Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

No. 6 Oklahoma Enters Lincoln With Mistakes To Fix

September 16, 2022

The Sooners are coming to Lincoln at last. Once Nebraska’s fiercest rival, Oklahoma will play in Memorial Stadium for the first time since 2009 come kickoff on Saturday.

And the Sooners are bringing the No. 6 ranking with them.

Oklahoma (2-0) comes into the game having beat UTEP (45-13) and Kent State (33-3) at home. Those wins helped the Sooners move from No. 9 in preseason rankings up to No. 6. They’re doing this under first-year head coach Brent Venables. The former Clemson defensive coordinator took over the program when Lincoln Riley left abruptly for USC.

And the Sooners look, so far, like they haven’t missed a beat under new leadership.

Offense

One of the most impressive things about this Oklahoma team is its offense. Riley’s offensive system, as head coach and when he was offensive coordinator under Bob Stoops, was a machine. That resilient offense remains under Venables and current offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby.

The Sooners average 461 yards per game. That’s with 492 yards against UTEP and 430 yards against Kent State. They have scored on 12 of their 26 drives this season. Ten of those ended in touchdowns. Six of those have gone for 75 yards or more. Now, Oklahoma was held scoreless until 18 seconds before halftime against Kent State. The Sooners also failed to score in the fourth quarter of that game.

Dillon Gabriel leads the offense with 529 passing yards and a 70.6 percent completion percentage. He has five touchdowns and no interceptions. Marvin Mims is his leading receiver with 244 yards and two touchdowns. Eric Gray is the leading rusher with 173 yards on 23 carries. However, Marcus Major has 12 carries for 92 yards and three touchdowns, while Gray has yet to find the end zone.

Defense

Oklahoma’s defense has seemingly rebounded from a rough start. Winless UTEP barely moved the ball on the ground in the opener (28 yards) but chipped away at the Sooner defense for an 85-yard touchdown drive.

The Sooners have limited opponents to 35 yards or less on 16 of 24 drives. Kent State collectively didn’t reach 300 total yards last week but did take a 3-0 lead with a 72-yard drive in the second quarter that lasted 7 minutes, 21 seconds. Oklahoma pulled away with an interception, fumble recovery and safety, all in the second half.

“We had some things that didn’t go our way on many occasions, but we buckled down and responded within drives to either execute and put the ball in the end zone, or on defense, we found a way to get off the field and get a stop when we needed to,” Venables said after the Kent State game.

Linebacker Danny Stutsman (21 tackes, 4.0 TFL, one sack), defensive back Billy Bowman (20 tackles, two fumble recoveries) and defensive back Justin Harrington (seven tackles, one interception) have been the playmakers for them so far.

Special Teams

Kicker Zach Schmit is a perfect 10 of 10 on extra points and 2 for 2 on field goals (22 and 25 yards). Punter Michael Turk, meanwhile, has flipped the field when needed by averaging 40.9 yards per punt. Turk was Oklahoma’s punter last year and sent three of his four against Nebraska inside the 20.

Mims is the elected punt returner, averaging 19.3 yards on three returns. Bowman is the lead kick returner with a 16.8-yard average on five returns.

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