Saturday’s win against BYU was all about willpower. Oklahoma didn’t play its best, especially from a defensive standpoint, and yet, the Sooners found a way to escape a scrappy BYU team playing on senior day.
There were some nice moments or individual performances to take away from the game, like Jayden Gibson’s big day, Billy Bowman putting forth his best performance of the season, and Gavin Sawchuk continuing to morph into the bellcow running back his head coach publicly claimed he was looking for.
There were other positives, too, like Jackson Arnold’s performance off the bench, that helped push Oklahoma to victory. With the good comes the bad, and Oklahoma’s front seven was a large part of that bad. They struggled most of the game and were a significant reason BYU was a threat to potentially upset Oklahoma.
When the dust settled, the Sooners came out on top, and with a short week before they play TCU, the Sooners must regroup fast.
In the meantime, here is our stock report to see who is trending up and down as the Sooners prepare for their final Big 12 home game.
Trending Up: Billy Bowman
Billy Bowman is one of the few pieces from the previous coaching regime that has made a name for himself. His athleticism has always been well documented, but he has become a playmaking safety under Brent Venables, Ted Roof, and safeties coach Brandon Hall.
His best performance of the year per Pro Football Focus was on Saturday, as he posted the highest grade for a defender in the game with a pristine 90.7. He earned a 92 coverage grade.
His pick-six turned the game back in Oklahoma’s favor when BYU had every ounce of momentum. It was a product of paying attention in film study and using the athletic ability bestowed upon him.
What he will do after the season remains to be seen, but Oklahoma would be wise to try to entice him to come back for one final season. He could be an All-America type of player in 2024.
Trending Down: Defensive line
Oklahoma’s defensive line hasn’t been a spectacular group in 2023. They’ve had good games and incredible moments, but they’ve never been genuinely dominant.
They have been rock solid. However, their performance in Provo was underwhelming.
BYU entered the game with question marks all along their offensive line. Statistically, they were the worst offense in the Big 12. Yet, the way BYU bodied the Sooners defensive line in the run game and allowed just three hurries to defensive linemen is not going to cut it.
A bounce-back performance, especially upfront defensively, is in order against TCU.
Trending Up: Jayden Gibson
Jayden Gibson has taken a significant step forward this year. No, he’s not been a starter, but he has been a vital part of Emmett Jones’ receiver rotation. Gibson has touchdowns in two straight games and had a career-high in yards on Saturday.
Drake Stoops will depart the program after the season. Andrel Anthony will be back, but his health will be a question going into 2024. Jalil Farooq could explore professional opportunities. Gibson’s presence for next year means something. Continuing to stack good games together to end the season is the perfect way to segue into the offseason.
Trending Down: Oklahoma's road struggles
Oklahoma won this game on Saturday, but that doesn’t negate that they have not played a clean road game this season. They’ve struggled to do so on the road in Venables’ tenure.
Tulsa would be the exception to the rule this year, with maybe the road trip to Iowa State last year as the lone exception. So, across two seasons, the Sooners have played a relatively clean and easy game on the road just twice?
That’s not good. Oklahoma’s road struggles are something Venables must address this winter before Oklahoma prepares to play in SEC road environments that are notoriously difficult to play in.
Trending Up: Jackson Arnold's future
It wasn’t a lot to go off of, but it was the first action from Jackson Arnold in a meaningful scenario. On the road, the score tied, and here he comes off the bench in relief of Dillon Gabriel.
The numbers aren’t eye-popping, but his demeanor, the throws he made, and his decision-making all stood out. The Sooners have to be excited for what’s to come with Jackson Arnold at the helm.