do to injury and did well with two pass breakups.
The specialists were quiet as the Sooners punted once and kicked one field goal. Zach Schmit nailed his lone attempt.
Jalil Farooq had three kick returns, and one went for 62 yards, showcasing how dynamic he can be with the ball in his hands. We could see him house one sooner rather than later this season.
That’s the third week in a row Oklahoma received a big play from special teams. There seems to be a trend developing.