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OU FOOTBALL: Sooners need to make an impression against lowly Jayhawks

Paxson Haws / OU Daily
Rodney Anderson heads to the end zone for one of his four touchdowns against TCU last week.
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LAWRENCE, Kansas – The Oklahoma Sooners are among the top four teams in the latest College Football ranking, but they must win the next three games to hold a spot in the playoffs. Their quest begins Saturday (2:30 p.m. ESPN) against the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence.

The CFP committee this week has ranked OU No. 4 behind top-ranked Alabama, Clemson, and Miami. The Sooners (9-1, 6-1 Big 12) sit in the driver’s seat for a berth in the Big 12 Championship Game in two weeks, but one hiccup, might punt them to the shotgun seat and kicks them out of the playoffs.

The Jayhawks (1-9, 0-7) are not expected to give Oklahoma much of a test. The Sooners are favored by more than five touchdowns, but they cannot believe they can chalk up a W just by trotting out of the Memorial Stadium tunnel. OU must give the Hawks respect, especially since coach Lincoln Riley’s baby brother is on the opposite sideline. Garrett Riley is KU’s quarterbacks' coach.

Their sibling rivalry is the third among brothers in recent years at the University of Oklahoma. OU assistant Cale Gundy and brother, Mike, have been on opposite sidelines since 2001 when Mike became an assistant and later head coach for the Cowboys. Former Sooner skipper Mike Stoops went head-to-head against younger brother, Mark, in 2010 and 2011 when Mark was the defensive coordinator for Florida State.

For the record, the OU coaches have posted a 13-4 record against their brothers: Cale 13-4 over Mike, Bob 2-0 over Mark, and Lincoln 1-0 over Garett.

The Jayhawks opened the season with a 38-16 win over a cupcake team (Southeast Missouri State) then lost their next nine contests by an average score of 45-18. It is not an understatement to say that Kansas is one of the worst teams among the Power 5 football conferences. The Hawks are near the bottom in nearly every national statistic—117th in scoring (20.4 average), total offense (355.2-yard average); 128th in points (42.2) and 111th in yards (449) allowed.

Quarterback Carter Stanley has started the last three games and threw for 268 yards and 3 TDs in a 42-27 loss to Texas last week. So far this year, he’s completed 82 of 152 for 985 yards with 4 TDs and 6 INTs. Stanley threw for a career-best 418 yards against Kansas State last month.

Steven Sims Jr. leads KU with 48 receptions for 732 yards and 5 scores. Running back Khalil Herbert averages a team-high 68.9 yards rushing and 4 TDs.

The Jayhawks’ defense has some good players. End Dorance Armstrong Jr. was an all-conference first-teamer last year and this year’s preseason pick to win the league’s Defensive Player of the Year honor. Armstrong is second on the squad with 8 tackles for loss including a sack, 6 quarterback hurries, 3 forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

Linebacker Joe Dineen has been a wrecking machine. He leads the Hawks with 122 stops, 21 behind the line of scrimmage and 2.5 sacks. Tackle Daniel Wise has logged 42 tackles, 13.5 for loss including 5.5 sacks and 5 QB hurries. Kansas has intercepted only 4 passes this year—safety Mike Lee and cornerback Hasan Defense have two apiece, and the Jayhawks are the third worst team in college football in pass efficiency defense.

OU is seeking its 16th straight true road win and a record 14th consecutive Big 12 road victory. The Sooners have won five straight since dropping a 38-31 decision to Iowa State in early October.

The Sooners defeated their second-straight ranked opponent last Saturday with a 38-20 victory over TCU in Norman. Running back Rodney Anderson rushed for 151 yards and caught 5 passes to add another 139 yards and scored four touchdowns. His combined 290 yards earned him the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honor.

The redshirt sophomore, who sat out the last two years with injuries, has come on strong after starting slow this year. In the previous four games, Anderson has rushed 87 times for 591 yards (6.8 per carry) and scored 5 touchdowns. He also caught 11 passes for 217 yards and scored four times. In the first six games, he carried the ball 22 times for 81 yards with two touchdowns, and he caught only 3 passes for 27 yards and no score.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield continued to show why he’s the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy by completing 18 of 17 for 333 yards and 3 TDs.

Oklahoma took a 38-14 lead into halftime and held off the Horned Frogs with conservative play-calling and an improved defense in the second half. Four freshmen started on the defense Saturday night—middle linebacker Kenneth Murray (who has started every game this season) and safety Robert Barnes (replacing Will Johnson who was suspended for one half after a targeting call against OSU). Corner Tre Brown replaced Jordan Thomas (out with an injury), and Tre Norwood replaced Parnell Motley, who didn’t perform well against OSU.

“It’s a very uncomfortable situation playing four true freshmen,” said Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. “I don’t know if it’s ever been done here at Oklahoma. But that’s the position we were in.”

The trio of Barnes, Brown, and Norwood played a significant role in holding TCU to 14-for-29 passing. TCU quarterback Kenny Hill, who entered the OU game by completing 68 percent of his passes, threw all but one against the Sooners and completed a paltry 46 percent.

The Frogs’ defense was touted as one of the best in the nation by allowing 13.9 points and 284.1 yards per game. Oklahoma offense shredded them with 38 points (the most scored on TCU all year) and 533 yards. The Sooners rushed for 200 yards on the Frogs, who had yielded just 69.7 yards in their first nine contests.

So, now the Sooners must take its high-octane offense into Lawrence and make a good showing—i.e., win big to impress the CFP committee. Be mentally prepared to dominate in all three phases of the game. And if they get a big lead early, give the starters some rest. Don’t take chances on injuries. And no slopping around just because the opponent stinks. After all, OU has won 12 straight and averaged 42 points to KU’s 12 in those dozen victories.

Oklahoma’s offensive line must protect their star quarterback. TCU had averaged 5.5 sacks per game but were able to get to Mayfield only once. Armstrong, Wise, and Dineen are licking their chops to make an impressive showing against the top Heisman candidate.

The Sooners’ defense must play well again this week to have some momentum for when West Virginia comes to Norman the following Saturday. KU coach David Beaty will likely dial up some deep pass plays to test the young Sooner secondary.

 

FAST FACTS

*OU leads the series 74-26-6, including 12 straight victories.

*OU leads 36-15-4 in Lawrence, including six straight wins.

*OU is favored by 37.

*Riley’s coaching record 9-1 (.900) overall; 0-0 vs. KU; 4-0 on the road; 6-1 vs. Big 12 opponents; 6-1 vs. unranked foes.

*Beaty’s coaching record: 3-31 (.097) overall; 0-2 vs. OU; 3-16 at home; 1-24 vs. Big 12 foes; 0-8 vs. ranked opponents.

*OU is 9-6 in games played on November 18.

*KU is 10-7 in games played on November 18.

*OU and KU have met three times on November 18; OU leads 3-0.

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About the Author

Ray Dozier

Ray Dozier is the author of Legends of Oklahoma Sooners Football and two editions of The...

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