Posted on: December 31, 2010 8:17 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2010 8:18 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The Basics: Oklahoma (11-2) vs. UConn (8-4), Jan. 1, 8:30pm ET
Why You Should Watch: If you like those nature programs where a pack of lionesses hunt down and ruthlessly slaughter a gazelle, this is totally the bowl game for you. Probably. Possibly. Not if you go by Bob Stoops' prior track record in BCS games, admittedly; he and his Sooners have lost their last five. And that's the real reason you have to tune in, no matter how lopsided a matchup this might appear to be. If a UConn team that is totally overmatched on paper -- remember that the Huskies lost to Temple, were shut out by Louisville, and won the Big East despite being outgained by some 600 total yards in league play -- can pull off what might be the upset of the season, or even come close, Stoops might hitch the first plane to Gainesville just to avoid the tomato storm that would await him on his return to Norman. It's not likely, but like the first round of the NCAA Tournament in hoops, the potential is tantalizing enough that it's still a game you have to watch. Just know that no one will blame you for making other plans for the third and fourth quarters.
Keys to Victory for Oklahoma: The biggest one for the Sooners is pretty simple: just don't screw it up. Stoops' team has overwhelming matchup advantages all over the field, and if they can merely avoid making the handful of catastrophic mistakes that would keep the Huskies in the game, they should cruise. Start with the passing game, where Oklahoma will feature the nation's No. 4 air attack at 337 yards-per-game, one headed by quarterback Landry Jones and featuring one of the FBS's most dangerous receivers in overlooked All-American (if there can be such a thing) Ryan Broyles. They'll be facing a low-wattage UConn secondary that was shredded by the likes of Michigan (8.5 yards an attempt), Rutgers (11.4), and Pitt (7.9). If the Panthers' Tino Sunseri can do that kind of damage (he finished 20-of-28 for more than 220 yards) against the Huskies, there's no telling what Jones and Broyles might do. It doesn't get much better in the run game, where 1,100-yard All-Big 12 rusher DeMarco Murray will face a young front seven ranked 56th in the country in rush defense -- lower even than the Huskies' pass defense. If the Sooners don't turn the ball over (and their 16 total giveaways were the fewest in the Big 12), they should put up major yards and points without too much effort.
Defensively, though, the Sooners aren't quite as overpowering; they rank outside the top 50 in total, passing, and rushing defense. But they do have a penchant for big plays, having forced 30 opponent turnovers this year, good for the fourth-highest total in the country. The ball-hawking secondary tag-team of senior safety Quinton Carter and junior corner Jamell Fleming each picked off four passes, with a big assist to Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year Jeremy Beal. The senior defensive end wreaked havoc on opposing lines all season, recording 8.5 sacks and 18 tackles-for-loss. If Beal can force the Huskies into repeated third-and-longs or the Sooners' sticky fingers can negate a UConn drive or two with turnovers, the underdog won't stand a chance.
Keys to Victory for UConn: To actually win this game, UConn's going to have to catch a ton of breaks, and the bigger impact those breaks have, the better. Which is why they're going to need to make the game as low-possession, as short, and as break-dependent as possible, and that means a heavy dose of Jordan Todman. The nation's second-leading rusher, Todman gained 1,574 yards this season on an impressive 5.2 yards per-carry. Combine his toughness with a veteran line featuring a pair of first-team All-Big East performers in jumbo junior tackle Mike Ryan (333 pounds) and equally jumbo senior guard Zach Hurd (325 pounds), and you get what might be the Huskies' only real matchup advantage as they go up against a Sooner front that's allowed seven different teams to average 4.5 yards a carry or better. If Todman and the big Huskie front can grind out some big first downs, they'll take loads of pressure off the entire rest of the team: wobbly quarterback Zach Fraser (5.4 yards per-attempt for the season, 5-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio), a front seven that could be ground down by the Sooners' up-tempo attack if left on the field very long, a secondary that simply can't be allowed to face Jones, Broyles, and Co. with the burden of trying to salvage the game on their shoulders. For Uconn, it all starts with Todman and the line.
