Oklahoma hits the road for the first time this season. The 2-0 Sooners visit a 1-1 Tulsa team that is coming off a 43-10 loss at Washington last Saturday. The Sooners picked up their second win on Saturday by beating a pesky SMU team by the final score of 28-11 and they now look to fine tune a few more things before launching conference play, at Cincinnati, a week from Saturday. Here are the players that will be key figures on Saturday afternoon.
|Pass Yards Allowed||205.0||302.0|
|Rush Yards Allowed||82.5||105.5|
Oklahoma’s Dillon Gabriel is off to a great start to the season. The senior quarterback is tied for second in the Big 12 in passing touchdowns (6) and leads all conference signal callers in quarterback efficiency with a 200.9 rating. In fact, you could say that efficiency has been Gabriel’s strength this season. He’s completed 77.6% of his passes through the first two games, and has yet to turn the ball over. He’ll be going up against a Tulsa defense that is giving up just over three hundred yards per game through the air, so opportunities should be there for Gabriel to make some big plays with his arm on Saturday.
Tulsa’s quarterback situation is a little more complicated. The Golden Hurricane have played three signal callers in the first two games, and while we think we know which one will face the Sooners on Saturday, it’s not a sure thing. Sophomore Braylon Braxton is listed as Tulsa’s starter on the latest depth chart but he was injured in the season opener and didn’t play last week against Washington. Freshman Cardell Williams is listed as QB #2 for but he was hurt last week, in the Washington game, leaving junior Roman Fuller to play most of the game. Fuller is listed as the third-string quarterback. My guess is that Oklahoma is going to get multiple quarterback looks, starting with Braxton.
The Running Backs
Officially listed as an “or” in terms of starting, Tawee Walker shares the top running back spot with Marcus Major. However, Walker has been the one to emerge as Oklahoma’s workhorse after two games. He leads the team in rushing yards (161), rushing attempts (29), yards per carry (5.6) and rushing touchdowns (2). For the second weekend in a row the Sooners are facing a defense that, statically, is fairly stout against the run. The Golden Hurricane are giving up just over a hundred yards per game on the ground, and holding opponents to a respectable 3.25 yards per carry average. Look for Walker to be the banger again this week!
Running the football has been Tulsa’s strength on offense through the first two games and senior running back Jordan Ford has been the guy they rely on the most. Toting the ball 34 times, Ford is averaging 5.2 yards per carry and has also caught four passes out of the backfield. He’s the guy that the Sooner defense is going to try an neutralize (more on that in a minute) because he’s the key to making the offense click.
It appears that Oklahoma’s passing game is going to go through Andrel Anthony, and we should all be just fine with that. The former Michigan standout has caught 10 passes for 142 through the first two games and scored his first touchdown as a Sooner last Saturday against SMU. In the opener offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby used Anthony to soften the Arkansas State defense by letting him turn on the jets and run deep routes. Against SMU they hit him underneath and let him use his speed and field awareness to stretch plays out. Both were highly effective ways to use him, and I would expect a smattering of both this Saturday against a Tulsa defense that has struggled to defend the pass.
Despite the quarterback situation that Tulsa has had to endure, sophomore receiver Marquis Shoulders is off to a very good start in 2023. He’s hauled in eight passes on the year, scoring twice, and averaging 19.4 yards per reception. The Golden Hurricane are likely to use the running game to pound away at Oklahoma’s defense and then try to hit some deep shots through the air. It’s likely that Shoulders is going to be the guy down field on those throws. Probably a good idea for the Sooner defenders to know where he lines up…pretty much all of the time.
There’s not a better linebacker in the Big 12 than Oklahoma’s Danny Stutsman. I’m convinced of it, and if you objectively watch the game of football then you will be as well. He currently leads all Big 12 defenders in tackles (21) and I would expect him to have a huge game again on Saturday afternoon…along with middle linebacker Jaren Kanak. The Sooners are going to try and take away Tulsa’s running game and force a quarterback, who is probably not going to be 100%, to try and beat them with his arm. Stutsman and Kanak are going to be the keys to that defensive game plan working.
For Tulsa’s defense it’s going to be about handling Oklahoma’s passing attack and keeping the Sooners away from second or third and short yardage situations. Seniors Kendarin Ray and Ben Kopenski are going to be instrumental to that happening, or not. Ray, a safety, leads the Golden Hurricane with 17 tackles. He’ll have the misfortune of keeping tabs on what’s happening with Oklahoma’s running backs, tight ends, and probably Andrel Anthony on any given play. He’ll probably be the busiest person on the Tulsa defense Saturday afternoon. Former Oklahoma State defensive end Ben Kopenski leads the team in sacks and will be the guy the Golden Hurrican rely on to bring some pressure down on Dillon Gabriel, while also working to keep the Sooner quarterback in the pocket.
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