Oklahoma’s loss is nothing to panic about
Updated: Sep 30, 2020
By Greydon Buhlig
The shocking weekend that Oklahoma fans just witnessed is, what I believe, nothing to panic about. Yes, the defense looked reminiscent of recent years. Yes, Spencer Rattler showed his youth with poor decision making and turnovers. The special teams looked bad. It is early. It is too early to write them off. Too early in the season to say that Spencer Rattler is not the quarterback of the future. Too early to discount this team as a College Football Playoff contender.
I’ll begin with Spencer Rattler. He is a redshirt freshman in his second year at Oklahoma. He was the top dual threat quarterback coming out of high school. He had a lot of hype and a lot of expectations coming into his first year as the Oklahoma starting quarterback. He knew this coming in.
Rattler said that, “Pressure is a privilege,” in a Zoom conference call back on Sep. 8th. This is what all Oklahoma quarterbacks face when becoming the starter. Whether it was Baker Mayfield, Sam Bradford, or Jalen Hurts; pressure comes with the job.
In Rattler’s first game against Missouri State he threw for 290 yards, completed 82.4% of his passes and tossed 4 touchdowns. People were impressed, but wary as it was Missouri State. He did what was expected, but everyone was ready to see how he handled Kansas State. His numbers for the K State games were impressive: 73.2% completion rate, 387 yards, 4 touchdowns. The downside, 3 interceptions.
The last interception sealed the game as Oklahoma was driving to either tie or win the game, Rattler threw behind receiver Drake Stoops and into the arms of a K State defender. This Wildcat team was obviously a better one than the Missouri State team.
Rattler started in his first conference game. He showed his lack of experience with under-thrown balls, missed receivers, and forcing it where there wasn’t a play. All of these are expected and normal for a player of his age. Give him time to gain game experience. Allow him to create chemistry with his receivers and lineman. This doesn’t happen overnight, but when it comes together, this offense will look like the Lincoln Riley machine we are used to seeing.
The second thing we look at is the defensive side of the ball. In the first half, they played lights out. Big hits, secure tackling, major plays in the secondary, we saw it all. The second half was a completely different story. Kansas State had several plays over 50 yards that led to touchdowns or field goals. The Sooners created no turnovers, while Kansas State created four. In the first half, the Oklahoma defense allowed one touchdown, and that drive was capped off by the 39 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Skylar Thompson to receiver Chabastin Taylor. That was the biggest play of the half for Kansas State.
Oklahoma forced the Wildcats’ offense to punt 3 times, and before that touchdown drive, only allowed 27 yards. This defense is good and it has the potential to be one of the better defenses Oklahoma has seen in a long time.
Again, the problem was the second half. It started off well with the first two defensive drives resulting in Kansas State punting, but then the third drive, Thompson completed a pass for 77 yards to Deuce Vaughn, who was dropped at the OU 1 yard line. Two plays later, Thompson took it in for the score. The next scoring drive came from another big play. This time, Thompson tossed it to Justin Gardner for 78 yards, and on the next play, Thompson took it in himself.
The defense didn’t give up another play of more than 40 yards the rest of the game, but left people open and couldn't stop the run. By the way, Thompson was hindered by a calf injury. This defense looked like the defense of old, and not the new and improved Alex Grinch defense he brought.
Before you agree and move on, take into consideration that Oklahoma lost their best linebacker of the last two seasons to the draft. The secondary, corners especially, are very young. The defensive line is almost all new players. This goes for the offense as well. These players have to create chemistry. They have to learn each other's tendencies and figure out how to play with each other. Alex Grinch will get this right, and with help from upperclassmen leaders like Pat Fields and Brendan Radley-Hiles, look for this defense to improve greatly against Iowa State.
The third aspect of the game is special teams. This hasn’t been the greatest aspect of Oklahoma football over the recent years; well, except for place kicking. In the past, OU has had some great special teams, especially on returns. You think of Joe Mixon, Dede Westbrook, guys who make big, explosive plays in the return game. Oklahoma hasn’t had that recently.
However, with a blocked punt, this can swing momentum in a football game drastically. Kansas State had stalled another Oklahoma drive early in the 4th quarter. The Sooners brought out their punt unit for the first time that game. AJ Parker of Kansas State blocked a Reeves Mundschau punt, and two plays later, the Wildcats tied the game at 35. This took the rest of the momentum away from Oklahoma, and they were shut out in the 4th quarter.
As you can see, this weekend showed that there are a lot of areas that need work for this young Oklahoma team. Give credit to Kansas State. The defense played well, and the offense made big plays and capitalized in the second half. In a press conference today, Lincoln Riley said that, “We’re very disappointed, but the resolve is strong. We know how to respond to a loss around here, and we’ll do it, and it’s going to take every single one of us.” Oklahoma plays Iowa State in Ames, Iowa, this Saturday at 6:30 p.m. on ABC.
Stats: Oklahoma Football, ESPN