Sooners Fall But The Future Sure Looks Bright | Thoughts On The Cheez-It Bowl & Beyond

The first year of Brent Venables’ tenure at Oklahoma has come to a close. Oklahoma’s 35-32 loss to Florida State in the Cheez-It Bowl gives the program it’s first losing season since 1998. That’s one year before Bob Stoops, along with Venables, arrived to Norman to usher in what had been the most dominant stretch of time in the history of the program. While the season wasn’t what was expected, the hope is that it was “growing pains” for what could be another stretch of dominance as a move to the S.E.C. is on the horizon.

Florida State Was Really Good!

Let’s start with giving Florida State the credit they deserve. Jordan Travis, Johnny Wilson and the Seminole defense (led by Jared Verse) were as advertised. Travis threw for over four hundred yards. Wilson averaged over 25 yards per reception on his way to a 202 yard night. And the Seminole defense took advantage of Oklahoma’s offensive line woes to sack Dillon Gabriel six times. FSU very much looked the part of the #13 team in the country.

Not Great But Not As Bad As It May Appear

This was the fifth one-score loss for Oklahoma this season and the fourth consecutive 3-point loss. That’s not good, but it’s also not terrible. I absolutely hate to use a quote made famous by Lincoln Riley but this program is close….painfully close.

Sat, Sep 24vs Kansas StateL 41-34
Sat, Nov 5vs BaylorL 38-35
Sat, Nov 12@ West VirginiaL 23-20
Sat, Nov 26@ Texas TechL 51-48 OT
Thu, Dec 29vs Florida State *L 35-32

This might be a good post idea for another time but you can literally break this season down by the various plays that made it a 6-7 result for the Sooners rather than 11-2. For example, take away Savion Byrd’s holding penalty (that called back a second quarter TD), Zach Schmit’s missed field goal on the same drive, or Gavin Sawchuck’s fourth quarter fumble and this game likely has a different outcome. The Sooners were just a handful of plays away from a completely different type of season.

Help Is On The Way For The Defense

With a patched together offensive line, Oklahoma produced nearly 500 yards of offense and 32 points against Florida State’s defense. For all of the Jeff Lebby haters out there, the primary problem with this team wasn’t on the offensive side of the ball. The defensive struggles have been prominent throughout the season and are undeniable. Some of it is bad habits from the previous coaching staff, some of it is personnel, and, to be honest, some of it has been coaches not having trust. At the end of the day, this staff focused heavily on defense during this recruiting cycle. The Sooners just signed the nation’s #6 class, per 247Sports, where more than half of the 25 signees are slated to play on the defensive side of the ball. In addition, four of the five players coming out of the transfer portal are not only slated to play on the defensive side of the ball but expected to have an immediate impact the very moment they arrive on campus.

Defensive Transfers

Trace Ford 6-3/227 DL

Reggie Pearson Jr. 5-11/201 S

Dasan McCullough 6-5/225 Edge

Jacob Lacey 6-2/285 0.9000 DL

The transfer portal takes away but it also gives back. In this era of college football it’s much easier for a team to rebuild, replenish, replace, and reinvent and that’s exactly what is happening on the defensive side of the ball for Oklahoma.

The Future Was On Display

The end result wasn’t satisfactory but the young talent on the field was promising. True freshmen running backs Jovantae Barnes and Gavin Sawchuk ran for 108 and 100 yards respectively. Both found their way to the end zone with Barnes averaging 4.0 yards per carry and Sawchuk 6.7 yards per carry.

In addition, sophomores Billy Bowman (safety) and Danny Stutsman (linebacker) made multiple plays on the defensive side of the ball, and we may have even seen Stutsman take the reigns as the leader of the defense.

Big Decision Coming Soon

For guys like Brayden Willis, Robert Congel, Jeffery Johnson, and DaShaun White this was their final game appearance wearing the crimson and cream. There are other players who hold NFL aspirations that must now make a decision to return to Oklahoma for another year, hit the transfer portal, or go ahead and join Anton Harrison, Wanya Morris, and Jalen Redmond as guys who declare early for the draft. Decisions from the following players should be coming in the next few days.

  • Dillon Gabriel
  • Marcus Major
  • Marvin Mims
  • Reggie Grimes
  • Jordan Kelly
  • Isaiah Coe
  • Jonah Laulu
  • David Ugwoegbu
  • Jaden Davis
  • C.J. Coldon
  • Key Lawrence
  • Woodi Washington

Who did I miss?

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