Oklahoma Football | Three Key Players To Watch As Defense Takes Spotlight In Lincoln

You’ve probably heard this before, offense sells tickets but defense wins championships. If everything goes according to plan in Lincoln on Saturday then Oklahoma fans will be treated to both of those aspects of the game. The Sooner offense has outgained UTEP and Kent State
by a combined 311 yards (922-611), despite being ranked second to last nationally in time of possession. OU has run 30 fewer plays than its opponents, but is averaging 7.4 yards per play on the season, ranking them 15th nationally.

The Sooners are outside of the Top 100 in total offensive plays run (104th) but are Top 50 in points scored (38th) and total yards (44th). With an average of 39 points and 461 yards per game, Dillon Gabriel and company are facing a Nebraska defense that is allowing opponents averages of 492 yards and 31 points per game. They’re allowing over 200 yards per game to opponents on the ground and nearly 300 yards per game through the air. In last week’s loss to Georgia Southern the Eagles posted 642 total yards of offense against the once vaunted Husker defense.

The offensive side of the ball is a different story though for Nebraska. The Huskers outpace the Sooners in total yards per game (492.3), passing yards per game (288.7), and rushing yards per game (203.7). The only one of the primary offensive categories that Oklahoma has an edge in is points per game and it’s a slim margin at 39 points per contest to 36. In short, these two offenses are very similar which will put both defenses in the spotlight and should give the Sooners a sizeable advantage.

Oklahoma leads all Power 5 teams this season with its 23 tackles for loss through two games. The Sooner defense 10th nationally in scoring defense (8.0 PPG), 14th in yards per play allowed (3.9), 34th in rushing defense (96.0 YPG) and 46th in total defense (305.5 YPG). That said, they’ll be facing the biggest task of the season in Casey Thompson and the Husker offense.

There’s no questioning which of the two teams will field the better defense on Saturday. Undoubtedly it’s the Sooners! Oklahoma has allowed just one touchdown through the eight quarters of football played this season. It is the first time since the 2013 season the Sooners
have allowed only one TD over any two-game span (34-0 win vs. UL-Monroe and 16-7 win vs. West Virginia) and it sets the tone for which side of the ball will be under the most pressure on Saturday.

Here are three players who I believe will be instrumental to the defense’s success in putting the brakes on the Nebraska offense.

Linebacker Danny Stutsman

It’s crazy how fast this kid is growing up before our eyes. He leads the team in total tackles (21) and has set career highs in each of the first two games. His four tackles for loss against Kent State last week was something that hadn’t been done by a Sooner defender since Ronnie Perkins was terrorizing opponent backfields in 2019. Stutsman’s ability to read, react, and get to the point of attack with speed and violence will be vital to Oklahoma stopping Nebraska running back Anthony Grant and his 6.2 yards per carry average. He’s also going to be a nuisance to Casey Thompson from time to time.

Billy Bowman

Named as one of Oklahoma’s five team captains for Saturday, Bowman is another sophomore who is reaping the dividends of Roof’s new defensive schematics and Jerry Schmidt’s offseason workouts. Like Stutsman, Bowman has set career highs in tackles in each of the first two games this season. He is second on the squad in total tackles (20) and will be called upon once more to properly read the offense and be in the right place at the right time. With OU facing the most talented offense they’ve seen to this point of the season, his reaction time (particularly to play-action and QB scrambles) is going to be vital.

Reggie Grimes

If Reggie Grimes is able to do the same thing that he’s done through the first two games of the season then he’ll be a massive disruptive force to the Nebraska offense. With four quarterback sacks and five tackles for loss on the season, Grimes is pacing the Big 12 in being disruptive in the opponents backfield. His job takes a bit of a new role this weekend as containment on Casey Thompson becomes a priority. The last thing the Sooners want is Thompson out of the pocket.

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