The good news is that if that start can keep the Huskies close going into the fourth quarter, they've shown an impressive ability to finish, winning tight games against West Virginia, Pitt, and South Florida with key late drives and clutch kicking from big-legged All-Big East kicker Dave Teggart. There's also little doubt that should the game stay competitive deep into the second half, all the pressure -- not only from this game, but from Stoops' previous BCS failures and Oklahoma's role as the overwhelming favorite -- will be on the Sooners, It won't be easy to get there, but if Todman can get rolling and the defense (notably all-league defensive end Kendall Reyes) can play far enough over its head to keep the Huskies in it, it might be the other team that makes the single game-deciding mistake.
The Fiesta Bowl is like: an inspirational underdog sports movie recast -- probably -- as a gritty indie drama. We've got a lovable, plucky underdog that's scraped and clawed to get its one shot at Goliath, a Goliath that by all rights should pound it into submission. (Big East or not, the Huskies are a far bigger underdog to Oklahoma than Boise State was four years ago in this same game.) If this was Rocky or The Mighty Ducks or something similar, the Fiesta would end with UConn executing some crazy trick play at the final whistle to pull out a shocking victory. Unfortunately for fans of those movies, it's far more likely that the Huskie heroes will be taught a cruel-but-authentic lesson about their inability to deal with powerful forces beyond their control. The critics might applaud if Oklahoma pulls away by three scores in the second quarter, but we're not expecting a crowd pleaser here.
Posted on: December 23, 2010 1:10 pm
Edited on: December 23, 2010 1:12 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Ask the Oklahoma Sooners what formations their Fiesta Bowl opponent from UConn like to use, what coverages they'll employ on third-and-long, what a specific bit of pre-snap motion from the Huskies means for the Sooners' alignment, and there's no question they'll know all of that.
But as for what they know about the actual UConn program, well, it looks like all that study of the opposing football team doesn't lead to a better understanding of the institution they represent, at least according to an impromptu quiz of Sooner players by the Oklahoman on the finer points of UConn information. For instance, when asked who the Huskies' head coach is ...
Randy Edsall needs a better publicist because nobody got this one right. Only [DeMarco] Murray ventured an actual guess with “isn't it like Al something?” which was actually not that far off. Al Golden , who last week took a job with Miami , coached Temple to victory over UConn this season. [Jonathan] Nelson declared he knew Edsall's face but couldn't place the name. [Kenny] Stills didn't know who coached UConn football, but correctly offered up the name of the women's basketball coach: “Geno Auriemma."The Sooners also struggled mightily to name where UConn is located, to name their best player (All-American running back Jordan Todman), and even UConn's nickname, with multiple players going with "Huskers."
None of which means a thing other than it being fairly amusing, of course; no doubt a similar quiz applied to similar teams preparing for similar bowls would yield very, very similar results. But it's interesting to see that once bowl practice begins, the players' focus can be laser-guided enough that even things like the opponent's head coach name aren't worth learning when compared to the X's-and-O's.
Posted on: December 3, 2010 10:46 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
During the week leading up to the final Big 12 Championship Game one of the biggest questions facing the Oklahoma Sooners was whether or not running back DeMarco Murray would be available to the Sooners. Murray was hurt last Saturday against Oklahoma State when he took a helmet to the knee, and never returned to the game.
Through the week Bob Stoops has had some doubts about his running back's availability, but optimism seemed to reign, and for good reason. On Thursday night Stoops announced through a press release that Murray was able to practice on Thursday and is expected to play against Nebraska.
Which is big news for the Oklahoma offense. Murray is not only the team's leading rusher with 1,053 yards and 14 touchdowns, but he also plays a large role in the passing game as well, as he has 64 receptions for another 535 yards and 5 touchdowns as a receiver out of the backfield this season. He's also the school's all-time leader in in touchdowns (64) and all-purpose yards (6,498) while returning kicks to boot.
So I guess what I'm trying to say here is that he's kind of important to Oklahoma, so it'll be nice for the Sooners to have him around against a tough Nebraska defense on Saturday.
Posted on: November 30, 2010 11:13 am
Edited on: November 30, 2010 11:37 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
On Monday morning, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops was uncertain about the availability of leading rusher DeMarco Murray for the Big 12 Championship Game against Nebraska on Saturday. Murray took a helmet to the knee in the fourth quarter of Oklahoma's division-clinching win against Oklahoma State and did not return. The medical staff did not feel like the injury was serious, but there was still doubt as to whether he would be able to take the field against the Huskers in Dallas. However Stoops' tone changed after seeing Murray in practice on Monday, and things appear to be looking up for the Sooners most dangerous offensive threat.
