Sharp coach + dy­namic QB = enough points to win

Tulsa World - - Gameday - Guerin Emig Sports colum­nist guerin.emig @tul­saworld.com Guerin Emig 918-629-6229 guerin.emig@tul­saworld.com Twit­ter: @Guer­inEmig

AMES, Iowa — As the Ok­la­homa Soon­ers emerged with­out their Heis­man Tro­phy­win­ning quar­ter­back Satur­day morn­ing, a cute if pre­dictable chant went up from Iowa State's stu­dents:

“Where! Is! Ba-ker!”

On Twit­ter, ap­par­ently.

When Matt Miller of Bleacher Report crit­i­cized Kyler Mur­ray dur­ing OU's 37-27 win in Ames, May­field tweeted a re­sponse that in­cluded: “... You're ig­no­rant if you think Kyler isn't tal­ented. Pure ig­no­rance.”

OK. But what about the Soon­ers? Where are they?

Based on Satur­day's re­sult, I sug­gest they are right back where they were when May­field, and not Mur­ray, quar­ter­backed them.

The past three years, OU's de­fense tack­led and po­si­tioned hap­haz­ardly enough to put the Soon­ers in dan­ger­ous places. That was once more the case on this strangely scald­ing day at a place fa­mous for its wind chill.

“Ev­ery­body knows that we tack­led ter­ri­bly,” OU cor­ner­back Par­nell Mot­ley said.

“Very poor,” de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mike Stoops agreed.

“We've got to stop giv­ing up big plays, and we have to get off the field on third down and tackle bet­ter,” line­backer Cur­tis Bolton crit­i­cized. “I need to tackle a lot bet­ter.”

The Soon­ers were scat­ter­shot and scat­ter­brained too of­ten. They com­mit­ted per­sonal fouls to as­sist two Iowa State scor­ing drives. Stoops said they got out of align­ment.

The Cy­clones played hard and well, but they also had some help in post­ing 360 pass­ing yards, 20 first downs and 27 points one week af­ter man­ag­ing a measly field goal against Iowa.

ISU pestered OU for 3½ hours as a re­sult. It was 10-10 in the sec­ond quar­ter, 24-17 and 31-24 in the third, and 34-27 be­fore Austin Seibert's 43-yard field goal sealed things with 2:51 re­main­ing.

Both­ered as they were, the Soon­ers never lost their com­po­sure or their lead. That's be­cause Mur­ray kept his com­po­sure and kept mak­ing plays, just as May­field did over his ab­surd three-year run.

May­field run­ning coach Lin­coln Ri­ley's of­fense was col­lege foot­ball's surest thing. He got a lead and, no mat­ter how many times the Soon­ers fid­dled with it, he made sure he kept it. It could be an ex­plo­sive play or a te­dious drive, but he al­ways had an an­swer no mat­ter how many times you ques­tioned the situation.

Mur­ray pro­vided the an­swers Satur­day.

He was 8-of-9 pass­ing for 101 yards and two touch­downs over his last two pos­ses­sions of the first half. Iowa State had pulled into a 10-10 tie, but by the time Mur­ray fin­ished 75- and 74-yard scor­ing drives, it was 24-10 at the break.

The Cy­clones scored off three drives in the sec­ond half, and the Soon­ers re­sponded with points all three times. With Mur­ray throw­ing to Mar­quise Brown and engi­neer­ing a run game that he helped jump-start with 10 de­signed keep­ers, OU never put it­self at ul­ti­mate risk.

“Ev­ery time they put points on the board, we took the ini­tia­tive of putting points up, too,” Brown said af­ter his ninecatch, 191-yard day.

“That's what we do,” Mur­ray said. “At the Univer­sity of Ok­la­homa, the past cou­ple years coach Ri­ley has been here, the of­fense has been po­tent. We take pride in that. Ev­ery time we go on the field we know we have a high chance of scor­ing.

“We also know we have to do that for the de­fense. It goes both ways. They've got to get stops, we've got to score the ball.”

With May­field, OU mostly scored the ball. That won a lot of games and a trio of Big 12 cham­pi­onships.

With­out him, you won­dered whether the Soon­ers could re­dis­cover that for­mula or per­haps use another one.

Yes and no, judg­ing from Satur­day.

Ri­ley was an­swer­ing a ques­tion about what he learned be­fore leav­ing Ames when he said: “Prob­a­bly the way we re­sponded. We were tough. Made enough plays to get it done.”

The Soon­ers can take com­fort it's still his of­fense, and the quar­ter­back run­ning it is still aw­fully good.

MATTHEW PUT­NEY/Associated Press

Ok­la­homa wide re­ceiver A.D. Miller (left) cel­e­brates a 75-yard touch­down catch by Mar­quise Brown against Iowa State in the first quar­ter Satur­day in Ames, Iowa.

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