Tramel: OU football has Killer B's — Nik Bonitto, Tre Brown, Gabe Brkic — in Big 12 championship report card
OU’s 27-21 victory over Iowa State on Saturday in the Big 12 Championship Game was a thriller, and the grades reflect a game worthy of the Sooners’ sixth straight conference title.
Pass rush: A.
Perrion Winfrey, Ronnie Perkins and Nik Bonitto led a second-half assault on Brock Purdy. The Iowa State quarterback didn’t look comfortable in the first half, but he was running for his life in the second half. The Cyclones had 28 pass plays after halftime; Purdy scrambled or was sacked on 11 of those, and the majority of the times he passed from the pocket were quick screens. Two of Purdy’s three interceptions came in scramble mode, including Tre Brown’s game-sealing pick with 1:05 left.
Kicking game: A.
OU won special teams. Brown’s two 43-yard kickoff returns were huge; the first set up a touchdown late in the second quarter and the second set up Gabe Brkic’s 32-yard field goal with two minutes left in the game. Brkic missed a 36-yard field-goal attempt in the first quarter but atoned with a 54-yard field goal in the second quarter, OU’s longest field goal in 30 years. Reeves Mundschau dropped four of his seven punts inside the ISU 20-yard line, including a kick downed at the 2-yard line, which set up that long Brkic field goal.
Ground game: A.
Iowa State has the nation’s leading rusher, in tailback Breece Hall. Yet OU was the superior running team. Rhamondre Stevenson carried 18 times for 97 tough yards. Stevenson was not thrown for a loss, and he had gains of 12, 25, 15 and 11 yards. Meanwhile, the Sooners kept Hall in check. Hall gained 79 yards on 23 carries, but six times he was held to no gain or lost yardage, and only once did Hall reel off a double-digit gain, a 15-yard run in the second quarter.
Riley adjustments: D.
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The Sooners by halftime had 24 points and 271 total yards. OU had 10 first downs in the first quarter alone. But Iowa State’s pressure on Spencer Rattler increased in the second quarter and continued in the second half. In a six-possession span in the middle quarters, OU five times failed to make a first down. The Sooners punted on their first five possessions of the second half. Even the crucial drive to a field goal late in the game came with more brawn (Brayden Willis, with a tough catch and later a tough run after a catch) than brains. Lincoln Riley had a good first half. Using third-team quarterback Chandler Morris on goal-line offense produced an early touchdown, and a quick pass over the middle to Stevenson after a fake handoff was a cool surprise. But Riley admitted to some self-frustration over the offense’s failure to move in the second half.
Tight-end containment: B.
Charlie Kolar had a big game for the Cyclones, with six catches for 92 yards and a touchdown. A couple of times, the Sooners’ diminutive defensive backs seemed leery of taking on Kolar after the catch. But for the most part, OU did a good job minimizing the Cyclones’ use of its three huge tight ends. Purdy threw Kolar’s way only seven times (Tre Norwood intercepted a lob in the end zone, intended for Kolar), and fellow ISU tight ends Dylan Seohner and Chase Allen combined for just two catches and were targeted by Purdy just one other time combined. Norwood, Pat Fields and Delarrin Turner-Yell largely neutralized the Cyclones’ big weapons.
Spencer Rattler: A.
The OU quarterback was spectacular in the first half, completing 14 of 18 for 184 yards. His 45-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Mims was a deep-ball work of art. In the second half, Rattler was under pressure more but wasn’t rattled. He completed eight of 16 for 88 yards and routinely made wise throwaways. Rattler’s bullet pass to Willis on a slant pattern late, when OU faced second-and-11, went for 15 yards and gave the Sooners much-needed relief.