Riley sees room for O-line to improve
The laundry needs to be cleaned up. Oklahoma’s offensive line has been under the microscope for most of this season, and that was the case once again during last week’s road win over Kansas State.
The group provided Spencer Rattler with time to complete 22 of his 25 passing attempts (88%) and created enough holes for Kennedy Brooks to rush for a season-high 91 yards, but there was one blemish on an otherwise solid outing. Actually, there were seven of them. The Sooners’ offensive line was flagged for seven penalties at K-State, and head coach Lincoln Riley was quick to point those miscues out during Tuesday’s media session.
“We can’t put ourselves in those positions,” Riley said. “(Penalties) kind of held back what could’ve been a really, really strong performance by the O-line. It really was. Again, you take those away, it was good. But great groups don’t have those.”
Three different offensive linemen drew at least one penalty in the win.
Redshirt senior Tyrese Robinson got called for two false starts, one hold and one unsportsmanlike conduct. Senior Chris Murray also got caught for a false start and a hold, while redshirt senior Marquis Hayes drew one holding call.
The group hopes to clean up these errors as it prepares for a rivalry game against Texas on Saturday. It’s a matchup that’ll put the Sooners’ O-line to the test yet again, but Riley is confident in the improvement he has seen as of late.
“We can play at a higher level,” Riley said. “We can do it without the penalties... (I’m) excited in a lot of ways. If we clean up the penalties, continue to grow there, we’ll get better and better and in turn get better offensively.”
High standards for defense
Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch tells it like it is.
OU’s defense has made a habit of bailing out its offense this season, but those roles got reversed during last weekend’s game against Kansas State.
This time it was the Sooners’ offense that made up for a lackluster defensive performance to secure a 37-31 win over the Wildcats, and Grinch called his group out after the game for a lack of preparation.
“It’s also indicative of how guys are practicing,” Grinch said. “We believe in practice. Some of our players don’t. Guys get opportunities when other guys maybe don’t practice as well.”
Grinch didn’t just call out his players, though.
The third-year OU coordinator expanded his comments on Tuesday,
claiming that a lack of preparation begins with him and his staff.
“What it comes down to is being better coaches,” Grinch said. “It’s cool to say culture and it’s cool to say process, but your process is what you do. It’s your actions and your behaviors. And who drives behaviors? It’s coaches. My frustration was a frustration to myself.”
While Grinch is willing to take the blame for Saturday’s defensive breakdowns, defensive co-captain Pat Fields believes it’s also on the players to step up their game.
“We have such a high standard for ourselves,” Fields said. “If you don’t have a high standard for yourself, it’s easy to not have a bad day.”
Confidence in Caleb
Caleb Williams showed both ends of the spectrum in his first career road game on Saturday.
OU marched down to Kansas State’s 1-yard line on its opening drive before bringing in the freshman quarterback for what appeared to be a goal-line push. The situation wasn’t new for Williams, who punched it in from one yard out during the Sooners’ Week 1 home win over Tulane.
But that didn’t happen this time around. Instead, Williams mishandled the snap and eventually fell on the live ball for a loss of 12 yards. That stalled the Sooners’ drive and forced them to settle for a field goal.
It’s a play that showed the true freshman’s youth, but Williams showed his potential when he made his second appearance in the third quarter. The young field general delivered an 18-yard pass to Mario Williams before retiring for the day.
“The first one didn’t go quite as planned. The second one was better,” Riley said of Williams’ two snaps. “Mentally, he was fine. He didn’t get rattled, which is good.”
Senior safety Delarrin Turner-Yell and freshman linebacker Danny Stutsman (arm) did not suit up against Kansas State. Riley said before the road contest that he expected both players to be available no later than the game against Texas.
Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Jalen Redmond (knee) and freshman wide receiver Cody Jackson (medical issue) also didn’t suit up against the Wildcats. Both players last saw game action against Nebraska on Sept. 18.
Lastly, junior defensive lineman Isaiah Coe suffered an injury in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game against Kansas State and did not return.
“We hope to get some guys back,” Riley said. “If we get some guys back, that’s great. A couple of guys are progressing, but I’m not ready to make any definitive announcements yet.”