Carlson: OU football vs. Baylor report card features high marks for Sooners' defense
NORMAN — The Sooners didn’t wow us Saturday night. That’s become the norm during their five-game winning streak. But after the football facility was closed last week because of the coronavirus and the availability of numerous players and coaches was in question throughout the week, maybe a less-than-stellar night was to be expected. The grades reflect the unevenness in OU’s 27-14 victory over Baylor.
Spencer Rattler: C
The first so-so game we’ve seen from the redshirt freshman quarterback in quite some time. Not bad. Not good. Just average. He was 20-of-28 passing for 193 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, but one of his touchdowns could’ve easily been an interception. His pass late in the fourth quarter went off the hands of a Baylor defender and floated right to Brayden Willis. Maybe more concerning about Rattler was the sacks he took. He was brought down four times in the backfield, and in almost every instance, he looked surprised to see a defender near him. His awareness wasn't great. To his credit, he held onto the ball. No fumbles. And in a game that was close until the fourth quarter, not making fatal errors was important.
Defensive tenacity: A
The Sooner defense was hit hard by injuries and coronavirus quarantines. It was without starters Nik Bonitto and Pat Fields plus four other heavy-rotation players from the secondary, including Bookie Radley-Hiles and Woodi Washington. It could’ve made for a difficult night, but the Sooners bowed up. The defensive line got pressure on Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer, sacking him three times and hurrying him four times, and the secondary, while shorthanded, performed well. The longest pass it allowed was a 39-yarder, and Baylor only managed seven other passes that went for 10 yards or more. Only one of those was for more than 20 yards. All in all, a stand-up night for the OU defense.
Offensive electricity: C
The fireworks that we’ve seen out of the Sooners on the offensive side of the ball for the past month-plus fizzled Saturday night. OU had only three plays over 20 yards, and none were more than 30 yards. The creativity that has been evident throughout the season was mostly absent. The Sooner offense was better in the second half than the first, but it was more pedestrian than electric. Maybe our standards have gotten too high, but the most exciting thing that it did all night was Rattler’s scramble-right, scramble-left touchdown pass to Theo Wease early in the third quarter.
First-half first-down efficiency: D
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When the Sooner offense bogged down in the first half, there were lots of reasons why. But what it did on first down certainly didn’t help matters. The Sooners had four consecutive drives that started with negative-yardage plays on first down. A sack of Rattler for minus-10 yards. A pass to Charleston Rambo for minus-1. Another sack for minus-9. And lastly, a Rhamondre Stevenson run for minus-2. All four drives were three-and-out punts. Getting behind the sticks so early in a possession is almost always a recipe for disaster, and for the Sooners, it allowed the Bears to hang around longer than they might’ve otherwise.
Pass swatting: A
The Sooner defense front has been pretty spectacular all season, but Saturday night, it had a block party. Or maybe a swat party. OU defensive linemen and linebackers batted down six passes. The Sooners had eight total pass breakups, but six of them came around the line of scrimmage. The non-secondary players who had a breakup were Brian Asamoah, Perrion Winfrey, Jon-Michael Terry, Josh Ellison, Kori Roberson and LaRon Stokes. The Sooners got into the backfield and batted down Bear passes, but they also managed to get a hand up and swat several while they were being blocked. It showed some serious tenacity by the defensive front.
No Senior Ceremony: D
Listen, I understand why Lincoln Riley and Co. decided not to do a senior ceremony Saturday night. There’s uncertainty about who’s coming back after the NCAA ruled athletes would get a free year of eligibility because of the pandemic, and even for the ones who are more certain that this is their last college season, they wouldn’t have gotten to be on the field with their families and be cheered by a packed house. But when the 2020 senior day happens during the 2021 season, it won’t be the same. Honoring them Saturday night wouldn’t have been the same as past years, but I think you have to celebrate players’ last home game on the day of their last home game.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok, and support her work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.