Sooner Report: Tough Tests Ahead
Oklahoma Ready for Challenging Slate
Oklahoma has looked as good as any team in the country through its first four games, going a perfect 4-0 through the first month of the season and navigating its way through a tricky beginning portion of the schedule. The Sooners have claimed double-digit victories in every game this season, outscoring its opponents 179-66 (44.8-16.5).
While the Crimson and Cream has notched noteworthy victories against Tennessee and at West Virginia, the next five games will more than likely prove to be the team’s biggest test of the 2014 schedule. OU is set to play three teams currently ranked over the next five games in No. 25 TCU, No. 23 Kansas State and No. 7 Baylor.
Sandwiched between each of those showdowns are matchups with rival Texas for the AT&T Red River Showdown and an away game in Ames, Iowa against the Cyclones of Iowa State. The upcoming stretch for Oklahoma will have huge ramifications on the inaugural College Football Playoff, as the selection committee will be watching the Sooners every step of the way.
Scouting Report on Horned Frogs
During Monday’s media luncheon and post-practice offensive media session, much of the questions focused on what to expect from TCU this weekend. The Horned Frogs have gotten off to a good start in 2014, posting a 3-0 record, with wins over Samford, Minnesota and SMU. The solid start earned the team a spot in the rankings this week for the first time this season.
Saturday’s matchup with OU will be TCU’s Big 12 opener, marking the beginning of its third season in the conference. Thus far, the Horned Frogs have been excellent on both sides of the ball, outscoring opponents 134-21 (44.7-7.0).
“We’re excited about this next stretch of games that we have,” said OU head coach Bob Stoops. “In particular going to TCU here this week, a team that’s playing really well. Undefeated and then you watch them and the biggest difference is, they’ve always played great defense. Gary Patterson’s defense they still lead the league in about every category. They’re playing really well, they’re sound fundamentally, they’re disciplined and they know what they doing.”
The TCU defense that Stoops speaks of has put up staggering numbers to open the season, leading the Big 12 in scoring defense at seven points per game and total defense, allowing just 218.7 yards per contest. Another strong suit for the team from Fort Worth has been winning the turnover battle, totaling 10 takeaways as opposed to four giveaways. What makes this TCU team scary for opposing teams so far this season is its high powered offense that complements its perennial stout defense.
“They’re really executing well,” said Stoops. “(Trevone) Boykin’s throwing the ball well and running it. They’re using a bunch of players. You see them spread out and they’re making you cover the whole field.
“They’ve done a good job to this point being highly productive offensively and always sound in their special teams, so it will be another exciting challenge here in the Big 12 going down there to play them at their place here this weekend.”
Quarterback Trevone Boykin, the signal caller garnering the praise from Stoops, is coming off a big performance against SMU, totaling six touchdowns (four passing and two rushing) on 280 yards in the air and 62 on the ground. For his efforts Boykin was named the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award National Player of the Week.
Patterson Praises Oklahoma
TCU head coach Gary Patterson bestowed many kind words on the Sooners during his weekly Big 12 teleconference. The Horned Frogs coach was not shy in praising OU’s defense, offense and coaching staff.
“They are a historical program and they are a very good program,” said Patterson. “They are very talented on both sides of the ball and this is the best defense I have seen from them in 10 years or when Mike (Stoops) left.”
The Sooners’ strong run game and quarterback Trevor Knight’s consistent play has also caught the eye of TCU’s heads coach.
“They have good running backs and a quarterback who makes good decisions,” said Patterson. “They are a normal Oklahoma team that can beat you in any phase. We need to go play what we play. I think one of the things you have to do is play good defense.”
To wrap up his take on the Sooners, Patterson attributed OU’s sustained success to Stoops and the job he has done with the program.
“Coach Stoops has done a great job since he has been there and he is the first Big 12 coach to 100 wins and they are highly ranked; deservedly so,” said Patterson. “We have a lot of respect for them and are looking forward to the ball game.”