“DeMarco is much improved from (Sunday),” Stoops said following Monday's practice. “We'll see as the week goes. I don't want to say something until it's for sure...But it's looking positive right now.”
Murray's importance to the Oklahoma offense cannot be understated. A dual-threat running back, Murray constantly forces matchup problems for opposing defenses with his ability to catch out of the backfield. On average, Murray rushes the ball 20.0 times per game and adds 5.3 receptions, totaling up to 132.3 yards of total offense per game. Since losing to Texas A&M on the road, the Oklahoma offense has been scorching defenses for 40+ points each outing. They will need to keep up that kind of production in order to keep up with Nebraska, particularly if Taylor Martinez is healthy enough to play.
Posted on: November 29, 2010 1:34 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Oklahoma went out and took care of its business on Saturday night, defeating its in-state rival Oklahoma State in Bedlam, and because of it, the Sooners are now on their way to Dallas to take on Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship. Unfortunately for the Sooners, while they may have won the game, it looks like they may have lost a couple of starters as well. Most notably, running back DeMarco Murray.
Murray injured his left knee in the fourth quarter when he took a helmet to it on a run. He did not return to the game, and it seems possible that he may not be able to return in time for Saturday's game either. Though Bob Stoops isn't entirely sure of anything concerning Murray at the moment.
"I'll have something a little more to say and make sure (the media) knows probably closer to practice or after practice," Stoops said Monday during his weekly teleconference.
Obviously, being without Murray would be a bit of a blow to the Sooners offense. He's eclipsed 1,000 yards this season for the second time in his career. Along with Murray's status, the condition of starting safety Jonathan Nelson is also up in the air at the moment. Nelson, who was second in tackles on the Oklahoma defense heading into Bedlam, suffered a concussion in the first quarter and did not return to the game.
He may miss the this week's game as well.
Posted on: October 2, 2010 5:39 pm
Edited on: October 2, 2010 5:43 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Fans hoping for an exciting, 60-minute game out of Dallas in the Red River Rivalry might come away from this one a little disappointed. No. 8 Oklahoma is leading No. 21 Texas by the score of 21-7 (follow our LIVE GameTracker here), and that's, well, just about right.
Landry Jones has 158 yards on 19-28 passing, and he's got two scores to no interceptions. DeMarco Murray has looked his best against Texas since his freshman year; today, he's at 14 carries for 59 yards and a score, and three receptions for 12 yards.
Texas is not a bad team, but they're not very good, and they're certainly not as good as Oklahoma. Thus, they're not likely to rally and win this game unless Oklahoma starts making plenty of mistakes -- forced or otherwise. 30 minutes is a long time, and we're not exactly turning this game off, but it's hard to muster any confidence in an offense that can't even muster four yards per pass attempt, as Texas' has done thus far.
Posted on: September 11, 2010 5:38 pm
Edited on: September 11, 2010 5:49 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
This morning our very own Chip Patterson wrote about how Oklahoma 's secondary -- which had quite a bit of trouble against lowly Utah State last week -- was going to have its hands full with Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder . Turns out that it's the Seminoles secondary that has its hands full, it's legs full, and just about every part of their body full with the Sooners offense.
Landry Jones is lighting it up. Jones completed 22 of his 28 pass attempts for 321 yards and three touchdowns in the first half as the Sooners have built a 34-7 lead over the Seminoles. DeMarco Murray has accounted for the rest of the Sooners offense, scoring two touchdowns even if he is only averaging two yards a carry in the first half (10 carries, 20 yards).
How's the Oklahoma secondary doing?
Well, Ponder has only completed 47% (8/17) of his passes in the first half for 80 yards and no touchdowns, so I'd say the Sooner secondary is holding up quite qell.
Keep in mind, though, that the Sooners had a 21-0 lead over Utah State last week before barely holding on to win 31-24. So there is still some hope on the Seminoles sideline. Okay, who am I kidding? This one's done.