OU football report card: Fourth-down defense & red zone on both sides excel in Bedlam
Oklahoma’s 34-16 victory over Oklahoma State was workmanlike but impressive, and the grades reflect a performance that was low on sizzle but high on success:
Hurts decision-making: A.
Jalen Hurts ran seven times off apparent shotgun option plays. OU tailbacks ran 26 times, most of them shotgun option plays. That’s a more appropriate ratio than Hurts dominating the carries, like in previous weeks. Hurts also was excellent on passing decisions; he completed 13 of 16, and his misfires came on two deep balls and a throwaway when OSU covered well.
Fourth-down defense: A.
Mike Gundy thrice kept his offense on the field for fourth down. The Cowboys failed all three times. The final try was a fourth-and-10 from near midfield, when OSU trailed by 18 points. So that was desperation, and Parnell Motley intercepted a Dru Brown heave. But the first two stops came with the game still in question. OSU trailed just 27-16 late third quarter when Brown rolled out on fourth-and-3; safety Patrick Fields blitzed and made Brown take a deeper route, then linebacker Caleb Kelly zipped and made Brown unload the ball low to well-covered tight end Logan Carter. In the fourth quarter, with OU leading 34-16 but more than nine minutes remaining, the Cowboys ran superstar tailback Chuba Hubbard up the gut on third-and-2. DaShaun White and David Ogwoebgu stopped him for a 1-yard gain. On fourth down, the Cowboys went back to Hubbard, and Nik Bonitto stopped Hubbard for no gain.
Finding Lamb: C.
OSU did a good job of corralling CeeDee Lamb. The Sooner star receiver carried the ball twice for eight yards total, and Hurts threw to Lamb five times, completing four for 36 yards. The incompletion was a deep ball broken up by safety Tre Sterling. The four completions were short passes — a couple of screens, a swing and a hitch. Getting Lamb the ball in space is rich, but the Sooners also need to get him the ball down field.
Red zone: A.
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The Sooners penetrated the OSU 20-yard line four times and produced three touchdowns and a field goal. OSU penetrated the OU 20-yard line three times and produced one touchdown and two field goals. So the Sooners outscored the Cowboys 24-13 from the red zone, despite getting there just one extra time. That’s the difference between a close game and a comfortable victory.
Deep-ball defense: C.
OSU quarterback Dru Brown completed just one of three deep throws, a 42-yarder to Dillon Stoner that up a second-quarter field goal. But the Sooners often became sloppy when Brown threw deep — Tre Brown committed a pass interference penalty, Delarrin Turner-Yell was flagged for a facemask and Kelly was called for roughing the passer, all on deep throws.
Offensive line: A.
Hurts was mostly protected; he was sacked thrice and scrambled for positive yardage four times, but some of those plays were caused by excellent pass coverage. Tailback Kennedy Brooks had a big day, 160 yards on 22 carries, and Mike Gundy noted that Brooks had huge holes. Most notably, the Sooners averaged 8.2 yards per first-down play, and that’s without a big gainer. Hurts’ 29-yard completion to Lee Morris was the only first-down play that gained at least 20 yards. Brooks gained 106 yards on 12 first-down carries, including gains of 18, 17, 16 and 15.