Saturday’s showdown at TCU will be the 14th in program history, with Oklahoma holding a 9-4 record in the series. Surprisingly, the Sooners are just 3-4 when playing the Horned Frogs in Norman and 5-0 when playing at Fort Worth, the location of this weekend’s game. An interesting stat to note is Oklahoma has never allowed TCU to score more than 20 points in any of the 13 previous matchups.
Since joining the Big 12 two seasons ago, the Sooners are 2-0 against TCU, but both games have been decided by a touchdown or less. When the Crimson and Cream traveled to Fort Worth in 2012, OU pulled out a 24-17 victory, allowing just 11 TCU first downs in the game. Last season No. 11 Oklahoma escaped with a 20-17 win over the unranked Horned Frogs. The defense again came up big for OU, holding TCU to 210 yards of total offense on its way to victory.
On FOX Sports Oklahoma on Friday at 11 p.m., be sure to check out a look back at the 1954 Oklahoma-TCU contest.
National Attention for the Sooners
Ranked No. 3 and No. 4 in the Amway Coaches Poll and AP Poll, respectively, the Sooners have started to garner a lot of attention. This includes on the national level from a variety of media outlets.
Prior to the TCU contest this weekend, fans can catch a feature on FOX about junior defensive end Charles Tapper. Tom Rinaldi of ESPN College Gameday has been in Norman with a crew this week chronicling the legacy of the Shepard family at Oklahoma. The feature is tentatively scheduled to air before the Red River Showdown against Texas on Oct. 11,
Additionally, on Tuesday, Sports Illustrated photographers were in Norman to capture images of junior linebacker Eric Striker for an upcoming magazine feature.
Over the next couple of weeks, fans will definitely have plenty of opportunities to watch and read stories about their Sooners.
Dominant Rushing Game vs. Stout Defense
Four games into the season, OU’s running backs have been a dominant force. In 2014, the Sooners are averaging 222.8 yards per game on the ground, including 301 yards at West Virginia, 242 of which came from freshman Samaje Perine.
The Sooners will face a stout rushing defense this weekend in TCU, which currently ranks third in the Big 12 (91.7 ypg). Facing such a solid run defense should give the Sooners a chance to make plays through the air and on the perimeter, according to co-offensive coordinate Josh Heupel.
Heupel said that while there are some teams who do not stack the line of scrimmage in order to counteract the running game of the Sooners, he expects to see that increase some with OU’s success in the area.
“When you run the ball the way we have the last couple of weeks, people are going to load up on you, but hopefully that lends itself to making plays out on the perimeter as well,” Heupel explained.
Perine echoed this thought, saying he sees it as an opportunity for the Sooners to spread the ball around.
“Them (the Horned Frogs) loading the box means they are going to have one-on-one coverage and I have the utmost confidence in our receivers that they can beat them and get down the field,” Perine stated.
Thus, the Sooners aim to implement a balanced offensive attack, and this weekend should be no different. As far as a 50/50 run/pass game? Stoops has other ideas.
“Whenever we say we want to be balanced it isn’t 50/50,” Stoops said. “You want to be effective running and throwing just so that if somebody, in a particular way that they’re trying to defend you, you could take advantage of it. So that’s what we mean by being balanced.”
Kasitati and Barnett Bring Joy to Children’s Hospital
A couple of Sooners and their musical abilities try to spread joy to patients at the Children’s Hospital at the OU Medical Center. Last week, this act went viral on social media and appeared on a long list of national websites.
Each month, offensive lineman Nila Kasitati and punter Jed Barnett visit the hospital and play songs for the children there. The two come equipped with a guitar and a ukulele, while Kasitati lends his voice to the performances.
During OU’s bye week, a video of the two Sooners singing Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning,” was originally posted by a patient’s mother on Facebook, and it spread from there.Fans can catch a full feature on the duo on Sooner Sports TV’s Sooner GameDay prior to the TCU game. The official pregame show will air one hour prior to kickoff at 1:30 p.m. CT on FS Oklahoma, FS Southwest Plus or online at SoonerSports.tv.