It took Oklahoma’s defense just a little bit of time to settle in against UTEP on Saturday afternoon but once they did they dominated. The Miners scored on their opening possession, taking the ball 78 yards on eight plays. Walter Dawn’s 17-yard touchdown run was set up by a 29-yard scamper on the play before putting the sellout crowd at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on edge.
However, before anyone had the opportunity to Tweet out a demand that Mike Stoops be fired (generally the case when an opponent scores) Oklahoma’s defense was pushing UTEP back on their heels. The Miners only managed 89 total yards of offense through the remainder of the game as they were pounded by a barrage of speed and power from OU defenders.
“We were a little bit antsy and out of sorts. The guys were trying to do too much; I think they were too excited. We didn’t play very fundamental football going into the first drive and that’s what happens. Got out of position- some blitzes, lost contain on a blitz, didn’t cover the right guys. We were just kind of out of sorts there and finally settled down and started playing, playing a little better. Schematically, we went in with very limited plan and didn’t try to do a whole lot and just and go out there and execute and play fundamental football.” – Mike Stoops on the defense settling in
The trio of Obo Okoronkwo, Emmanuel Beal, and Tyreece Lott paced the Sooners defense with four tackles each. Okoronkwo registered two of his tackles for loss, including one sack.
UTEP starting quarterback completed 10 of 18 passes for just 56 yards (3.1 yard average per reception) and Dawn would finish with only 56 rushing yards after such a great start on their first drive.
— Sooner Nation (@SOONERSNO1) September 3, 2017
It isn’t uncommon for us to talk about blown assignments and missed tackles in a season opener but, outside of that first drive, that wasn’t the case for Oklahoma. The Sooners were both fundamentally and assignment sound which is every coaches dream in an opener. It also bodes well for their level of preparedness as they head to Ohio State next Saturday.
“They have an outstanding team, we weren’t physically matching up with them, especially defensively. We had one good drive, but then had some penalties and some drops. I didn’t think our quarterbacks played inefficiently we just didn’t do much to help them out.” UTEP Head Coach Sean Kugler on Oklahoma’s defense
Position grades would be A’s all around with a special nod going to a linebacking corps that looked athletic, powerful, and fast. In addition to the performances of Obo and Beal, Curtis Bolton, true freshman Kenneth Murray, and Caleb Kelly turned in strong performances as well, combining for eight tackles and a forced fumble.
It wasn’t all kicks and giggles for Oklahoma’s defense on Saturday though as a potentially significant injury waters down the depth at the corner position. Jordan Parker, who had recently lost his starting position to Parnell Motley, went down with an injury to his left knee on a special teams play.
While not a starter, Parker’s presence was huge to Oklahoma’s secondary in terms of depth and experience. His absence could be even more significant when taking into consideration that the next two guys in line on the depth chart are freshmen.
“Well, Tre Brown and Tre Norwood have both done really good things, so, based on what happens to JP, we’ll take that next step with one of those guys, but they’ve been really good in camp….It’s going to be a learning experience for them as we move up and the competition obviously this week.” – Mike Stoops on the impact of Jordan Parker’s injury
We saw what happens when you put a “learning experience up against Ohio State receivers when the Buckeyes visited Norman last season. Now with the trip to Columbus looming this week news on Parker’s status will be one of the most anticipated announcements coming.